Testing products has always been the biggest joy in my job as a beauty editor but there’s something about returning to work after a year on maternity leave that has renewed my love of shiny new things tenfold. Sure, it might be becauseI basically wore the same tinted moisturiser and concealer combination for the whole of 2020 but there’s something else at play too: the rise of the independent beauty brand. Yes, I’ve noticed an influx of incredible indie beauty brands dropping through my letterbox since I came back to work (some brand new and some just new-to-me) but there’s one thing that unites them all—these lesser-known beauty brands are currently flying under the radar. And I want to change that.
Discovering new beauty products can be overwhelming so I totally understand that sometimes it just feels easier to stick to household names and brands that we already know and use, but from makeup to hand wash there are so many cool beauty brands out there right now that I can't stop raving about. And the best thing about these smaller brands is that so many of them are more sustainable, ethical and forward-thinking than more traditional beauty brands—plus a lot of them are downright more fun than some of the big players.
Ahead, here are 11 of my favourite under-the-radar beauty brands that I’ve discovered this year and think everyone should know about.
Sensorial skincare brand Whind only launched last month but it's already making waves amongst beauty editors for its pared-back offering of glow-boosting products. Uniting founder Hind Sebti's upbringing around Moroccan beauty rituals with over 20 years in the beauty industry, the products are as beautiful as they are efficacious.
Glowy skin in a bottle—this blend of 9 natural oils leaves even the driest of skin with a beautiful dewy finish. It's non-comedogenic too so if you're prone to spots like me then there's no fear that this will clog pores.
A non-abrasive exfoliator that uses pomegranate enzymes, rhassoul clay and rice bran to gently slough away dead skin cells to reveal brighter, softer skin.
Trust me—Forgo will be one of those brands that you're going to start spotting on the bathroom sinks of all your chic friends. Yes, this Scandi brand are making hand soap stylish and, even better, sustainable too. It's a really simple concept: purchase a starter kit containing the beautiful, reusable glass soap dispenser then add hot water to the powder soap provided to create your hand soap.
"We can send 20 refills of hand wash in the same volume as one bottle of soap,' Allon Libermann, Co-Founder of Forgo explains. "Plus, the powder formulation means the packaging can be paper."
Choose from neutral, citrus or wood scents then mix your chosen soap powder with water. Easy.
Set to melt millennial hearts everywhere, new refillable British beauty brand Fiils has set out to innovate the sustainable beauty space. Founded by Anna Priadka as we went into lockdown last year, it aims to close the lop on single-use beauty waste with an offering of 99% natural and organic products for hair and body. Expect gorgeous aluminium bottles that you'll be proud to display in your bathroom and refillable pouches that you can actually return to Fiils for free so that they can reuse them.
You can choose everything from the colour of your aluminium bottle to the scent of your body wash—coconut, lemongrass or pomelo.
Frustrated by the beauty industry's lack of representation of women at different ages, co-founders Stephanie Spence and Camille Katone created 19/99 Beauty to create high-performing, multifunctional makeup products that aren't concerned about the age of the person using them. There are no application rules, simply intuitive, easy-to-use formulations. I've already seen this brand popping up on Instagram and I think it's going to be huge.
A transparent cushiony-gel formula that can be slicked onto cheekbones, eyelids or lips for a sheeny finish.
Freya + Bailey
Stress is one of the biggest skin concerns of 2021 so I was delighted to discover that Freya + Bailey was founded to combat this very issue. Founder Abbie Oguntade created the brand after developing stress-related acne and seeking out ingredients to help care for her skin. The result is a range of science-backed, natural products that really care for frazzled complexions.
A luxurious serum that's enriched with retinol, hyaluronic acid and AHAs to exfoliate congested skin and leave it looking clearer, brighter and more plump.
Fable & Mane
During a particularly stressful period in her life, co-founder Nikita was reminded of the way that her grandmother would massage her head with plant oils—the ancient tradition of hair oiling. She set out to learn more about these Indian rituals with the help of her brother Akash and their discoveries led to them co-founding Fable & Mane: a potent, plant-powered haircare range.
The star of the show is this hair and scalp treatment oil with strengthening ashwagandha. Apply it to dry hair, massaging into the roots, then leave for as long as possible before rinsing clean with shampoo and conditioner. It smells incredible and leaves hair soft and strong.
Enriched with coconut cream and banana, this rich mask is brilliant at injecting moisture to dry strands and helping to repair damage.
After creating and marketing SPF for some of Australia's biggest beauty retailers, Ultra Violette co-founders Ava Matthews and Bec Jefferd decided to create their own range of sunscreen—or skinscreen as they call it—that actually made people excited to apply it. “We wanted to design a wardrobe of facial sunscreen that looked good, felt nice to wear, and didn’t bore us to tears,” says Matthews. It's finally made its way onto British soil and I couldn't be more excited.
I always neglect my lips when it comes to sunscreen but this nourishing lip balm will make it a pleasure to keep my pout protected.
Celebrating the importance of taking time for daily rituals, Wild Source is an organic skincare brand with wellbeing at its heart. Every ingredient supports both the skin and the mind with brand founder Kate Roath's passion for meditation at its core. Oh, and it doesn't hurt that all of the products look seriously beautiful too.
Prepare for bed with this botanical facial oil that blends baobab, prickly pear, chia seed and vitamin E to deeply hydrate skin overnight while lavender and frankincense relax even the most overwrought minds.
Tense muscles will delight in a soak in this epsom, dead sea and pink Himalayan salt mix—specially chosen to soothe tension and ease away fatigue.
Previously the domain of cool Scandi girls, Woods Copenhagen is slowly making its way into the beauty consciousness of the Brits with Laura Jackson sharing one of their products in her skincare stash on Instagram last month. I'm a bit obsessed with the apothecary-style packaging but I can also confirm that the products themselves are really brilliant.
A salicylic acid and zinc serum that eases congestion, gently exfoliates and keeps blemishes at bay. My skin felt so calm after using this.
Aiming to unlock the potential of the hemp plant, Vaay is a cool new CBD brand run by a team of cannabinoid experts and scientists. I'm pretty new to the CBD scene but I love that all of their packaging is clearly labelled with the ingredients and exact number of milligrams of CBD. Plus, the bath bomb actually makes a soak in the tub feel fun.
Pop this in your bath to fizz away and the whole room will smell of relaxing lavender in minutes. Plus, once it's stopped fizzing it releases a shea butter core into the bath water that you can use to lather up with.
Full spectrum hemp oil gets to work relaxing muscles while ginger extract and jojoba oil soothe and nourish the skin. What's not to love at the end of a long day?
I'd seen these colourful skincare drops all over my Instagram feed before I had the pleasure of trying them and I can attest to the fact that they might look fun but this is seriously hardworking skincare. Bolt Beauty is a simplified range of great skincare products that come in individually-portioned, biodegradable drops—perfect for when we can start travelling again or if you're never sure how much of a product you actually need to use.