BEAUTY After a decade of J- and K-beauty, diamonds in the rough (i.e. charcoal-based beauty), yoga-inspired packaging and comic book colours, Elyse Glickman welcomes a “see” change in beauty, grooming and self-care for women, men and teens. Factor in a new location away from the downtown LA crush and the stage is set for innovation and paradigm shifts from the vanity table to the streets
Photographed by the author
Elyse Glickman is US west coast editor of Lucire.
What’s happening in the world of indie beauty at this moment in time reminds me a bit of what was going on in “independent” film during the 1990s. Am I reaching a bit? Perhaps, but let me explain.
During the ’90s, the place to be for “young Hollywood” between the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards was Park City for the Sundance Film Festival. During this indie golden age, the celebration of high-quality filmmaking done on a low budget evolved into something so edgy and cool that the young and fabulous of that era (Gwyneth Paltrow, Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, Drew Barrymore, etc.) wanted to be a part of the action. Talented unknown actors and filmmakers (Parker Posey, Jared Leto, Richard Linklater, et al), meanwhile, got face time with major studios, distributors, agents and other power players. As more household names came to the festival, more hopefuls showed up to get on the Hollywood radar at parties, gifting suites and concerts in addition to any screenings they were attached to.
Today, the dynamic in independent beauty is similar. Many hopeful entrepreneurs come to Indie Beauty Expos around the globe to spread word about their innovative productions and products. And just like the films at Sundance (which happened to be ramping up at the same time), some ideas were clearly standouts with the potential to outlast the trends they were built into. Well established brands such as France’s Yon-Ka and Tokyo Milk by Margot Elena were on hand to show off collections designed to keep them relevant in a changing world. Other brands like Mad Hippie and Zatik Naturals, finding widespread success thanks to expos like this, showed off their lines’ growth. Even 1980s fashion legend Norma Kamali entered the arena with her Normalife, a four-product collection capitalizing on her bold version of minimalist chic and the trending minimalist routine philosophy.
Here’s what else we observed.
Minimalism inside and out
The skin care line Fyve from northern California perfectly encapsulates this new Zeitgeist: People are looking for “whole” foods with a handful of easy-to-recognize ingredients to live more healthily, so why not apply that to what one puts on the body? While the collection offers a good-sized number of products for face, body and home in simple-but-elegant packaging, all products have five or fewer ingredients, guaranteeing that what you see, smell and feel is exactly what you get.
While upping the cuteness factor a touch with its juice bar-inspired packaging, ESW Beauty also used raw, clean foods for inspiration. Founder Elina Sofia Wang, who was struggling with stomach ulcers, changed her lifestyle by making raw, fresh-squeezed juices a part of her diet and everyday routine. When she started her line with the help of her boyfriend (a chemist with a degree from Columbia University), it only made sense to create a vegan, organic, cruelty free product with clean ingredients the skin could drink in.
Amy Roe is following suit with her Byroe collection, consisting of garden-inspired products such as tomato serum for anti-ageing, bell pepper serum for moisture, and salmon cream moisturizer with salmon roe and firming peptides. Vike Beauty condenses good-enough-to-eat components (grapefruit, moringa, passion flower and cucumber) into its MakeUp Melt. Coconut appears to be an “it” ingredient this year, with Hong Kong-based Coconut Matter’s compact deodorant and lip balm line and Pirette’s coco-nutty Scent to the Sea fragrance, dry shampoo and hair care.
Soma Ayurvedic keeps things extremely simple rather than go down the æsthetic trail associated with skin care from India. Instead of flowery, yoga-studio style packaging, this goes eco with striking recycled white glass bottles with simple modern fonts to hold creams and oils cultivated in India. Australia’s Recreation Bondi Beach joins the minimalist movement not only with subtle fragrances, but also its round glass bottles adorned with a distinctive R logo and silver caps.
CBD goes from granola to glam
There were some lines, like Dazey, that proudly announced its cbd components with a healthy dose of flower power and good vibes. However, an increasing number of products endeavoured to elevate the good vibes with clean, vanity-friendly packaging and results-driven formulas appealing to people over 25.
One can argue that Make & Mary from Oregon stands as the perfect transitional line between old- and new-school ways to bring the benefits of CBD oils to diverse customers. While its founder, Yvonne Perez Emerson, embodies the type of energetic earth mother who would espouse the benefits of CBD for body and soul, the packaging and eclectic range of items (Face & Body Serum; Earth Sister CBD Wand; turmeric and ginger CBD oil for joint pain, rosemary–lavender candle in a reusable black crystal votive) speaks to an upwardly mobile sensibility with its black glass and gold artwork.
Thanks to a fruity aromatic palette, the Smooth & Strong hair care collection smells like a week at a high-end beach resort than a college dorm.
In the same vein, the I and I Botanicals CBD Face Serum looks like it belongs in a Malibu beach house boutique than a head shop, while its coffee body scrub would be right at home in a posh coffee bar a few blocks away. Winged CBD took a similar approach, but with lotions, oils and edibles aimed at enhancing a woman’s well-being with a more feminine but modern look.
The Green Stem, devised by a pair of dapper blokes from the UK, offers an interesting mix of gummies, drinks, bath bombs, lotions and tinctures in chic apothecary-style packaging. La La Leaf, whose packaging is adorned with award-winning graphics, exudes urban unisex appeal. The New York-based, four-product line includes hero product Formula 1513, a high-potency CBD cream that mitigates the appearance of wrinkles, sun damage and the loss of moisture as skin ages and is exposed to the elements. Terasana’s three-product line (including the wonderful AfterGlow vitamin C serum, Skin Mantra facial oil, Chill Out Candle and rich hemp, mango and argan oil lotion) exudes its sunny southern California origins.
Word of mouth
Most of the colour cosmetics lines we saw followed the same packaging directions (recyclable or sustainable materials, clean designs, less frou-frou) as their skin care counterparts. However, the lips were in sharp focus with a greater emphasis on how the product looked outside of the packages. Roar Cosmetics, from the Netherlands, displayed prototypes that would look more at home in an architecture museum than a salon or Sephora. However, it was all about the perfect balance of high-intensity pigments with moisture.
Although Nip Lips offered an extensive range of very wearable colours and recyclable and reusable bamboo tubes, its biggest selling point is the sassy yet pragmatic way customers can find the most flattering shades for their skin tones—their nipples—using an app developed for the brand. Given the chemicals that make up OG lip balms, many models and actresses secretly turned to nipple cream to hydrate their lips. The inventors, using this as a starting point, formulated a base with just five natural ingredients (lanolin, alœ vera, vitamin E, grapeseed oil and natural mint) altered especially for lips. Lip Gloss Boss, in contrast, is minimal, with two neutral glosses, two universal natural hues and two bright shades all made with cruelty-free, vegan ingredients.
Lucky Chicks, selected Best in Show at 2019’s IBE, is inspired by the founder’s mother, who turned to art during her battle with breast cancer. The bold shades, taken from her mother’s artwork and given inspiring names (desire, courage, joy, blissful, paradise, sweet, etc.), all contain coffee, rose, jojoba oil and cucumber extracts, showing once and for all that natural can be as vibrant as the women wearing them.
What the doctor ordered
Wellness has long been an essential ingredient in IBE’s formula for success, and this inevitably means that plastic surgeons, dermatologists, dentists and other physicians come to the show with products that not only build confidence but also provide solutions for a variety of everyday ailments.
New items on the scene include We Love Eyes, a line that not only removes make-up and cares for natural lashes and extensions, but also made with ingredients that protect eye health. Irish brand Spotlight Oral Care offers several dentist-created formulas made with eco- and ocean-friendly ingredients that target specific issues as your trusted dentist would. Georganics Natural toothpaste and flosses, made in England and packaged in that appealing “apothecary” way, stands out for extremely innovative portable format toothpastes and mouthwash in powder and pill formations that make solid oral care on the road a breeze.
Doctor Rogers’ Restore goods are formulated for post procedure use, replacing the medicinal aromas or chemicals with “clean beauty” ingredients and textures. GlowBiotics takes a skin-nutrition approach, while Dr Botanicals taps into the benefits of plants. Higher Education Skincare, formulated by Newport Beach, Calif. dermatologist Susan Cox, just might be the ultimate “entry level” skin care programme. She uses an element of fun to educate women between 15 and 35 about proper skin care through such offerings as Pre-Req, MBA, Night Owl, Study Buddy, Spring Break, Rush and Grinding Away to master cleansing, exfoliating, hydrating, acne treatment and sun protection.
A broader world view
While east Asia, notably Japan and South Korea, had been the centre of the niche beauty world for the past decade, the rest of the world certainly caught up at this year’s IBE. One thing worth noting was that east Asian brands were less centred on youth pop culture and more on all-ages benefits. Examples of this include Midflower Mask, La Vie Precieuse and Masami, a straightforward line of Japanese hair care crafted with Japanese ocean botanical Mekabu, as well as japonica laminaria, blueberry extract, alœ and grapeseed oil.
Other notable lines include Velettà by Sarah Bacon from Wellington, New Zealand, Alina Cosmetics’ numerous natural lines from Poland and eastern Europe, Simris vegan algæ omega 3 vitamins from Sweden, and bold make-up palettes and lip colour from Romania-based Folly Fire.
Leaders of the “pack”
While a perk of attending the IBE show is receiving numerous samples we can put in our travel kits, there’s something to be said for products that make our absolute favourite beauty essentials more portable, leakproof and TSA-friendly.
Root Eco Beauty & Lifestyle, based in Waverly, Iowa, features a flattering colour assortment as well a full line of natural skin care, hair care, body care and non-toxic cleaning products. The star product was its Pretty Paint Cream Blush + Lip tins.
Hollywood-inspired lifestyle brand IBY Beauty, meanwhile, rolled out a line full of beautiful, girly neutral lipsticks and showcased eye palettes with eye-catching packages. Smartypits showcased their aluminium-free deodorants in an impressive range of fruit “flavours.” We like the four-pack samplers with different scent selections to suit one’s mood as well as his or her hygiene needs. Anybody who regularly goes on quick weekend trips will appreciate the ease of Whish’s Deodorant Swipes (US$22) made with natural and organic ingredients including witch hazel extract, organic licorice, organic chamomile, and organic calendula.
Those of us who either have skin care favourites we can’t live without or a prescribed skin care regimen will appreciate Kate Westad’s Palette by Pak, a reusable lifesaver with five leakproof compartments. It is reusable, washable, flexible and eliminates the need to buy bulkier travel bottles or travel-sized products. Anybody who regularly flies cross-country or overseas will appreciate the fact that Starry Eyes by Popmask not only blocks out light, but is also self-heating on the first use when the outer package is open and reacts with oxygen. UK inventor Louisa Booth previewed a variation on the mask with aromatic relaxation-boosting vegan botanicals. •
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