The inaugural Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) last summer in NYC featured 80 incredible brands. I had less than two hours to visit as many as possible. It was like being on that game show where you’re given ten minutes and a shopping cart. Limited time and so many options! Afterwards, as I emptied the goodie bag on my living room floor, I felt like a kid on Halloween as numerous samples poured out. Despite having a sweet tooth for products, I didn’t know where to begin.
That’s why the Best in Show awards was so helpful. The panel of judges, comprised of six beauty industry experts, brought my attention to the winners among the winners. Everyone at iBE was worthy of recognition, but these brands earned special top honors. I had the opportunity to speak with Marie Watkinson, chairperson of the evaluation committee, to find out why.
She said all the finalists had so much passion it was hard to choose. There were really no losers, just those that were able to better captivate the judges, either with their backstory, creative solution to a problem, or overall enthusiasm and demonstrated understanding of the indie brand philosophy.
Watkinson, founder of Spa Chicks on the Go, has more than 20 years of experience in the beauty, spa and wellness industry. The other judges that made up the “dream team” included, Jeannie Jarnot of Beauty Heroes, Cheryl Kramer Kaye of Shape Magazine, Andrea Nagel of CEW, Jessica Richards of Shen Beauty and celebrity makeup artist, Cynde Watson.
So what made the winners stand out?
Vegan Meets Luxury
Watkinson explained how sometimes natural products aren’t viewed as luxury, which is why vegan nail polish line, LVX, won for best nail lacquer. It defied assumptions by impressing the judges in both performance and packaging. “It looks luxurious, the color palate is sophisticated, and even the bottles themselves are chic.” She added that she was pleasantly surprised the 5-free line (free of the five toxic ingredients common in mainstream brands) held up to the chip test against its more toxic competitors.
Awakening Our Senses
Strange Invisible won in the fragrance category. Watkinson, who never cared for perfume, described being mesmerized by this line. During the expo she was drawn to the mysterious booth and started sampling. “The scent is absolutely intriguing. They sourced natural ingredients from all over the world.” Her experience had only been with synthetic scents, so this brand resonated with her. She said finding Strange Invisible was the cherry on the iBE cake and made her fall in love with perfume.
Masks Making a Difference
NUGG, one of the winners in the face mask category, solves the problem of your products going bad. Since we don’t use face masks every day, or even every week, months can pass and, just like food, the ingredients spoil. NUGG is single use so each mask is fresh. Watkinson points out another problem NUGG solves is that our skin is constantly changing depending on the time of year or what’s going on in our lives. You can purchase them singularly or in multi-packs that offer a variety of options that cater to different skin care needs. This convenience made them winners, but they also earned points for charity. A portion of the proceeds go to Cancer and Careers, which strives to eliminate fear and uncertainty for working people with cancer.
An Indie Classic
Farmaesthetics is an example of a well-developed and mature indie brand that has perfected the simple basics. In fact, they are so good at what they do, they almost make it look easy. With a wealth of experience in the category (they launched in 1999), they have worked hard to carefully develop their collection in a way that is compelling, consistent and well executed. From their packaging to the way they source their ingredients, their whole platform is a commitment to clean and green beauty. It’s no wonder they were nominated in numerous categories and won for sustainability.
EU2BE, enrich + emolliate oil, won in the body category. The packaging doesn’t necessarily stand out, but the founder does. Charla Jones is her brand. She’s got a great back story and after visiting her website and blog you can’t help but be inspired and curious to try her products. Her brand is named after her aunt Eugenia and she’s traveled the world exploring numerous cultures to source her ingredients, things you wouldn’t imagine, like broccoli seed oil… another way to get your veggies!
Watkinson said a lot of brands claim they’re all-natural, but do they really work on your skin? After using EU2BE she now has it in her shower. She introduced it to a friend with sensitive skin and chronic fatigue syndrome and said it made a noticeable impact. “EU2BE embodies everything that indie is and we welcome this newcomer to our growing community.”
Future of Indie Beauty
I asked Watkinson where she sees the indie beauty industry headed: Temporary trend or trailblazer? “It’s in a renaissance period and people like Jillian Wright, one of the founders, are leaders of that renaissance educating and inspiring others with their brand stories.”
She pointed out that IBE was more than an expo, but rather a movement that’s gaining momentum. People are becoming more aware about what they’re putting on their skin, how exposure to chemicals in mainstream brands are getting into the bloodstream, how ingredients are sourced and extracted, and what sustainable packaging means for the environment. In other words, people are learning how indie brands can improve our lives and community.
Mentioned are just a few of the brands that won Best in Show. There were a total of 15 winners and we’ll be doing profiles on more of them in the months leading up to the next IBE.
Happy, Healthy Pampering!