Does indie beauty move first? a look at trend-driven innovation in 2019

By Deanna Utroske contact

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images \ (phototechno)
© Getty Images \ (phototechno)
Ours is a notoriously fast-paced industry. Still, everything new has to start somewhere. And there is a fair amount of work to be done educating consumers, integrating novel ingredient tech, capitalizing on new industrial-scale opportunities. Here, Cosmetics Design looks at a selection of this year’s top trends where indie cosmetics and personal care brands were early movers.

The Cosmetics Design team finishes each year with a look ahead at the ingredient, formulation and industry-shaping trends that are set to influence beauty in the year ahead. (See our trend forecast video for 2019 here​.) The following selection of trends comes from last December’s forecast video and illustrates the pivotal role indie brands play in establishing and accelerating what’s new and next in beauty.

Microbiome beauty

Today was the first day of the 2019 Cosmetics Design Summit: Skin Microbiome Innovation in Amsterdam. At the Summit, industry leading ingredient makers, beauty manufacturers, packagers, market researchers, academics, brand founders, and other experts are presenting the latest data and opportunities in microbiome beauty. (Take a look at the Cosmetics Design Europe Twitter Feed ​and follow hashtags #CDsummit​ and #skinmicrobiome ​to see what's happening at the Summit.)

Numerous startups were early innovators in microbiome skin care, brands like Gallinée out of London, England; Esse from Durban, South Africa; Elsi, out of San Francisco, California; and Tula, based in New York City (which began as an indie brand and is, since early 2017, backed by L Catterton​).

Elsi, a newer brand in the microbiome beauty space, recently launched a first product. And not long after that, Elsa Jungman (the woman behind the brand) won an award for her entrepreneurial fortitude. Learn more about the brand she’s building here on Cosmetics Design​.  

And Gallinée has been doing impressive work in this important new category since 2016. Read founder Marie Drago’s Indie Beauty Profile here​ on Cosmetics Design; and get an update on all things Gallinée in this video interview​ from January.

Mindful beauty

Clean, green, sustainable, and conscious beauty have combined and converged to become mindful beauty—these are brands and products that are attentive to all those objectives at every point throughout a product’s lifecycle.

A couple ready example of mindful beauty in the indie space are the color cosmetics brand Āether Beauty and the skin care brand LOLI Beauty. Cosmetics Design caught up with Āether Beauty founder Tiila Abbitt at this year’s Indie Beauty Expo in LA; and this video interview​ highlights some of the brand’s most mindful strategies, i.e., truly recyclable packaging.  

While LOLI Beauty is already meeting and surpassing the sustainability and clean beauty objectives that many brands are only now projecting as future goals. Learn about this zero-waste, food-grade skin care brand here on founder Tina Hedges Indie Beauty Profile​.


This is a trend we called in early 2018. (Read ‘CBD products will be the next truly market-disrupting personal care category’ here​ on Cosmetics Design.) And, brand like CBD for Life​ (2014 launch) and Code of Harmony CBD Skincare​ (launched by Janet Schriever at the start of 2017) were early in this soon-to-boom category.

In 2018, Cosmetics Design featured Schriever and her brand—then called Crave—on the Indie Beauty Profile with the contextual note that “although many investor-led projects and government-funded growing studies are moving CBD forward-thinking startup ventures and retailers aren’t waiting around either.” And Schriever described her brand’s unique value proposition this way: “[Code of Harmony] is the first clean, plant-based indie beauty product line to feature this new ingredient." Read more here on Cosmetics Design.

Water reduction

Water is a global luxury item; whether it’s unique bottled drinking water, carefully sourced waters for use in personal care product formulation, or truly scarce water in arid regions around the world. And so, there’s a movement in beauty to use less water during ingredient production, product formulation, or consumer application.

Indie brands that stand out for their innovation and leadership in this movement include the color cosmetics brand Pinch of Colour and the very new hair brand OWA. Linda Treska launched Pinch of Colour in 2016​ as a prestige waterless beauty brand; and early this year her charity initiative Blue Angle had its formal debut. Read more about the launch of Blue Angel here on Cosmetics Design​.

OWA launched its first product Hair Wash this month. Cosmetics Design caught up with brand founder Kailey Bradt at the start of the year to learn more about the brand she’s building. Here​ she shares insight into her brand’s product development strategy, packaging design, and the importance of making water-free formulations. “We’ve gone waterless…not only because it’s saving water, it’s because we are saving other resources as well,” ​says Bradt.  



Deanna Utroske, Editor, covers beauty business news in the Americas region and publishes the weekly Indie Beauty Profile column, showcasing the inspiring work of entrepreneurs and innovative brands.

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