We're now several weeks into the alternate reality known as the COVID-19 pandemic, and while some of us have settled into work-from-home arrangements and found new ways of carrying out even the most mundane tasks on our to-do lists, the shock waves of this global event are still in full effect. There's a lot more to adjust to than just wearing masks outside and burning through bottles of hand sanitizer at unimaginably high rates—the way we relate to the greater world around us has been profoundly altered. It's a lot to handle, but we hope Who What Wear has been a source of joy during these tough times.
One thing that's been on our minds is the toll this situation has taken on small businesses. Along with healthcare providers and other essential workers who've found themselves on the frontlines of this crisis, those who own and work for small businesses are also among the most vulnerable in terms of work. Indie beauty brands are included in this group, but, thankfully, we can help.
With no corporate backing and less wiggle room to spend on critical practices to keep their businesses afloat during these challenging times, boutique beauty brands need us beauty lovers to lend our support however we can. Lucky for us all, shopping small doesn't mean sacrificing cool, innovative products. In fact, it's quite the opposite! These smaller companies are some of our favorites for the makeup, skincare, hair, nail, and fragrance products that make up our daily beauty and wellness rituals.
Ahead, get acquainted with 36 indie beauty brands beauty editors and loyalists are already privy to that you can support now and always. Remember: Even if buying beauty products doesn't rank on your list of priorities right now (trust us—we get it), take the time to check out their social media, shoot them a like, or share with a friend. Every little bit helps.
About the brand: This clean beauty brand prioritizes skin by formulating nontoxic makeup that also nurtures the skin. All of its offerings are cruelty-free (many are also vegan), and it never uses toxins like parabens, phthalates, sulfates, GMO, synthetic fragrances, gluten, or talc. My personal favorite product, its Super Serum Skin Tint, is the perfect lightweight foundation made with niacinamide, plant-based squalane, and hyaluronic acid for plump, dewy-looking skin.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on families across the country, Ilia recently made a donation of $50,000 to Feeding America to help ensure people are able to feed themselves in the face of unemployment and poverty.
About the brand: This color cosmetics line offers a full assortment of foundations, concealers, highlighters, and lipsticks inspired by the vibrant colors and culture of Africa. Its hero products are definitely its affordable and highly pigmented eye shadow palettes, which contain rich colors suitable for every single skin tone.
About the brand: Sustainability is at the heart of this clean beauty brand. Its high-performance and organic-ingredient-packed face, eye, and lip products are housed in beautifully designed packaging that's not only completely Instagram-worthy but also refillable to help reduce the amount of beauty packaging waste that ends up in landfills.
About the brand: When it comes to buzzy, cool-girl beauty brands, Kosas is certainly at the front of the pack right now. It's known for its easy-to-use yet super-sophisticated color cosmetics packed with clean, skin-loving ingredients. This lip oil is just one example that I've fallen head over heels in love with.
About the brand: If you loved all the incredible makeup looks from HBO's Euphoria, there's a good chance you were fawning over the glitzy glitter pastes from this indie makeup brand. Whether you're a makeup enthusiast or just looking to add a touch of fun to your repertoire, these vegan and cruelty-free glitters are the obvious choice.
About the brand: If you're a woman of color who's never known the joy of a nude lipstick that's truly nude on your skin tone, Mented is here to help. It creates highly pigmented color cosmetics that prioritize darker complexions instead of treating them the way the rest of the beauty industry often does—as an afterthought. From lipstick to blush and even eye shadow palettes, it's got brown girls covered.
About the brand: Noto creates high-performance, multi-use products made from clean, simple ingredients. Aside from beautifully pigmented makeup like lip and cheek stains and glowy highlighters, it also offers a number of skincare treats made from botanical ingredients and housed in sustainable packaging.
Rituel de Fille
About the brand: This L.A.-born beauty brand has been a WWW favorite for some time now. Founded by three sisters committed to natural and cruelty-free formulas, the line offers gloriously pigmented complexion, eye, and lip products that feel as luxurious they look—without harmful fillers and additives.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on people across the globe, Rituel de Fille recently shifted its sourcing and production capacity to produce hand sanitizer. It's implemented choose-what-you-pay pricing on this item to ensure that those who have been unable to obtain hand sanitizer at a fair price are able to protect themselves and their families.
About the brand: Tower 28 operates with the understanding that what goes on your skin also goes in your bloodstream, which is at the root of its commitment to nontoxic, non-irritating formulas chock-full of calming, nourishing ingredients. But just because its products are made with sensitive skin in mind doesn't mean they're boring or clinical—you'll find juicy lip gloss, glowy bronzer, and a skin-soothing facial spray that are both fun and safe.
About the brand: Uoma is all about celebrating individuality and doing away with the singular and often alienating idea of what beauty should look like. Its inclusive offering of color cosmetics takes inspiration from Africa to inspire us all to embrace our diversity and uplift all women.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on people across the globe, Uoma recently donated the entire stock of hygiene supplies from its temporarily closed retail stores—including hand sanitizer and alcohol disinfectant—to help re-route essential supplies to those who need them most at the moment.
Black Girl Sunscreen
About the brand: The name says it all. Black Girl Sunscreen is a purveyor of natural, oxybenzone- and octinoxate-free sunscreens that wear totally sheer, even on darker skin tones. For anyone who's ever suffered the embarrassment of sunscreen appearing streaky or leaving an unsightly white cast, even though it's marketed as suitable for all skin tones, this is the SPF for you.
About the brand: Golde aims to democratize wellness by offering high-quality, clean recipes at an attainable price. From matcha latte tonic blends to powder-to-gel face masks made with 100% natural (and edible!) ingredients, this Brooklyn-born brand is all about superfood-boosted elixirs for health and beauty.
About the brand: Hanahana Beauty was born out of an utter lack of transparency and sustainability within the beauty industry. Today, its uplifts women of color by offering all-natural shea butter concoctions using fair-trade ingredients sourced directly from the Katariga Women's Shea Cooperative in Tamale, Ghana. Its continued mission is to cultivate deeper accessibility and sustainability in the beauty and wellness spaces. From the second my skin met its whipped shea butters, I've been a devotee. They're unreal!
About the brand: Klur is all about clean, ethical, and inclusive skincare. Over the course of her career as an esthetician, founder Lesley Thornton developed a functional approach by documenting the effects of various ingredients and formulations on a diverse array of ethnicities and skin conditions. This approach is embedded in the foundation of her line of simple, clean, and results-oriented products.
About the brand: If luxe skin oils are your thing, look no further than Mara. It concocts clean, algae-infused skincare products chock-full of luxe oils, antioxidants, and otherworldly nutrients your skin will love. Its Universal Face Oil has been in my arsenal for years now, and it's honestly one of the staples in my skincare routine.
About the brand: You can rest assured that any and all ingredients housed in May Lindstrom's heavenly botanical formulas have been thoroughly vetted and procured with the highest levels of sustainable, ethical, and qualitative standards. From harvest to packaging and beyond, the Earth and its bounty are at the forefront and the inspiration for the biodynamic, wild-crafted, cruelty-free, and sustainable formulations.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on families across the country, May Lindstrom recently made two donations to Feeding America for 30,000 meals total to help ensure people are able to feed themselves in the face of unemployment and poverty.
About the brand: Maya Chia creates skincare using high-performance, high-quality, natural super ingredients (like chia and natural astaxanthin) that are science-backed and deliver tremendous results. It's committed to helping customers cut through the beauty-industry clutter to find the natural, effective products that best serve every skin concern. Beyond its clean-ingredient values, the company is the corporate sponsor to Adopt-a-Village Guatemala to help the Maya there gain access to tools for better education and an overall better life.
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About the brand: From the top of your head to the souls of your feet, this collection of organic, vegan, and low-waste formulations has got you covered. Each offering, from its nourishing shampoo bars to its gentle face wash and even its all-natural deodorants, is crafted with unrefined plant oils and butters, steam-distilled and cold-pressed essential oils and organic, and fresh botanicals.
About the brand: The Nécessaire philosophy is simple: Treat your body like you treat your face. To that end, it formulates bodycare products that are not only good for you but also good for the planet. Inside its luxe body washes, lotions, serums, exfoliators, and deodorants, you'll find meticulously researched, high-performance, clean ingredients housed in gorgeous packaging fit for a top-shelfie. Oh, and it recently became Climate Neutral Certified, meaning it's achieved a proven balance between emitting carbon and absorbing carbon from the atmosphere. My personal favorite from the line, The Body Exfoliator, is a multi-exfoliation treatment with bamboo charcoal, pumice, glycolic acid, salicylic acid, and lactic acid to gently slough away dead skin. It feels slightly tingly as you rub it in and reveals supple, hydrated skin. Just thinking about it is making me want to hop in the shower.
About the brand: Malibu-born skincare brand Osea has been a purveyor of safe, nontoxic skincare since 1996. (Well before clean beauty became a mainstream movement.) Still today, it creates face and body products from certified organic, bioavailable seaweed blended with pure, steam-distilled and cold-pressed essential oils and 100% plant-based, cruelty-free ingredients. Pro tip: This Undaria Algae Oil makes your skin feel like butter right out of the shower and also makes a nourishing hair treatment.
About the brand: Oumere is a woman-owned, truly innovative line that's challenging a lot of the notions currently driving the skincare industry—with the science to back it up. Founder Wendy Ouriel, who holds a masters of science degree in cellular biology, became fascinated with the biological mechanisms behind anti-aging during her studies, at which time she also happened to be battling adult acne triggered by high-end skincare. This set her on a path of discovery that inspired her to create something she couldn't find on the market: a skincare line dedicated to the most powerful and effective anti-aging ingredients meant to encourage healthy, happy skin without any of the fluff that lends itself to touch, feel, and marketing rather than doing anything beneficial for the skin.
The Things We Do
About the brand: This exciting, new-ish skincare line hails from the founder of one of L.A.'s top skincare studios, The Things We Do, Vanessa Lee. The product line shares not only the same name but also the same beauty philosophy as the booming medical esthetics practice: to cut out unnecessary products and treatments and emphasize the ones that will make the biggest impact. My fellow beauty editor Erin Jahns is an OG Vanessa Lee stan and a huge fan of all of her amazing at-home skin treatments. "This magical little stamping treatment is the next best thing to seeing Lee IRL. The mixture of moringa leaf and snail mucin encourages a plump, smooth-as-a-baby's-bum complexion and rivals the spendy results of an in-office micro-needling treatment," Erin says of the brand's cutting-edge beauty treatment tool.
About the brand: Since its launch last year, U Beauty has been on the lips of everyone here at Who What Wear. They've got just one product, the Resurfacing Compound, which is a truly groundbreaking serum (the ingredient encapsulating technology is patent-pending) that delivers antioxidants, vitamin C, vitamin E, and retinol all without any irritation. The woman behind the brand, Tina Craig, is also a digital media maven in her own right.
About the brand: Clean haircare is Briogeo's specialty. It makes high-performance products that are also naturally derived—a tough balance to strike in the hair game. Its formulas are 100% cruelty-free and contain no harsh sulfates, silicones, parabens, phthalates, DEA, or artificial dyes.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on families across the country, Briogeo recently donated a portion of proceeds from Briogeo.com orders to Food Bank for New York City to provide 50,000 meals to those in need.
About the brand: You might know By Humankind as the brand that disrupted the personal-care industry with its refillable natural deodorant tube, but the eco-conscious company also makes shampoo and conditioner in bar form to help remove single-use plastics and unnecessary packing from your haircare ritual. The nutrient-dense bars contain all the things hair loves, including cocoa butter, coconut oil, and jojoba oil.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on families across the country, By Humankind is donating $1 from every purchase of its newly launched hand sanitizer to The Robin Hood Relief Fund to provide emergency support to those in need in NYC.
About the brand: Everyone has their thing, and for Crown Affair founder Dianna Cohen, it's hair. After years of being the go-to hair guru in her circles and learning about other people's relationships with their myriad hair types and textures, she decided to launch a line of curated products to help address the most common concerns she kept hearing from her community. The products are designed to serve all hair textures, play nicely with your other haircare, and serve as the foundation for your healthy haircare routine.
About the brand: If you've ever coveted the haircut or color atop the heads of stars like Hilary Duff, Lea Michele, Nina Dobrev, or Emma Roberts, you've been admiring the handy work of celeb-favorite hair salon Nine Zero One founders Nikki Lee and Riawna Capri. Together, the hair gurus launched In Common, a luxury haircare line meant to bring their expert care into your home.
About the brand: Playa aims to help folks achieve the best version of their hair naturally, without drying or styling. It produces clean, treatment-focused hair products using a combination of clean and safe ingredients and minimal amounts of low-hazard clinical ingredients. Senior market editor Nicole Akhtarzad Eshaghpour is a fan of its Every Day Shampoo for keeping her thick locks clean and healthy.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on families across the country, Playa donated 25 meals for every online order placed in April through Feeding America's COVID-19 Response Fund to support food banks across the U.S. in communities impacted by the pandemic.
About the brand: If you haven't yet heard the hype around Virtue Labs' cutting-edge hair products, you haven't been paying attention. It's harnessed the power of its proprietary Alpha Keratin 60ku, a protein extracted from ethically sourced human hair that binds directly to areas of damage and fills them in. The result is stronger, shinier, and overall healthier hair.
In light of the current COVID-19 crisis and the toll this pandemic has taken on families across the country, Virtue Labs made a sizable donation of PPE supplies including disposable gowns, gloves, and 960 and N95 masks to be distributed to healthcare workers in its home state of North Carolina. It also created a GoFundMe specifically to help hairstylists and salon employees in the Virtue Community who have been impacted by the economic fallout from this pandemic.
About the brand: You might already be a fan of J. Hannah's sustainably designed jewelry (it uses 100% post-consumer recycled 14-karat gold or sterling silver and only recycled or ethically sourced gemstones), but did you know the L.A.-based brand is also a purveyor of nontoxic, cruelty-free nail polishes? The chic colors are artist-inspired and unlike shades you'll find anywhere else.
Olive & June
About the brand: Olive & June has truly revolutionized the at-home manicure. From its kits, which come complete with every tool you'll need for an Instagram-worthy paint job (including the patented universal polish bottle handle, The Poppy), to its long-lasting, seven-free nail lacquers, it strives to make salon-quality manicures accessible to anyone, anywhere.
People of Color Beauty
About the brand: From the rarity of imagery showcasing black and brown skin tones to the number limited of polish shades formulated with darker skin tones in mind, People of Color Beauty was born out of an utter lack of representation in the nail polish industry. It strives to provide nail polish for all but with the often neglected women of color as the first thought and not an afterthought. Its high-quality, vibrantly hued lacquers are also 10-free.
About the brand: This line of unisex, vegan, nontoxic, and sustainable fragrances hits all the hottest beauty buzzwords while somehow still maintaining that ultra-cool, understated vibe old-school brands would kill to have. Each of the brand's 11 scents is complex, sophisticated, and totally intoxicating.
About the brand: If you've ever wondered what the coolest people on Earth smell like, look no further than Heretic's line of clean, gender-neutral fragrances. The 100% naturally derived botanical ingredients not only smell incredible but also have aromatherapy properties to inspire healing in the body, too.
About the brand: Skylar's collection of nontoxic, paraben-free, phthalate-free, hypoallergenic, and vegan fragrances are some of the dreamiest you'll ever sniff. Get ready to smell really good without worrying about harsh chemicals making their way into your body.
The Nue Co.
About the brand: You probably know The Nue Co. for its toxic-, preservative-, and filler-free dietary supplements, but it's also extended its ultra-clean concept to create a functional fragrance meant to support the body in times of stress. Expect a clean, woody, spicy, and smoky unisex scent that's at once subtle and sophisticated.
Up next, 26 small fashion brands we're supporting now.
Courtney Higgs is a Cancer sun, Libra rising beauty enthusiast with about six years of experience in the editorial space. She was previously Who What Wear's associate beauty editor after spending many years working on the West Coast edit team at InStyle Magazine. She graduated from California State University, Northridge, with a BA in communication studies and pivoted to editorial after spending her college years working in the legal field. Her beauty philosophy is simple: She believes there are no wrong answers and that discovering our favorite beauty products and rituals is a journey, not a sprint. When she's not geeking out over products, she can be found adventuring around L.A. with her fiancé; watching reality TV with their French bulldog, Bernie Mac; or relating way too hard to astrology memes.