The Indie Beauty Edit
NOT another Sephora shopping guide: 18 thoroughly vetted recs.
The beauty market is massively saturated. I get sent lots of goodies to test in hopes I’ll help a brand break through the noise. For independent brands without the backing of a parent company, that can be a tough thing to do. Resources have to be spent wisely, down to who products are seeded to. So I take the below recommendations seriously! But this a different undertaking than the annual skincare guide — we’re covering the broader landscape of the beauty ecosystem here, including makeup.
Some of the things shared here were gifted, and some were purchased with my own money. Most, you won’t see here because I chucked them directly in the trash because they broke me out, had lousy formulas, or, in the case of one tinted sunscreen, turned my face an alarming shade of orange.
I tested around 50 products in the last six months. These are the top 18 items that got and kept my attention — the stuff I have integrated into my own routine, the stuff that lives on my shower ledge and in my makeup bag. This is the stuff I slather on after a hot bath or before I head out for dinner. This is the stuff, as people like to say in our Subscriber chat, that’s “worth it.” All from independently owned, primarily female-founded brands that you can feel good about supporting.
Kate McLeod Daily Stone Moisturizer: This is a round, buttery, solid moisturizer that lives in its own little bamboo box. Founder Kate McLeod used to be a pastry chef and started tinkering with one of her favorite ingredients, cocoa butter, on her dry hands. She took to the kitchen and concocted the Daily Stone, an intensely nourishing body butter that glides on like silk, sustainably made with no water, waste, or plastics.
I like to apply it once I’ve dried off, immediately post-bath. All it needs is a little body heat to soften up and glide on. It’s not sticky and leaves a soft gleam on my legs. (The brand’s bath pebbles are also wonderful for any serious bathers out there.) If you’d like to try it, Kate McLeod has extended a code to our readers, JESS20, for 20% off.
Glosshood Main Squeeze Ultra-Juicy Lipgloss: If you miss the super-juicy lip products of yore, Glosshood’s got you. My friend Sienna started her brand to honor the inner child. Her cheerful packaging is a nod to 90s babies, but the product inside is anything but child’s play. This is a perfectly formulated, universally flattering gloss bomb that amps up your kisser for a skin-forward glazed-donut glow.
Ten Over Ten x Jamie Beck Nail Kit: A simple and effective at-home manicure kit that’s chic enough to sit on your vanity. Perfect for the DIY girls who find the nail salon to be a time suck.
Captain Blankenship Cleanse Shampoo: Before I colored it, my fine hair would get weighed down and greasy within 24 hours of shampooing. After I found this formula, it bought my blowout two extra days — major. Now that my hair is colored, I find a more moisturizing formula like Roz better fits the bill, so I’d recommend Captain Blankenship’s shampoo primarily if you have fine, soft hair and an oily scalp. The brand also makes a killer salt spray. Captain Blankenship has extended a discount of 25% off with code JESS25.
19/99 Cream Contour Stick: The first contour stick I’ve used to rival Westman Atelier’s, clocking in at a less-pricey $34. While Westman’s Biscuit is still my number one (especially in the cute little purse size), 19/99’s has earned a place in my routine, specifically for nighttime looks. The deeper pigment allows me to carve out sharper cheeks and doubles as color on my eyelids.
Doré Le Glaçon Ice Roller: Yes, that Doré, as in. Toss that plastic one from Amazon and upgrade to this roller, which I stash in my freezer next to Sophie Pavitt’s Nice Ice (more on that later). The smaller roller allows me to better combat under-eye puffiness. It’s amazing for reducing inflammation the morning after a salty or wine-soaked meal.
Nerrā Body Cleansing Ritual: Bath house at home? Yeah. This is a major upgrade for your “Everything Shower.” This is a four-step set that begins with a pre-exfoliating foam, which you leave on for two minutes before following with the exfoliating glove, which feels like a full-body back scratch. (It’s wild watching the dead skin roll off.) Follow that with the luxe body wash (I like the Jasmine scent). After I get out of the shower, I like to follow with Kate McLeod’s aforementioned moisturizing stone and top with Nerra’s final step, the dry body oil, to seal it all in.
Crown Affair The Comb No. 001: I’m just obsessed with this little comb, which I use to massage my scalp when my hair is wet. I also like to keep one in the shower to comb through conditioner. Looking at it makes me happy.
Fara Homidi Lip Compact: I’ve written before about my love for this chic Robin’s Egg blue compact, as joyful a delivery for a lip product I’ve seen in some time. Bonus: it’s refillable. Inside, a lip prep balm to help your color hold on, paired with a pigmented, cream-to-powder color that can be dabbed on lips and cheeks.
Arey Wait a Sec Dry Shampoo: Just the tiniest puff of this clean powder will get the job done when you need to stretch your blowout an extra day. I like its stashable size. It’s genuinely effective at zapping scalp oil without making my hair color look dusty. I use it on clean hair, too, for when I need a little volume boost.
Ami Colē Lash-Amplifying and Lengthening Mascara: Founder Diarrha N'Diaye-Mbaye launched her brand to address the lack of representation in beauty for melanated skin and ended up with a blockbuster line on her hands. While the brand’s glosses get loads of rightfully deserved love, they also happen to make my favorite mascara — one of the only formulas I’ve found that doesn’t water up my sensitive eyes. (I rarely even wear mascara. But when I do, this is it.) I also like that it comes off easily when I’m ready to remove my makeup; I hate having to scrub my eye area too roughly or seeing my lashes fall out.
Sophie Pavitt Face Clean Clean Cleanser and Nice Ice: I first fell in love with Sophie Pavitt’s line when I ordered her Nice Ice, these incredible little toner pods that live in your freezer and melt/depuff as you apply. She was nice enough to send me her cleanser to try later on, and it's become the singular facial cleanser that lives in my shower, giving the boot to other formulas that were too heavy or stripping.
Víolette_Fr Boum Boum Milk: If you’re a skincare minimalist, you’ll love Boum Boum Milk from French YouTube sensation and seasoned industry vet Violette. This is a 3-in-1 spray that functions as a toner, serum, and moisturizer. And yes, it works equally well on your face, body, and hair.
Vyrao Fragrance: Let me first say that this is great perfume, whether you buy into the whole charge-your-crystals-by-the-moonlight thing or not. But if you’re witchy woo-woo, you’ll love that each of Vyrao’s fragrances is supercharged by a quantum energist. Om.
Anablue Hair Serum: I’ve been using this as the last step in my styling process, just on the ends of my hair. It gives my ends that fresh-cut look no matter how dry the New York winter wants to make them. Doesn’t hurt that it smells like a Moroccan Rose Garden.
Poppy King Original Sin Lipstick: I love Moda’s description, so I’m going to leave you with this: The perfect balance between cool and warm tones, 'Original Sin' stays a true red without turning pink or orange. The matte metallic finish enhances the contours of your lips, giving them a glamorous look that still feels casual because of its balm-like formula. It suits every skin tone, age, and style and can be worn one day with jeans and another day to a wedding.