Guide Aug 08
Written by Stephanie Patterson Read about our editorial guidelines
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Finding The Best Indie Makeup Brands of 2022
Indie beauty makes you say, “why isn’t there more of this out there? And why haven’t I heard of this brand before?” A relatively new term, “indie” simply means independent, and these niche beauty companies are mostly small scale—until we make them part of the larger picture.
Thankfully, indie makeup is growing in popularity due to the increasing need for better, broader, and cleaner beauty. Don’t get us wrong, big beauty brands are making strides in the realm of green, inclusive cosmetics, but there’s an alluring charm that unique makeup companies bring to the table—mainly that they’re doing something different.
To shine some light on a few of the forward-thinking brands out there, we’ve put together this best indie makeup brands list. Before we show you our faves though, we’ll run you through a few basics you may want to consider as you browse, like what indie beauty actually is, to begin with.
What’s ‘Indie’ Beauty?
Like we said before, the word “indie” is short for “independent.” That means that these brands are all independently owned (not by bigger companies such as Estée Lauder and L’Oreal). It turns out that seven parent companies own 182 different beauty brands—and these are some of your favorites too, like Glamglow and Clinique.
Just like independent films, independent beauty brings something different to the market. Most often, that “something” is edgy, artsy, or eye-opening. They’re not all small businesses. In fact, some of them are quite large-scale. However, the money to fund the business and help it run usually comes from the owners themselves.
But even though being independently owned is a criterion for indie beauty, it’s not its only requirement. That whole artsy thing we mentioned? That’s part of their makeup as well. Indie brands often have an approach or overarching theme that can be felt by those who shop them.
Higher in quality and accompanied by a mission (or five), these important businesses pull together passion, vision, and care, to create products that are a cut above what you’d find at your local drugstore.
The names we mention in this best indie makeup brands list all have a special mission. Some are similar, some are not, but regardless, authenticity and passion run strongly through them all.
How to Shop for Indie Makeup Brands:
We’re about to jump into some of the best indie makeup brands on this side of the moon. Since there are a ton of amazing companies out there, there’s a ton to unpack here. To help streamline the process, we’ve put together a little list of details that you may want to keep in mind as you browse.
Looking to do good with your beauty routine? This best indie makeup brands list has you covered. With these types of companies, you can expect missions that are easy to get behind.
Whether inclusivity is near and dear to your heart or you want your makeup to fight as hard for women’s rights as you do, you’ll find all the crucial details about each company’s mission we list here.
Just like they all have a noble mission, our picks for the best indie makeup brands pack a punch when it comes to impact too. As you browse, you’ll notice that some are social justice warriors advocating for change within humanity, whereas others focus on animal rights or the health of our planet.
To put it plainly, indie beauty may be a little more costly than your average Maybelline pick. Why? Well, because a lot more goes into making a zero-waste tube of hypoallergenic, clean, cruelty-free mascara than one made of the complete opposite.
With that said, the companies we’ve included in this list of popular indie makeup brands aren’t out-of-this-world expensive because they were created with the customer in mind. You’ll find a range of names here that vary in price, and though the cost isn’t something we’ll go into in explicit detail, we will note the more affordable options.
Now, this is a big one and one of the things that we love about indie beauty brands. They’re made with you in mind in terms of formula, but also in terms of how and where you apply your makeup.
Some picks on this best indie makeup brands list are all about convenience, and we’ll be sure to point those out for you loud and clear. If fun is your ‘raison d’être,’ we’ve got a ton of that here for you too.
Just like regular beauty products, the best indie makeup brands deliver different things. Since these are some of the top choices out there, you already know you’ll get high-performing products, but the way that they do that may be different.
For example, if you’re looking for highly pigmented colors, opt for a brand that makes that their focus. Want a foundation that does more than even-out skin tone? Choose one that includes added vitamins, minerals, and sun protection.
16 Best Indie Makeup Brands to Shop in 2022
We’ve made it to the part you came to this best indie makeup brands list looking for: the brands themselves. Since you know what you look out for as you browse, you’re probably chomping at the bit to get started.
The sections below will highlight our top 16 picks for the best indie makeup out there. We’ll walk you through their missions, products, and overall aesthetic to help you get to know them. Don’t worry, just like these brands don’t skimp on good vibes, we won’t skimp on details.
#1 – Jones Road
You may have heard of legendary makeup artist Bobbi Brown before, or perhaps are a fan of her previous cosmetics line. Jones Road is her newest collection launched to do beauty the right way: clean, high-performing, and inclusive.
She set out to develop formulas that worked just as well on aging skin as they did on multiple skin tones and types, the line steering clear of over 2,700 unfriendly ingredients. Its makeup includes all of the must-haves like foundation and mascara but was designed to be versatile—just like you.
If we had to nail its vibe, we’d say it’s a simple collection with intention and the goal to give you the “no-makeup makeup” look—something that’s usually easier said than done.
#2 – Kulfi Beauty
You can’t say Kulfi Beauty without thinking of fun. Its colorful, entertaining graphics adorn its website, its name a type of South Asian ice cream.
Sweet and sassy, the brand offers smooth, smudgeable Underlined eyeliner—that’s its signature product. You’ll find funky extras for sale too such as velvet headbands, stickers, and other items that bring out this brand’s playful heart.
Alongside its adorable makeup collection, the company holds a mission of empowering South Asian communities. As one of the best online indie makeup brands, Kulfi is all about self-expression. Its line is designed for those with similar skin tones, undertones, and concerns, created by someone who saw the need for cultural inclusion in the beauty industry.
#3 – Noto Botanics
Noto Botanics is the product of popular makeup artist Gloria Noto. She’s worked with a heap of magazines and celebrities throughout her career, and along with her coveted skills, what clients most loved about her work was the way she highlighted self-expression in her looks.
Noto Botanics is a name that pretty much says it all. Its rich lip and cheek colors are packed with nourishing plant extracts and ingredients and served up in user-friendly pots and sticks.
You’ll also find a healthy selection of skincare in its collection, one that celebrates inclusion and joins diversity with clean beauty—something that wasn’t traditionally done.
#4 – Kosas
Kosas is all about comfort. Have you ever put on a face full of makeup and just felt so…not yourself? This line is about making the most of what you apply, combining skin-loving ingredients into its luxurious-looking makeup that helps it out in the long run.
One of our top picks for indie makeup brands At Sephora, Kosas’s website is decorated with seductive smears of lipstick that the company says is intentional. Concerned with the sensorial element of cosmetics, its aim was to develop products that just felt plain good.
Highly pigmented, its lip and cheek color was born to be versatile, while its skincare packs a powerful, but natural punch. And since Kosas has banned over 2,700 ingredients, you can feel good about what you put on your face while it makes your face feel good.
Kosas is a really impressive line, featuring smart products like the Chemistry AHA Serum Deodorant that stops odor but also brightens and soothes skin. It’s full of these ingenious ideas that just make sense, yet, so many of us never thought were possible.
#5 – Westman Atelier
Westman Atelier has a classy feel. From the name to the photos with Reese Witherspoon, we get the idea that this one is loved by those who can afford to be choosy with their makeup.
Its clean beauty products include a variety of shades and lovely textures, but go a step further and actually do your skin some good while they’re there. The collection is all packed within attractive matte tubes and bottles that include convenient applicators.
You’ll find all the essentials at Westman Atelier, including foundation, blush, mascara, and an extensive selection of brushes. So who’s behind this brand with such versatile, must-have beauty products?
None other than Gucci Westman, a well-known editorial makeup artist whose look you’ve seen gracing the pages of Vogue and Harper’s Bazaar. With the aim to do better across the board, Westman Atelier is always on the lookout for ways to become more sustainable and reduce its eco-footprint.
#6 – Subtl Beauty
With a name like Subtle Beauty, it’s safe to say less is more here. But though its M.O is concise, its formulas are everything you need in a simple beauty routine.
The brand deals with “real” beauty. Not the complicated, suitcase-worth of products it takes to get a Kim K-worthy face. Subtl is all about convenience and practicality, it’s concealer, lip & cheek, eyeshadow, and highlighter fitted in a travel-friendly pot and stacked to keep it all together. Like come on, how handy is that?!
You can shop curated collections or build your own custom stack, and you’ll have plenty to choose from.
#7 – Kjaer Weis
Living boldly doesn’t mean having to compromise on values. At least, not for makeup anyway. Kjaer Weis proves this in its effective skincare and bright beauty line that merges streamlined Scandinavian living with the vibrancy of NYC life.
An entirely organic collection, Kjaer Weis delivers on all of the fronts you look for when you shop: sustainable, high-performance, and clean. Its line is built by inspiration and made successful by quality—the products are luxurious, long-lasting, and made to work.
With its reusable, sleek packaging, you can keep the outer sleeve, ordering refills to cut down on waste. Certified natural and organic, Kjaer Weis launches beauty into the 21st century.
#8 – Range Beauty
With Range Beauty, it’s all about inclusion. Making its products in a true variety of shades, people flock to the brand to find their perfect match, those hard-to-find shades that they’ve always needed but have had to compromise on, mix, or skip out on altogether.
Range Beauty embodies inclusivity to a T, but it’s also a brand created to give people more out of their cosmetics. It offers a simple line of products—just foundation, primer, powder, and highlighter, but it’s these bases that lay the foundation for makeup—some would argue they’re the most important part.
Welcoming folks of all genders, skin types, tones, and textures, Range wants to make everyone feel heard and seen.
#9 – Lemonhead LA
Just like the candies, Lemonhead LA brings a pop of something extra special to life. The OG creators of glitter-embedded paste, its mess-free line is made in small batches by artists. Lemonhead is a staple in every creative artist’s kit, its range of gels, pastes, and jams, the easy-to-apply-and-remove option for those who like to get sparkly.
With a mission to “excite, inspire, and empower makeup artists to freely express themselves without limitations,” the brand was created by Megan Dugan, a makeup artist who wanted more for her own kit.
You’ll find glimmers of their shiny stuff on celebrities like Margot Robbie and Janet Jackson, and featured in popular publications like Allure and Harper’s Bazaar. High-quality and a top performer in the world of all things glittery, Lemonhead LA is completely women-owned and operated.
#10 – Espressoh
Just like how you prefer your perfect cup of coffee, Espressoh is all about the bold. Its collection includes the essentials, and we totally ate up its combo boxes that resemble those of takeout containers sealed with the details of what’s inside.
Promising high-performing makeup, Espressoh packs gusto into its easy-to-wear products that compliment any beauty box perfectly. Made in Italy, its cosmetics are the second step to jaw-dropping beauty. The first? Self-confidence.
The brand was founded by Chiara, an Italian woman who was no stranger to the beauty industry, and more specifically, how things worked in the cosmetic capitals of Milan and Paris. Her intent was to create a company that got women out of the door with a product that spoke volumes.
Her collection is filled with clean ingredients and marked with a transparency that beauty lovers can feel good about. Safe and fragrance-free, the line is accented with a signature natural scent of coffee, a small amount grouped up into each batch.
#11 – Uoma Beauty
UOMA Beauty is perhaps best known for its inclusive foundation shades. Offering a total of 51, the brand’s founder created the line as an ode to self-expression, diversity, and authenticity.
The company is entirely black-owned. It was developed by Sharon Chuter, a Nigerian-born, LA-based former beauty exec. UOMA offers two different lines, one that’s tailored to unique skin types and tones, the other that’s clean and natural.
Designed to empower women, the brand’s products focus on quick-payoff in color, positive long-term effects, and long-lasting formulas.
#12 – ONE/SIZE Beauty
ONE/SIZE Beauty wouldn’t be what it is today without its founder Patrick Starrr. The make-up artist turned YouTube celebrity created the brand out of his personal motto that beauty is one size.
What Starrr means by this is that beauty is for everyone, anytime, and anyplace. His mission with ONE/SIZE was to make sure those who don’t often get heard, have a say. Inclusive, fun, and high-performing, the line focuses on foundational makeup like primers, concealers, and setting mists, with a strong emphasis on blurring.
#13 – Tower 28 Beauty
Tower 28 Beauty was born out of the need for effective skincare and elevated makeup that didn’t harm sensitive skin. The brand’s founder spent 15 years as a beauty executive and her adulthood with very particular skin.
For something that’s applied daily to our faces, you’d think formulas would be gentle to begin with. And though some brands try to include gentler formulas, they don’t always fit the bill. So what’s a girl to do?
If you didn’t know (like we didn’t), Tower 28 is where the Santa Monica pier and Venice Beach meet. There, it’s all about clean fun and healthy living, two things that this brand takes to heart as well.
Merging hypo-allergenic, gentle formulas with clean ingredients and nourishing extras, this cruelty-free brand checks all the boxes, offering all the basics like lip jellies, foundation, and bronzer. Oh, and it’s completely vegan too!
#14 – Ritual de Fille
All of the names on this best indie makeup brands list leave a lasting impression, but Ritual de Fille especially. Its witchy, dark aesthetic is highly romantic, pigmented, and professional. Created by three sisters, the brand takes inspiration from the magical powers that natural ingredients can have.
One of the top cruelty-free indie makeup brands on this list, all of its formulas were created by those who craft as if they were mixing up a potion. The ingredients found within each are there for a reason, and you won’t find anything that’s thrown in for the sake of it, like fillers. The result is 100% natural hand-made makeup and skincare with transparency.
#15 – Alleyoop
Alleyoop is all about modern convenience. Unlike makeup routines that involve four different brushes and 16 different products, its handy cosmetics are quick and fun to use.
One of the only indie makeup brands At Ulta on this list, you’ll find smart, must-have all-in-one products in its store selection, including things like the 4-in-1 Touch Up Pen and 4-in-1 Makeup Brush. In today’s fast-paced world, makeup in such a format just makes sense. It’s practical and compact, squeezing easily into a clutch for a night out or in your work drawer desk.
Alleyoop’s mission is one of fun, setting out to create products for women that make their lives easier. In addition to being convenient, all of the brand’s collection is TSA-approved so you don’t have to think twice about what you can bring with you.
A sustainable brand from its choice of recyclable materials to the fact that by combining products they cut down on waste, Alleyoop is now plastic-neutral and its orders ship with biodegradable materials that dissolve in water. How cool.
#16 – ĀTHR Beauty
Sustainability is the foundation on which ATHR Beauty was built. Its founder Tilla Abbitt has had many accomplishments in the world of beauty, one of them being the lead R+D member for sustainable materials at Sephora.
After she learned that the US only bans 11 chemicals in color cosmetics, she set out to create her own. The nourishing line includes makeup that doesn’t skimp on color like eyeshadow, lipstick, and blush made with natural ingredients that give back to your skin with every wear.
And with a passion for sustainability, ATHR Beauty made the choice to go zero waste, its packages made from recyclable materials and printed with soy-based ink.
Which Indie Makeup Brands Are The Most Shade-Inclusive?
Inclusivity is an important part of indie makeup brands and many of them do it in different ways. If we’re talking about shade inclusion, well, our first inkling would be to head to Range Beauty.
But though the brand focuses on including shades that aren’t typically found with other makeup brands, its selection isn’t as large as UOMA Beauty’s is. For this one, we’d have to give it to UOMA, which offers 51 shades of foundation—including a broader range than any other brand.
Which Indie Makeup Brands Have The Cleanest Ingredients?
Clean ingredients aren’t always a given with indie makeup companies, even though the majority (if not all) of them push for better formulas. The best clean indie makeup brands are the ones that ban a ton of potentially harmful ingredients and use natural formulas.
The brands we believe to fit the bill are Kosas, Jones Road, and Kjaer Weis. The latter is certified organic and natural, while the other two ban over 2,700 toxic ingredients.
Which Indie Makeup Brands Are The Most Earth-Friendly?
When we’re looking at earth-friendly products, a brand’s formulas need to be clean and natural, its packaging has to be recyclable or biodegradable, and it’s a bonus if they give back to the earth somehow.
In our books, Kjaer Weis and ATHR Beauty are both great picks. Both have recyclable packaging, are made with natural ingredients, and ban a ton of chemicals.
Which Indie Makeup Brands Are The Best To Use On Sensitive And/Or Blemish-Prone Skin?
Makeup may help cover blemishes, but it often doesn’t do much to help with them. Indie makeup is about doing more with makeup, and often, you’ll find products with nourishing ingredients added in to protect and care for your skin.
One of the best new indie makeup brands designed for sensitive skin is Tower 28. It was created by someone looking for gentler formulas for themselves without the clinical feel that other companies had. As for blemishes, we think Kosas is a great line. Formulated with caring extras, it does skin a favor.
Which Indie Makeup Brands Are Best To Use For A Natural ‘No Makeup’ Look?
Many of the best indie makeup brands 2021 are about convenience, and making your makeup regimen a little more streamlined. The ‘no makeup’ look is about convenience too; it’s subtle and involves a few simple steps.
There are only two names on this best indie makeup brands list that we found shoots for this, and that’s Jones Road and Subtl. Jones Road’s selection of natural-made and looking formulas were designed to get you out the door quickly in the morning, while Subtl is all about a quick and easy routine.
Which Indie Makeup Brands Are The Most Affordable?
Indie makeup is usually mid-range. There’s more that goes into its creation and production, with formulas often mixed by hand and packaged in recyclable materials.
When looking for affordable products, we see great value in those with multiple uses. Alleyoop combines four products into one, saving you money in the long run. Another one of the best affordable indie makeup brands on this list with the same kind of deal is Subtl. You’ll get up to four products in one stack for a decent price.
Indie beauty is pushing boundaries, showing the world what cosmetics can be: bold, natural, inclusive, and kind. The name on this best indie makeup brands list all brings something unique to the table, each of them special and important in their own way.
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