On a sticky August evening in New York City, hundreds of people—mostly women, specifically the kind of put-together woman you’d love to take you shopping—braved the humidity to stand in a line that snaked around an entire city block. No, Lululemon wasn’t having a warehouse sale—it was the 2017 Indie Beauty Expo—a major shopping event-cum-tradeshow—and a sign that indie is where it’s at.
“With 227 indie brands under one roof in NYC, it was the largest event for independent beauty [brands] to date,” says IBE co-founder Jillian Wright, who adds that 191 of the companies are female-owned. The Expo, now in its third year, has been growing in its buzz-factor and influence. “With so much creativity, innovation, thought, and design behind them,” Wright notes, “indies have become the primary way we all see emerging beauty trends.”
Big-name retailers included. “They look at the indie ecosystem for inspiration,” says Wright. For example, indie brands set the facial oil trend years ago, which is now almost a part of everyone’s beauty routine, she says.
So it’s no wonder that after hours spent combing every aisle—talking with founders and owners, learning backstories—I left the event with about 30 pounds of product (and 300 new article ideas).
Here are the trends you’re about to see—and the beauty buys that are going to go big.
Crystal, celestial, and otherworldly skincare to give you that glow
All things lunar cycle, solar powered, and crystal-loving are having a galactic moment—and infusing these woo-woo elements into skin-care products was arguably the biggest trend. (Which shouldn’t be totally surprising, considering everyone’s fascination with the solar eclipse—and even the New York Times called 2017 the year of “the great crystal boom.”)
Standouts included a shiny, crystal-infused launch from new brand Girl Undiscovered: a three-piece collection of facial care items hand-made in New Zealand (as well as a jar of crystals meant to be used in conjunction with their Stars Aligning Organic Face Elixir for an otherworldly DIY facial).
Moonlit Skincare’s Midnight Shift Overnight Facial Oil has already earned a permanent place on my nightstand. Made in Bali, the lavender-infused p.m. wrinkle-fighter works wonders with just a few drops patted onto your skin before bedtime.
I also loved the sci-fi vibe of Terra Luna Beauty, which features astronomically-named tub soaks Moon, UFO and Saturn Detox Baths. Then there’s the homespun Little Moon Essentials, made in Colorado’s famous Steamboat Springs, which has five different collections focused on moods including Relax, Sleep, Passion and my personal favorite, Tired Old Ass (for real). But with price points as low as $6 for a dream-inducing body salve, I predict it flies off shelves this fall.
The men’s market is getting bigger—and broader
Men’s grooming is branching in two directions: One path is unisex, with products meant to be used by both men and women (makes sense, we pretty much do have the same epidermis). That’s the ethos of For Two, a mud-based line with literally-named products (think: Oil and Cream), which has an androgynous feel in its design and execution.
Alternatively, some brands are eschewing the nondescript gray and blue bottles that line the drugstore aisles and instead embracing the dude-liest dude in everything from its ingredients to its packaging. Take, for instance, the cheekily named Big Boy line of Sicilian-crafted skin care products made just for grown-ass men. And for 18.21 Man Made, booze rules the day (quick history refresher: the 18th and 21st Amendments passed and repealed Prohibition).
The future of hair care is customizable
While it seems like I’ve spent forever trying to tame my curls (or coax them straight) with various oils, humectants, and brushes of all barrel sizes and bristle textures, the time-saving trend right now? Embrace their texture. (Just as I’d finally learned how to fix my frizz. Sigh.)
Now, science-first brands like Virtue Labs have created collections for washing, care, and maintenance based on the texture you’ve got and what you’re going for—in fact, they offer an online quiz to customize your routine to a T.
Cue Beauty is here for all the curly-haired women as well—but what’s particularly novel about this brand is that every product works on every texture. Founded by mother-daughter team Mabel Covey and Aimee Sowu, the line stars volumizing and smoothing options and is sulfate-free (lest for the salt spray, alas).
But caring for your hair doesn’t stop after you you lather, rinse, repeat, and neither does customization. BrushOpolis allows you to shop for your perfect brush by your hair’s texture, the desired style result, and even what brush shape you like working with.
Ayurvedic beauty goes mainstream
K-beauty trends have dominated the international beauty scene for some time, but it’s clear the next wave of our favorite imports will come from the Middle East and South Asia, with brands taking ancient wisdom and applying it to modern-day beauty and wellness products. For example, Reshma Beauty—whose bar soaps are a seriously luxurious (and nice) change of pace for your daily face wash—has a (super-affordable) turmeric soap that helps hydrate, control inflammation, and leave a protective layer of antioxidants to ward off free-radical damage from the environment.
Also dabbling with the same spice? Elements Truffles, a line of beauty chocolates (for eating) that are raw, organic, dairy-free, and inspired by Ayurveda. And considering how good cacao and honey are for your skin, let’s assume this chocolate bar’s benefits go straight to your face. (They also have formulas with other spices like cardamom and rose extract for additional beauty benefits.)
Ranavat Botanics also garners inspiration from India: Their offerings include a slew of masks and complimentary toners, referred to as “toniques,” pulled straight from ancient Ayurvedic rituals and ingredients.
Bold-colored clean cosmetics get a serious upgrade
“Natural-look” clean cosmetics have existed for a while, but it’s been a struggle to find products that deliver both pigmentation and staying power because they lack the synthetic agents and chemicals that can make that magic happen. However, it appears as if brands are overcoming those issues, rolling out a slew of bright cosmetics for lips, eyes, and cheeks for those who like a full-coverage, yes-I-love- makeup look.
Luk Beautifood‘s entire line of beautifully bold lipsticks are from your go-to smoothie ingredients. Think avocado, grapefruit, vanilla bean, and other totally natural extracts that actually nourish—rather than dry out—your lips. Then there’s Josephine Cosmetics, which offers an entire rainbow of vibrant shades for your eyes, lips, and cheekbones using completely non-toxic, plant-based ingredients. If you’re craving really out-there colors—from turquoise to bright purple—they’ve got you covered.
Leading clean beauty brands Au Naturale Cosmetics and Nu Evolution were also displaying their just-launched products. Both brands are major players in natural makeup, and Au Naturale’s even been advocating for legislative action for ingredient transparency in the industry. You’ll find dreamy highlighters, concealers, eyeshadows, and all other essentials for your makeup bag from them—minus any junk.
The beauty tools that help us apply, maintain, and store copious amounts of products at home (sorry, Marie Kondo) are getting more time in the spotlight. The Expo showcased jade facial rollers, out-there gadgets like the All Caps $52 shower cap, as well as germane everyday solutions, like the Glamboard, a Lucite tray designed to fit over a sink so your SO, roommate, or whomever doesn’t yell at you for leaving your products just about everywhere. (Guilty as charged?)
Province Apothecary is launching an energizing facial brush in October reminiscent of some of our favorite dry brushes, but with the shaping and bristle texture that the thinner, more gentle skin of your face requires. This could be big.
And then there were tools for tools, like The Brush Bar, which neatly stacks your collection of fan, foundation, and shadow brushes, and The Makeup Eraser, which is the most eco-friendly, low-cost alternative to the face wipe I’ve seen. You literally just add water and the cloth gets 100 percent of your makeup off, every single time. Which is important, especially now that your natural cosmetics are that much more pigmented.
Not sure how to dip your toe in the clean beauty waters? Make these three swaps first. And here are the best natural beauty stores from coast to coast.