It’s hard out there for emerging beauty brands.
What’s a new brand to do when you want to get your name out, and don’t have the media muscle of a beauty conglomerate behind you? Your options are:
1. Scrounge up big money for advertising in the major print beauty magazines. 2. Try to establish contact with busy beauty editors via desk sides or product samples, and hope that your brand doesn’t get lost in the beauty closet. 3. Pitch your products to online beauty sites and bloggers. 4. Try to get your product included in a beauty subscription box (also expensive, as producing samples en masse is expensive). 5. Hustle, hustle via the QVC route (like Leslie Blodgett, the Bare Escentuals prophetess).
Brands have achieved success via all of the methods above. Even Bobbi Brown was a small-time beauty line with five natural lipstick shades until Jean Godfrey-June wrote about them in Vogue, but with the confluence of existing brands that launch new products everyday, is it any surprise that new and up-and-coming brands sometimes fall through the cracks? There’s no CFDA-equivalent fund for beauty brands (although maybe there should be!).
Fortunately for you Fashionista readers, I am devoted to the cause of making sure those new beauty brands don’t slip through the undiscovered abyss. So here’s a list of five fantastic beauty upstarts whose products I’ve tried and loved, that deserve your attention and notice. Click through to discover new products to love.
Grace Choi BB Cream: You’ve probably already heard about the crop of fashion tech startups being incubated at business schools, but less so about actual product launches. Grace Choi BB Cream is a product launch that comes to you courtesy of a medical inventor and current student at Harvard Business School. Prior to beginning her studies, Choi was working in the medical field. She was fascinated with BB creams, which were originally designed by Korean doctors for medical use, to speed recovery following laser surgery.
After seeing the trend surge in Korea and come over stateside, Grace realized that there was room in the U.S. market for a BB cream appropriate for a melting pot of skin tones. Unlike most of the current BB cream offerings which offer three shades at best, or one at worst, Choi created a line with 10 shades and two finishes, matte and dewy. She perfected the formula by breaking down her favorite Korean versions and reverse-engineering them to create her own original recipe. The result is a supremely smooth primer/tinted moisturizer/foundation/oil-free/anti-aging hybrid that glides onto your skin to give you a luminescent quality. Because of the cream’s smoothness, a tiny dab is sufficient for your whole face and the cream adjusts to suit your skin color. The full coverage is like a foundation, but feels lighter than tinted moisturizer. If you aren’t sure of what shade you are, Choi will send you a sample set of all the shades and they’ll deduct its price when you purchase a full size.
You can buy it here, $34
Phoenix Organics: Trends tend to hit all areas around the same time. Local? Organic? Brooklyn? Yeah, we’ve been hearing about that in food and fashion. Phoenix Organics is a brand that encapsulates all three of those movements. Started by Irina, a self-described Brooklyn “herbal elf” who apprenticed with local herbalists to understand the benefits and therapeutic usage of plants (what an uneducated eye might deem “weeds”) and learn things like how to make an herbal bandage (bookmark this in case you ever find yourself in a Bear Grylls or Hunger Games-like situation).
She began using her knowledge to create a homemade line of plant-based lip balms, elixirs, and solid perfumes. Have you ever dreamed about being a wood nymph or a fairy sprite or being a student in Professor Sprout’s Herbalogy class? Irina’s creations are for you, with Little Wing Lip Balm, Faerie Balm, and Wild Rose Botanical Perfume among her whimsical bestsellers. Her Little Wing Lip Balm is my favorite, with its organic emollient mix of vanilla, lemon vervaine, gardenia, and ylang-ylang oils that smells like a particularly delectable flowery cupcake. Right now, you can buy Phoenix Organics on its Etsy store but starting soon, Phoenix Organics will be available in renowned boutique Colette Paris, which is well-known for being the first to support new beauty brands.
You can buy it here, $6-$24
Rahua: Are you guys on the low-poo trend? No, it’s not the latest celebrity adorable dog hybrid. It’s the newest breed of shampoo—low-sud shampoos that gently clean your hair while retaining its natural moisture and texture. This is the shampoo you should be using if you can’t get out of washing your hair everyday but still want that desirable “second day” texture celebrity hairstylists frequently claim is “best.” This shampoo allows me to get by not washing my hair for three or four days, without looking or feeling completely disgusting.
Rahua (pronounced ra-wa) is a hair oil and low-poo brand that comes to you from the Amazon, where the Quechua-Shuar tribes used the restorative oil to condition and treat their hair. The stars of this oil-based haircare line are the shampoo and conditioner. The shampoo is a light clarifier that cleanses your hair without drying out its natural moisturizing oils, leaving it bouncy, glossy, and alive. And tip: the shampoo is a total recession gem, as you will need about half the amount of shampoo you use with other brands. I read somewhere long ago that a full head of hair needs only about a nickel-size dollop of shampoo. For Rahua, I use about a dime-size amount and I’m always amazed by how effectively this works to wash all of my long hair. Because its base is a hair oil, the shampoo and conditioner have a vaguely herbal and fragrant medicinal smell that may not appeal to everyone, but that I have come to enjoy.
You can buy it here, $32.
Laqa: I’m all for embracing nail art, but I swear some bloggers must have surgeon hands to be able to draw teeny-tiny cat whiskers and unicorn horns with a steady arm. I can’t even successfully draw a straight line using my non-dominant hand. Nail polish pens that I’ve used before in the past have been too glompy, dispensing polish unevenly so that I wind up with a great, big blobby mess.
Laqa has developed a nail polish pen that actually makes it possible for me to do my own nails at home. With an easy click top that slowly releases polish, I can use the wide-brush tip to color an entire nail in as few as two to three strokes. Colors dry quickly so that you can easily build up the color quotient. You can even turn the brush on its side to make finer nail designs, like lines and stripes. The colors are modern and fun.
An honorable mention product are their moisturizing chubby lipstick pencils, whose Andy Warhol pop culture pink “Lambchop” has been one of my summer staples. Beauty editors always talk about “color payoff” when it comes to reviewing products, which is basically a way to describe how easily color is deposited and how accurate the color is to what’s depicted in the packaging. Laqa’s color payoff in both lip pencils and nail polish pens are absolute—the colors are beautiful replicas of their box swatches and they are dispensed quickly and easily. Laqa also has independent artists design their box packaging, and a proceed of each products' sales go towards supporting these graffiti, installation, and painter artists.
You can buy it here, $15.45
Renpure: Remember a few years ago when beauty magazines were talking about the amazingness of L’Oreal’s kids’ shampoo because it smelled like a yummy combination of guava, mango, and other indeterminate tropical fruits? I rode that bandwagon too and hunted down the shampoo at my local store. The smell was awesome, but didn’t do much for my fine hair, so I gave up on using it consistently.
Well, set aside the search because I’ve found an adult organic equivalent that makes your hair a lovely, full, fluffy dream. Renpure is an organic haircare line founded by the Redmond family, a modern-Kennedy-esque clan that do things like pose adorably in fluffy bathrobes for a website family picture and create awesome shampoo. Its ‘My Pretty Hair is Parched!’ moisturizing conditioner and ‘I Love My Hair!’ body and shine shampoo get the most play in my bathroom because any visitor showering at my apartment is irresistibly drawn to its intoxicating, yummy scent. (A clueless boy once even used it mistakenly as a body wash because he didn’t know that shampoos could smell so good.) And after showering, your hair gets that softness and gentle silkiness that you get from baby shampoo.
You can buy it at Amazon.com, $6.99