The biggest trend in indie beauty right now: Saving the world


So, what’s hot in the beauty world right now? For starters, clean beauty is the standard in 2020, not the exception. We noticed this and more while strolling through this week’s two-day Indie Beauty Expo, a gathering of more than 200 independent global beauty brands at the Magic Box in downtown Los Angeles.

“The biggest trend in beauty right now is sustainability,” says Leah-Vail Soloff, founder and chief executive of Quartz PR. “For almost a decade, the focus was on clean beauty and how to create better-quality natural products. Now, it’s all about how brands will take a stance to do their part for the environment and consciously consume.”

For the record:

12:11 p.m. Feb. 1, 2020An earlier version of this story said Joanna Gatto was a former beauty editor at Elle. She’s a former Elle beauty intern.

Beyond sustainability, independent global beauty brands are focused on wellness, self-care and “slow beauty,” a mindful approach to beauty that goes beyond the quick fix.


“People want to have a special connection with personal-care products,” says celebrity esthetician Jillian Wright, cofounder of the Indie Beauty Expo and a former skin-care expert for Olay. “They want to feel something with the brands they bring into their orbit. ... Independent beauty has a lot of soul. You have direct access to the people bringing products to market, whether that’s a farmer or an attorney or gynecologist. Owners come in all shapes and sizes from around the world.”

Here’s a closer look at some of the intriguing expo finds, guaranteed to be game changers in the year of beauty ahead.

Bespoke color matching

On the hunt for the perfect nude lip? NipLips, a Tuscon, Ariz.,-based brand founded by bioscientist Renae Moomjian, uses an app to match the pigment of your nipples with a lipstick shade most flattering to your skin tone.

Once you download the app, you can do a quick color scan of the tip of your nipple. “There’s never any chance of the photo getting out,” says Moomjian, explaining the safe scan is never uploaded or saved. “No one will ever see it.”

An algorithm will analyze your color and detect a perfect match. “We developed eight colors in our Desert Botanical Matte collection based on different skin tones and ethnicities,” she says. “The hex code offers you three choices: one natural, one bold and a mix of the two.”


Zero-waste and reusable beauty

Palette the Original High Fiver is a sustainable travel kit that allows you to pack and carry beauty products for on-the-go use. Its patent-pending pliable design makes sure you squeeze out every last drop of product.

“We love that we have made something that allows people to use their fave full-size skin-care, beauty and cosmetic items and eliminate single-use plastics,” says Kate Westad, the brand’s founder and inventor.

An attorney, mom and avid traveler, Westad is invested in “beauty reusables,” made from 30% recycled materials. “Our goal is to get to 100%,” she says.

Wearable beauty tool

Another must-have beauty gadget is the Yubi tool for applying and blending makeup and skin care. Named for the Japanese word for finger, Yubi slips on to your middle and index fingers, offering you easy and precise application with less product waste.

“It’s for women who don’t have time to fuss and want to feel confident,” says Adiya Dixon, Yubi’s founder and president.

An international attorney and mom, Dixon wants to help modern women declutter and streamline their routine. “Beauty should be fast and enjoyable,” she says.

Highly pigmented nontoxic color for eyes

Clean makeup doesn’t always translate to an au naturel look. Many brands are focusing on bold looks, inspired by pop culture.

“We’re going to see the age of extremities in eye makeup,” says Peter Muller, cofounder of Folly Fire. “On the one hand, we’ll have the popping neon shadows and shimmering ‘Euphoria’-inspired looks. We’ll also see pastel dreams — watercolor hues that are soft and evocative.”


In other words, clean makeup isn’t just about neutrals and earth tones.

Biodegradable glitter

Adding sparkle to the clean palette is L.A.-based brand Johnny Concert, helmed by Joanna Gatto, a former Elle beauty intern, and her partner, Matt Baggiani.

The line offers a range of color rock ’n’ roll looks, including liquid lipstick, amplified eyeshadows, prismatic eyeliners and eco-friendly glitter.

“We don’t want to put microplastics into the ocean,” says Gatto. Instead, her smudge-resistant Glitz products catch light and are made from biodegradable raw materials that give a disco look safe for marine life.

Cannabis-infused makeup

One of the biggest trends in beauty is the molecule of the moment, CBD, as well as non-psychoactive cannabis oil. “Not very many Latino women are in the cannabis industry, but it’s been a part of my family life as a medicinal plant for over 20 years,” says Yvonne Perez Emerson, founder and chief executive of Make & Mary, a line of CBD and cannabis products.

The line boasts steam-distilled essential oils, a fragrant aromatherapy candle and Magic Wand sticks with buildable color.

“I’m concerned about the whitewashing of CBD and cannabis,” she says, reflecting on the mainstreaming of the plant in the beauty industry. “Let’s not forget about the black and brown people in jail for possession. That needs to stop.”

Blue light protection


“We’re clocking over 10 hours a day on average in front of computers and devices,” says Mandi Vance of Kakadu Dream, a line dedicated to detoxing skin from the hazards of “modern digital life.”

Her Blue Light Blockers are glasses worn while working in front of a computer or to sleep, especially if you cuddle up with your phone.

She also has a range of regenerating creams fortified with vitamin-rich Kakadu plum.

Salmon Cream

Move over, matcha. The latest superfood skin-care ingredient is a little fishy. Byroe, a New York-based Korean beauty line, makes an uber-rich Salmon Cream, packed with protein-rich salmon egg extract to plump skin.

Amy Roe, the line’s founder, is committed to using only food-grade ingredients in her formulas. “We’re working on a vegetarian range,” she says.

Ethically sourced silk sleep products

Sarah Wittig launched her Berlin brand Moonchild last November with a pillowcase designed to prevent sleep wrinkles and repair split ends.

Using peace silk, a harvesting process that allows silkworms to live out their life cycle, Wittig is committed to a cruelty-free brand that’s sustainable.

“I made scrunchies from the leftover material,” she says. “I didn’t want to waste anything.”


Bee-friendly botanicals

Honey has been touted as an anti-inflammatory, antibacterial and humectant, making it an ideal skin-care ingredient.

“We took the formula for our Raw + Wild mask a step further,” says Tami Blake, founder of California brand Free + True, “by creating extracts using locally sourced bee-friendly botanicals that are grown pesticide-free to support a healthy and vibrant ecosystem for bees and other pollinators.”

Save the bees and perhaps save the planet.