Independent Beauty Brands on the Rise

By Nora Zelevansky / August 27, 2015

Small independent brands with a big future

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When it comes to beauty regimens, we all have our mainstays—lotions and potions from established brands that we know and trust. But now and again our curiosity is piqued by something quirky, up-and-coming, beautifully curated and boutique-y.

“Indie cred” may generally be associated more with emo core rock bands than organic lavender-infused skincare, but the concept is the same. We may rely on big brands, but the littler guys represent a kind of legitimacy, characterized by authenticity and innovation. Here, we’ve uncovered some intriguing independent beauty brands for you to enjoy.

LURK

Anne Nelson Sanford; founder, creative director and perfumer

The Story Anne Nelson Sanford grew up exploring nature in the Everglades and on family vacations to the Bahamas. That love of the outdoors and plants collided with beauty, as she examined the bottles and jars on her mother’s dressing table at 10 years old. But it was when she discovered a small health food grocery that carried pioneering natural brands that she got hooked.

indiebeauties_inline2In college, she majored in Environmental Studies with a concentration in botany and ultimately opened a green apothecary in Florida. It was ahead of its time. “It was too early for eco luxe but I loved every minute of bringing it to fruition,” she says. “I became really enamored of essential oils and the seed for LURK was firmly planted.” After incubating the line for two years at choice New York City boutiques, she launched it in summer 2012.

Mantra The core of the brand is high-quality oils and complexity of scent, bridging the gap between what is green and mainstream. The oils are not diluted, altered or fractionated, but the fragrances (five perfume oils and two eau de toilettes) are not “hippie” either. “I wanted to create something natural from essential oils that smelled more like true perfume [than] aromatherapy,” Nelson Sanford explains, “to provide a true luxury experience that had a modern edge with none of the synthetics or dangerous chemicals associated with mainstream perfumery.”

Signature Hand-poured perfume oils free of any and all engineered ingredients. “The oils are like the green fragrance gateway drug,” she laughs. “It’s really incredible to even have one person tell you that you have achieved what you set out to do.”

Next Up Three new bolder and riskier perfume oils, as well as skin care, including a cleanser, face oil and a relaunched Luminosity Treatment.

Natural Beauty Secret “I use organic apple cider vinegar on my break outs and follow that with a homemade mixture of organic jojoba oil, organic black seed oil and organic pumpkin oil. The vinegar helps balance my skin (pH) and deep clean my pores (it goes to work on pimples), while the oil blend (very high in linoleic acid, which is better for acne prone skin) soothes the inflammation [and] kick-starts the healing process.” lurkmade.com

Laurel Whole Plant Organics

Laurel Shaffer; formulator and owner

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The Story Laurel Shaffer has always been drawn to beauty and plants. Growing up in the Midwest, she spent her days picking berries and flowers, and her evenings at face mask-themed sleepovers with her cousins. Later, as an adult in California, she fell in love with spas. But, having studied everything from wine to herbalism, she knew too much about the toxic ingredients being slathered on her face.

Ultimately, her handmade line, rebranded as Laurel Whole Plant Organics in 2014, was founded to remedy that problem. “I wanted to experience a facial that made me feel connected to our earth and to plants, which was effective and made me feel nurtured, loved and cared for,” she explains. “When I couldn’t find that, I set out to create it.”

indiebeauties_inline4Mantra “Plant-derived”? No, thank you. Instead, her small batch products—found on her website, at her Sausalito studio and at select spas—include only unadulterated and un-manipulated 100 percent organic plants and ingredients from the earth (sourced from a nearby farm) without synthetic solvents. “We believe whole plants, as unrefined as possible, are the most powerful medicine,” she explains.

Signatures Serums and balms made with special in-house biodynamic plant blends, designed with specific skin conditions in mind, which are macerated, and later pressed, by hand.

Next Up A signature, nurturing facial that incorporates aromatherapy, crystals and unique healing modalities, and a line of organic super-skin foods. Still, Shaffer hopes to remain small enough to continue making the products with her own two hands. “Working with the plants brings me so much joy,” she says. “I am humbled each day.”

Natural Beauty Secret “Taking time for yourself for self-care. I love having mini spa evenings. I draw a bath for myself, make some tea, do a mask, use body oil on my hair and body. I typically sleep like a baby after[ward] and honestly wake up the next morning looking at least a year younger.” laurelskin.com

Josh Rosebrook

The eponymous founder

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The Story As a kid in Portland, OR, Josh Rosebrook was drawn to the power of hairstyling to create a look, and to skin care, but it wasn’t until he turned 18 and found meditation and spiritual awareness that everything came together. The hairstylist began making his own products and was delighted to find that they cleared up not only his own problem complexion, but also a friend’s. He had stumbled onto something. “I felt a calling and knew I was suppose to help,” he says. “I couldn’t stop creating new products that contained that same philosophical spirit. It’s been everything from the most challenging to the most blissful.”

indiebeauties_inline6Mantra Join the beauty revolution! Whole plant synergy has the power to transform the skin, scalp and hair, according to Rosebrook. And, with passion behind it and the right combinations of herbs and oils, it is unstoppable. “The products came from a scientific, artistic, spiritual, intentional dance with nature’s finest elements,” he says. “A gentle practice of allowing, listening and applying nature’s high vibrational, healing force into topical treatments. This continues to inspire me every day.”

Signature The 12-product line, launched in 2010, is helmed by the Oculus Formula eye oil treatment (with hemp seed, coconut, grapeseed) for hydration and cell regeneration.

Next Up A redesigned shampoo and conditioner collection and a tinted Nutrient Day Cream, an Oil Cleansing Makeup Remover, an anti-inflammatory masque for rosacea, a treatment oil for blemish prone skin and a special wild-crafted new ingredient packed with antioxidants.

Natural Beauty Secret “Spending lots of quiet time in nature with plenty of water, a big hat and an open heart.” joshrosebrook.com

Nora Zelevansky

Nora Zelevansky

Nora Zelevansky is the author of upcoming novel, Will You Won't You Want Me?, and Semi-Charmed Life. Her writing has appeared in ELLE, T Magazine (The New York Times), Town & Country, the Los Angeles Times, The Wall Street Journal and Vanity Fair, among others. She lives with her husband and daughter in Brooklyn, New York.
Nora Zelevansky

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