Buying Indie Makeup Brands Helps Innovation Soar

Written by kim carpluk
Indie makeup brands are changing the way we formulate, use, and love the beauty industry.

Remember those rainbow highlighters that went viral a few months ago, allowing women everywhere to become the dazzling unicorns they had always dreamed of? Well, that trend (as you may recall) was pioneered by Bitter Lace Beauty, an Etsy shop created by a woman named Jenna. She started her brand thanks to her love of all things makeup — especially Illuminators. Discouraged by lack of strobing products in anything but nude tones, she set out to create a whole prism of  colors.

The product went viral virtually overnight and was featured on almost every major beauty website and by almost all the top beauty bloggers out there. Unsurprisingly, the $23 makeup highlighter sold out immediately. As numerous makeup lovers signed up for the wait list, other mega makeup companies went to making their own, because cash is king and obviously there was money to be made. Like Wet n’ Wild, a mega brand we’ve all known about forever.
Wet n’ Wild produced their own version of the rainbow Illuminator for a fraction of the price — $4.99 to be exact. Suddenly those who were paying $23 for Bitter Lace Beauty suddenly felt the price was too steep for something they might not use everyday. A highlighter is a highlighter, right? Not so much. Much of the time price correlates with quality, which is something that is generally overlooked. If you want something that’s going swatch fully pigmented and stay on all-damn-day, then the well-crafted Bitter Lace Beauty is your best bet. But drugstore price points are seductive. And, of course, the Wet n’ Wild copy sold out immediately.
Luckily, Bitter Lace Beauty is still thriving and continuing to innovate in the makeup community with her Halloween highlighters. But what if she had gone out of business due to the numerous copycats? Her ability to produce new and novel products would have been halted and we, the loving makeup consumers, would be the worse for it. Not only would we not be able to purchase her cosmetics, we wouldn’t be able to purchase any products inspired by the trends she would have pioneered.
Many indie makeup brands are born from a real need or gap within the beauty world. Dany Sans, for example, started Make Up For Ever because she was frustrated by the lack of artistry-driven beauty products at the time. Bite Beauty was created by Suzanne Langmuir in her kitchen using consumable products because there were no truly edible lipsticks out there (fun fact: we eat about 5 pounds of lipstick in a lifetime). Amy Doan (Shrinkle) of Sugarpill wanted to create a line inspired by the drag queens and club kids who inspired her. These established brands we know and love today were all started by someone with a dream and a drive that was off the beaten beauty path — they were all indie makeup brands that forged new roads. If these brands in their incubation had been crushed by copy cats and mass production, the innovation in the cosmetic world would have been stunted and the repercussions would be visible in every major makeup brand on the market. The repercussions would obviously be us all eating ingredients we can’t pronounce in the name of the same tired lipstick colors we’ve already been wearing for years. Booooring.
These new indie makeup brands are the pioneers behind innovative techniques, ingredients, and technology. Without them, established brands would remain a bit more stagnant as well. Would Wet n’ Wild have dreamt up the idea for a rainbow highlighter without Bitter Lace Beauty? Almost certainly not.
We need to nurture our little makeup babies and encourage them to grow. Yes, this may mean paying a couple dollars more than the average market cost (hi, you wouldn’t pay Ford prices for a Porsche and expect the same results… would you?). Our true baby brands are not yet mass producing and obviously cannot afford to charge super cheap prices. These products are made with love and care, and that sometimes costs a wee bit more. But it’s like having a child (albeit a child without diapers that actually makes you prettier than when you started). If we grow and nurture our baby brands, they can grow into adult cosmetic companies and start giving back to us (that’s how raising a child works, right?
We have the power to buy cosmetics that truly make a difference. Will I continue to purchase my Hourglass foundation? Probably. But will I continue to invest in novel new makeup inventions on Etsy, Amazon, and beyond? You bet I will!
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kim carpluk

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