The Best Indie Brands to Support This Holiday Season
Add these picks to your wish list.
Every year in late November, around the start of the holiday shopping season, talk of "shopping small" picks up. But have you ever considered what it really means to support independently owned businesses? In the beauty industry's corporate landscape, parent companies with extensive funding tend to dominate the scene, with the resources to run large-scale campaigns, and attract the attention of influencers and celebrities. Sadly, the odds are stacked against the little guys.
But just because big brands get all the attention doesn't mean that there are not comparable hero products to be found in the indie scene. Indie brands are driven and kept alive by passion, and their founders are known for sticking to their values. As CEO and founder of Malibu's Karisma Skincare Lisa Mazzarella points out, her commercial self-sovereignty is what allows her to prioritize ingredient quality over profit margins. But without investor funds, survival is rare for these hidden gems: Karisma Skincare will most likely be closing its doors in 2022. After being picked up by Neiman Marcus, it was ultimately the COVID-19 pandemic that brought the company's premature end. "Karisma was off and running. I was training staff, planning launch expos with Neiman Marcus when COVID hit," Mazzarella tells Coveteur. "Everything came to a screeching halt. All of our events across the country were cancelled. We never were able to launch."
Mazzarella assures us that she will still take special orders, and even as she prepares to shutter its doors permanently, she remains staunch in her conviction that supporting indie brands is the most important step you can take in the name of quality. "Let's just say that I will never shop from big brands again. The indie community is a supportive and tight network. There is a human behind each product, doing their very best to bring high quality products to the market," she tells Coveteur. "Small business owners have put everything on the line, and put their heart and soul into what they do. Not only will you feel good about supporting a small business, you will be getting higher quality products."
In the interest of shopping small this year and bringing hope to others this holiday season, here are seven indie beauty brands we're supporting this season.
Amber Makupson is the CEO and founder of Meraki, a crystal-infused hair-care line that blends the founder's passion for wellness and spirituality with her love of vegan beauty products. The single mother sources fair-trade botanicals, butters, and oils from around the world, including Ayurvedic favorites like amla and buriti oils. "Meraki was created around the idea of self-love, finding passion for life, and the fearless pursuit of what sets my soul on fire," Makupson says. "The word 'meraki' is Greek for doing something with love, soul, and creativity—to put the essence of yourself into your work."
Passionate about the discovery of new and problem-solving botanicals, Makupson finds inspiration from the holistic benefits to be found in nature. While her products are suitable for all hair types, they are absolutely transformative for those with dry or coarse strands. Of course, the sparkling gemstones at the bottom of each product make for an extra-special experience, too. "Incorporating crystals into my formulas adds a high vibrational healing element on an energetic level," Makupson says. "Wellness and self-care are really important to me—I wanted to create an experience that expands beyond wash day."
Founded and run out of Washington D.C., Skincando is a line of luxury green beauty products, handmade in small batches and used at The Garden Spa. Founder and CEO Sara D'Amelio's inspiration for the line came after working in luxury beauty sales and finding herself dissatisfied with the product range. "Conventional products weren't living up to their promises, and my sensitive skin was chronically broken out," she says. "I realized that if I wanted healing and healthy skin care that was filled with natural and nutritious ingredients, then I had to create it myself. That was over 20 years ago now."
Housed in sustainable glass jars, the formula rejuvenates the skin using her “menu” of organic ingredients. "They feed your skin a nutritious, biodynamic diet of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals," she says. "We are a special little company run by creative people who care." Note that one of our favorite gifts to give is the Combat Ready Body Balm. If you have dry or itchy skin on the body, it can be layered over body oil for unbelievable results.
Gabriela Navejas, co-founder and CEO of Madame Gabriela, spent over two years with her chemist creating the luxury clean lipsticks that comprise the line. "I could not find a great, non-toxic formula that I could wear all day long [that] would also protect my lips," she explains of her decision to start the company. "I wanted a nurturing, high-performance, clean color that was chic and sustainable—so the quest began.
"Madame Gabriela is a brand that is truly created from our love of ingredients and nature. When you go back to what nature gives us, it opens a whole new door for wellness and understanding of just how precious this Earth is," Navejas adds.
The line comes in three shades that were crafted to perfection and named for the founder's international jet-setting lifestyle: a warm neutral, a sultry red, and a flirty coral. Celebrity makeup artist Katrina Klein is a huge fan of the line. "The formulas are soft and hydrating, but stay on for a while." She notes that her favorite shade is Sydney at 8 AM, a warm nude, but that Paris at 7 PM, a blue-red, is her favorite during holiday season "because it's the perfect red."
Founded by celebrity makeup artist Dani Kimiko Vincent, Kimiko Beauty offers brow growth-boosting cosmetics. "My struggle to find the perfect brow products began as a very personal one that many of us share, which is having over-removed brow hair in the 90's, or at some point in our lives," Vincent tells Coveteur. "I realized that the natural shape I once had would likely never fully return."
So Vincent, who had a background in product development, created her own line. "Nothing I applied was convincing enough to read true-to-life, or would stay put long enough to endure the day," she says. She began experimenting with precision pencils that incorporated the right balance of warm and cool pigments. "I knew that [what became] The Super Fine Eyebrow Pencil Automatique was my personal hero product, and then when other artists and clients started to say the same thing, I knew that I had created something that there was a need for." Klein notes that the pencil "comes in great colors that aren't too warm for the brows" with a precision tip that allows for natural-looking application. Next came The Brow Sensei, a clear, shaping brow gel with active ingredients to promote hair growth, a tapered brush, and just enough hold for styling.
When it comes to CBD skincare, the water-soluble, botanical formulas concocted by Tracy Brown and Judit Konrad, the co-founders of Priya Apotheca, are among the most hydrating on the market. Konrad relies on her doctorate in pharmacy and experience formulating for brands like MAC and Smashbox to formulate the anti-inflammatory formulas. "[We] combine clinically proven science with time-tested botanicals, and [then] imbue them with healing reiki energy and high frequency sound baths," Brown explains of the brand's process.
The brand asserts that its water-solubility holds the key for CBD's bio-availability. With the ability to act on the human body's endocannabinoid system, the soothing form of the active they use "mimics the molecular structure" of our own biological sources, allowing it to be readily accepted into the skin cells. "92 percent of our skin cells have cannabinoid receptors, which is part of why it is so effective in skincare," they explain of their hero ingredient. "With water-soluble CBD, the molecular size is small enough to penetrate below the skin and into the cellular matrix, providing roughly a 90 percent absorption rate."
At Ranavat's core is Ayurveda, an alternative school of medicine originating from India. CEO and Founder Michelle Ranavat states, "Ayurveda is about the mind-body connection, and understanding that true beauty is an inside and outside job. The incredible ingredients, like saffron and turmeric, and the holistic approach to skin care are what really connect me to Ayurveda." The line is the culmination of Ranavat's experience as a first generation South Asian American. "I grew up with such a strong tie to my culture [and] it makes me happy to see traditions like hair oiling resonate around the world, across so many different backgrounds."
The line's hero products include Radiant Rani, a saffron and turmeric brightening serum, and the jasmine-rich fortifying hair serum—both of which are beloved by the actress, Freida Pinto. Pinto's facialist celebrity esthetician Jenylyn Ball adds, "Ranavat's skincare line truly complements the experience of my signature facial as the beautiful smells help to enhance the journey [along with] calming, healing, adaptogenic, and antioxidant ingredients for the skin." She also notes that it is safe for pregnant women and works wonders for the overall health of the skin.
The luxury brand Orcé was founded by Yu-Chen Shih. When asked what inspired her to found the luxury indie brand, she says, "Frustration, really! Growing up in Singapore and Taiwan, I combed through drug store aisles and department store counters only to find that my complexion was too dark and/or too yellow for the products available." Feeling that her tanned Southeast Asian complexion left her somehow invisible, she set out to create an inclusive luxury line. "My mission is to shatter the barrier that exists between luxury beauty and inclusivity," she says.
Rest assured that the efficient, lightweight serum-foundation works on diverse and sensitive skin. The formulas are infused with Tahitian pearl for brightening and hyaluronic acid for plumping; plus, they’re free from questionable ingredients such as talc, fragrance, gluten, sulfates, phthalates, and parabens.
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