We all have our cult-favorite, tried and true makeup and skincare heroes that we’ve been using for years and simply cannot live without, but recently, there have been so many great new indie beauty brands that have exploded onto the market and deserve just as much attention.
An indie brand is what it sounds like – an independently owned and operated brand, without a major parent company at the helm. Because they are indie, they are usually able to fulfill a certain mission, include specific ingredients, cater to a marginalized audience, and do things differently than a major corporation.
Lucky for us, we are able to get some of the latest and greatest products from these brands, many of which are founded by women of color. Thanks to social media, relatively small brands can get major traction, and certain products can become overnight bestsellers.
Check out our list of the best indie beauty brands (almost all of them have celeb fans as well) and you just might find a new desert island beauty product.
If you’ve ever opened TikTok or Instagram, you’ve probably heard of Tower 28 by now. Founded by Amy Liu in 2019, the AAPI-owned brand has amassed a giant fan base, with over 200 thousand followers across social media. Originally formulated for those with sensitive skin but suited for everybody, the brand’s formulas are vegan, cruelty-free, and adhere to the National Eczema Association’s ingredient guidelines. Right now there are 10 products that span across makeup and skincare, and they’re all under $34. Most notably, the SOS Daily Rescue Facial Spray is a TikTok mainstay (Hailey Bieber is also a fan) and has even inspired a sister serum.
Bestsellers: SunnyDays SPF 30 Tinted Sunscreen, BeachPlease Luminous Tinted Balm, ShineOn Lip Jelly | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $12 to $34 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Exchange/refunds within 30 days of purchase on tower28beauty.com
This small but mighty brand was launched in February 2021 by Priyanka Ganjoo with the specific goal of speaking to and creating products for the South Asian community. In fact, the brand’s name, Kulfi, is a traditional South Asian ice cream. Just like the dessert, the brand and its founder are as sweet as can be. The brand’s goal is to allow women of all cultures and backgrounds to express themselves with makeup and allow them to celebrate their confidence.
Though there are only two product offerings, they’ve both made waves: The Main Match Concealer has gone viral on TikTok and the Underlined Kajal Eyeliners get rave reviews from customers for their smooth application, vibrant colors, and completely budge-proof finish.
Bestsellers: Underlined Kajal Eyeliner, Main Match Concealer | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $20 to $26 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping over $40, returns within 30 days
Maeva Heim launched Bread Beauty Supply in the summer of 2020, and it quickly became a bestselling Black-founded brand at Sephora. Heim previously told InStyle that her brand is full of hair-care staples, like how bread is a staple in your kitchen. Thanks to viral chatter on TikTok, Bread Beauty Supply has seen immense growth in a few short years. The clean formulas are color-safe, sulfate-free, cruelty-free, and vegan. The mud mask is a fan-favorite for how it softens and defines curls and coils. The hair oil has claimed a spot on the brand’s bestseller list, too, because it’s amazing at taming frizz and perfect for all kinds of curls.
Bestsellers: mud-mask, hair-oil, hair-wash | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $12 to $34 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping over $50, unopened products can be returned within 30 days
With a laundry list of celebrity fans including Eva Mendes, Lizzo, Brooke Shields, Laura Dern, Olivia Wilde, and more, this female-founded brand is truly having a breakout moment. The Chebula Active Serum is the brand’s top seller because it helps address a plethora of skin concerns (including fine lines and wrinkles, elasticity, and dullness to name a few), but many of their products are award-winning or viral stars, like the Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm. All of their products are incredibly nourishing, hydrating, and clean, and there are offerings for dry, oily, and combination skin types.
Bestsellers: Chebula Active Serum, Renew Pure Radiance Oil, Ginger Turmeric Cleansing Balm | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $48 to $140 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping after $40 purchase, 30-day guarantee
The Brandefy beauty app was launched in 2018 by Meg Pryde when she was a student at the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. The app aimed to help beauty lovers find affordable products with the same ingredients and benefits as more expensive brands. When she realized there were insufficient dupes for a lot of the most popular searches, Pryde founded Brandefy Skin in October 2021. Her mission is to pull back the curtain on the industry, revealing secrets like how some luxury moisturizers might be made in the same factory as brands sold at Target. Her line eliminates extensive marketing and high-priced packaging, and instead focuses on high-quality ingredients and formulas. One of the best sellers is the brand’s 15% Vitamin C + E + Ferulic Acid Serum, which is only $49 ($36 for subscribers). That’s less than a third of the price of many similar antioxidant serums.
Bestsellers: 15% Vitamin C + E + Ferulic Acid Serum, Silks Triple Lipid Cream, Daily Triple Serum | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $18 to $59 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: 100-day guarantee you’ll love the product
When co-founder Mary Schulman found out the average woman eats four to seven pounds of lipstick in her lifetime (ick!) and a third of landfill waste in the U.S. is personal care products, she set out to help change the game with a clean, safe, vegan, hypoallergenic line that’s sustainable to boot. As a bonus, the packaging is made with recycled plastic and the website explains exactly how you can recycle your used products. The clean brand covers the gamut of makeup products, but InStyle testers are partial to the eyeshadow palettes because they contain a gorgeous mix of shimmering and matte shadows.
Bestsellers: Holy Grail Brow Gel, So Extra Tinted Lip Balm | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $14 to $34 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping over $30, returns within 14 days
Topicals was founded by two Gen-Z women of color — Olamide Olowe and Claudia Teng — who both suffered from skin issues growing up. Their mission was simple: To help others. Their products target skincare concerns using only scientifically-studied ingredients with proven results. Furthermore, they have a scientific advisory board of chemists and dermatologists to ensure their formulas are safe and effective (the Faded Serum is one of the most effective products at addressing hyperpigmentation). Since skin conditions are also linked to depression and anxiety, the company donates a percentage of profits to various mental health organizations, so you can feel extra good about your purchase.
Bestsellers: Faded Serum, High Roller, Slather | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $18 to $38 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Returns within 30 days
Founded in 2021 by Wende Zomnir of Urban Decay fame, this vegan and cruelty-free brand is about as chill as a Cali sunset. It is beauty blended with wellness, resulting in a laidback brand with a serious payoff. Zomnir put in the time to develop the smudge-proof Come Hell or High Water Clean Mascara and Surfproof Pencils, but our favorite product is the So Blown Primer, which features niacinamide, collagen peptides, and “poreaway” technology to filter and blur, all while being lightweight and comfy on the skin. Frequently sold out at Sephora, it hydrates, nourishes, and reduces redness, all while improving skin elasticity.
Bestsellers: Come Hell or High Water Mascara, So Blown Primer | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $18 to $39 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping over $42
In 2022, Alexandra Keating, a former tech entrepreneur, launched Uni with the help of funding from investors Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary. Uni is the first closed-loop body care system that allows customers to buy sleek aluminum bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, and hand wash, and then ship them back to be refilled and reused. The Body Serum is the sustainable company’s hero product — fans rave about how hydrating it is. All of the fragrances are divine yet subtle, and the silky formulas feature ingredients like olive oil, Bladderwrack seaweed, and Australian caviar limes.
Bestseller: 24-Hour Body Serum | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $28 to $40 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free over $50, returns within 30 days
We are absolutely smitten with this sustainable brand which launched at the height of the pandemic, in April 2020. All of their products are zero waste (hence the name), cruelty-free, and vegan. The Zero Waste Mascara is a best-seller that is frequently trending on Amazon and social media. Here’s why: It comes in a reusable, medical-grade stainless steel tube. After using it for 90 days, consumers can send back the tube in a reusable cloth shipping pouch and receive a new one. The tubes can be cleaned and refilled 10,000 times and their membership model ensures you switch out your mascara every 3 months, which is what is recommended and also something you probably don’t do. Ms. Marvel actress Alysia Reiner recently teamed up with the brand to launch two shades of their Zero Waste Lip Gloss, which is hydrating and not at all sticky.
Bestsellers: Zero Waste Mascara, Zero Waste Brow Gel | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $36 to $39 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: $4 to $7 each way. If it’s not for you, get a full refund within 30 days of purchase, regardless of the reason. The company asks that you return your Izzy either way, so it can be cleaned and refilled (and doesn’t end up in a landfill or the ocean) in the reusable shipper provided.
Co-founded in May 2022 by Emmy award-winning makeup artist Donni Davy (head makeup artist on HBO’s Euphoria) and film and TV company A24, Half Magic was one of the brightest, boldest, and freshest makeup launch of 2022. The long-awaited line is filled with color and glitter, while also being vegan and cruelty-free. It’s also the first cosmetics company to come in a compostable compact that can be recycled with your regular paper recycling. The Magic Flik Liquid Eyeliner is basically TikTok royalty, as is Davy herself. We like to wear just about every product from the brand on nights out or special occasions (and for bold, everyday looks, too). Although there are no confirmed celeb fans, we have a sneaking suspicion the entire Euphoria cast has the line in their bathrooms.
Bestsellers: Magic Flik Liquid Eyeliner, Face Gems, Chromeaddiction Shimmer | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $12 to $26 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping over $40, free returns within 30 days
Clean, vegan, and cruelty-free, this buzzy brand’s “M.O.” is “makeup you can sleep in.” Although we don’t necessarily recommend the practice, we know how hard it is to stick with your normal routine after a late night out. Luckily, these products have good-for-you ingredients like jojoba seed oil and willow bark extract that nourish your skin as you wear them. In studies they conducted, upwards of 90 percent of users agreed that sleeping in their makeup did not make their face dry or cause an acne breakout. Their bestselling BYO Blush comes in traditional pinks and coral, but also a universal PH balancing shade that adapts perfectly to your skin tone and gives you the ultimate cool-girl flush. The Pregame Primer, on the other hand, blends makeup with skincare to keep your skin hydrated and soft and ensures makeup stays locked in place all day long.
Bestsellers: Pregame Primer, BYO Blush, Dewy Gloss | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $26 to $38 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping over $50, All Sales Are Final
LYS Beauty made its debut in February 2021 by Tisha Thompson and was the first Black-owned, clean makeup brand to launch at Sephora. The formulations are cruelty-free, vegan, and gluten-, talc-, fragrance-, and mineral oil-free. The brand infuses skin-loving ingredients (like hyaluronic acid, rosehip oil, and green tea extract) into its makeup products to promote optimal skin health for all tones, types, and textures. When possible, it also uses glass and/or post-consumer recycled materials instead of plastic to be more sustainable. The bestselling Triple Fix Serum Foundation is an award-winning product because of its buildable coverage, as well as the ingredients: It’s full of antioxidants like turmeric and avocado oil to fight the signs of aging, as well as to hydrate and plump skin.
Bestsellers: Triple Fix Serum Foundation, Higher Standard Satin Matte Cream Blush | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $10 to $28 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping on orders $40+, exchange/refunds within 30 days
Known for her big, bold, beautiful brows, social media sensation Jess Hunt launched REFY in November 2019 after two years of research and development. The brand’s mission is all about “redefining beauty” and highlighting your natural features. As a brow guru, it’s no wonder that her three-step brow product, the 3.0 Brow Collection, is one of the bestsellers. In addition to brows, there’s also blush, highlighter, bronzer, and setting powder, as well as skincare products (including a very cool primer that our editors love).
Bestsellers: Brow Sculpt, 3.0 Brow Collection, Lip Sculpt | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $20 to $55 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping and returns for Beauty Insiders at Sephora
Founded by Kim van Haaster and her husband in 2019, the AAPI-owned company uses a breakthrough proprietary technology created from the family’s tulip fields in Holland, resulting in a unique local ingredient sourcing story. The brand uses imperfect tulips that might typically be discarded and transforms the flower into hydrating and anti-aging skincare products. There are currently 17 products in the line (we especially love the Tulip Petal Polish), all of which are cruelty-free, fragrance-free, and sulfate-, paraben-, and phthalate-free. The products are beloved because of their effectiveness, but people are also obsessed with the couple’s love story. “POV: You fell for a Dutch tulip farmer in Ibiza, left your corporate beauty job in NYC, moved to the Netherlands, and now own the first tulip-powered skincare company ever, using tulips from your husband’s farm,” van Haaster wrote in one viral post with nearly 5 million views.
Bestsellers: Royal Tulip Nectar, Tulip Dew Drops, Tulip Dew Sunscreen SPF 50 Serum | Woman-Owned: Yes | Price range: $29 to $119 | Cruelty-Free: Yes | Shipping/Return Policy: Free shipping over $50, exchanges within 30 days, limited returns
Why Trust InStyle
Dory Zayas is a freelance beauty, fashion, and parenting writer with over a decade of experience in the beauty industry. For this story she used her extensive knowledge on up and coming beauty brands and tested dozens of products to find the best indie beauty brands that deserve all the attention.