While we'll always have a place in our hearts for big-name brands (Clinique and Elemis, we're looking at you), 2020 is undeniably the year of the indie skincare brands, with dozens of smaller niche players grabbing our attention. They are being dubbed 'Skindie' brands by online retailer Cult Beauty, whose eye for spotting cool niche brands is unrivalled.
In a world where we want our beauty buying choices increasingly to reflect our values and our tribe - whether that's vegan, genderless or free-from - skindie brands have something to offer, however you identify.
"The feeling of not being able to find a brand that resonates has spawned a growing swathe of brands that cater to specific needs, personalities and core values,” explains Bessie Hitcham, assistant buyer for Cult Beauty. "Skindie brands are the burgeoning, little-known names with a small but devoted fan base." They are industry disruptors, transparency leaders and skincare authority figures and many of them started life as the passion project of their founder or to solve a need that wasn't being catered for.
Now Cult Beauty has launched a new skindie section on its site to celebrate independent brands that are changing the conversation around beauty. There are more than 20 brands included in the category, all of which do at least one of three things: empower, solve problems and innovate.
British newcomer Plenaire , for example, is an empowerment brand using all skin types in its campaigns, not the stereotypical fresh-faced, blemish-free models. US natural brand Summer Fridays launched to solve the problem of jet-lag face with a cult mask and has since gone on to create a range of high performing natural serums and masks, while Volition is all about the innovation, crowd-sourcing ideas from customers and going on to bring the best ideas to market.
Other Skindie highlights include Disciple , Vintner's Daughter , Biossance , and Shani Darden . Read on for some of our highlights and our exclusive Cult Beauty discount code.
Your shelfies just got a big upgrade courtesy of this vegan and cruelty-free American brand, housed in baby pink, mint green and lemon yellow pastel packaging. Lizzo’s skin was prepped with Versed ahead of the Grammys - she used The Fix Emergency Eye Mask , £16.50, and Skin Soak Moisture Rich Cream , £16.50 - and if it’s good enough for her, it’s good enough for us.
Versed always uses unretouched skin in campaign imagery and similarly to The Ordinary keeps things pared back so you only pay for the actual product rather than fancy packaging or marketing, with prices ranging from £7.50 to £16.50. Speaking of packaging, they’ve done away with excess inserts and boxes and use 93 per cent recyclable packaging - working towards 100 per cent.
The thing that really sets Versed apart is the SMS Skin Hotline - a number you can text with any skin concerns. Team Versed is on the other end of the line, poised to answers your skincare questions - you don't see many brands with this level of customer-dedication!
This balm-to-milk cleanser is the perfect first step in your cleansing routine, melting off makeup while nourishing the skin thanks to vitamin E. The smell is reminiscent of the spa, thanks to eucalyptus and clove leaf oil, delivering a little taste of luxury to your evening routine.
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Lots of brands say the customer is at the heart of what they do, but we’ve never seen it as clearly as with US-based Volition. The cruelty-free brand takes submissions from people with ideas for new beauty products (yes, anyone). If they like the concept they put it to a vore among their beauty community. If the idea gets enough votes Volition makes the products and they become shoppable. Case in point, the Screen Time Hydrating Mist , £25, created by a fan of the brand of wanted something to protect her skin in front of a screen.
Current ideas up for the vote (in the US, sadly you can't vote from the UK) include ashwagandha soothing pads and a hand-warming balm .
Volition's offering so far has a fair few food ingredient-focused items including Strawberry-C Brightening Serum , £36, skin-quenching Snow Mushroom Water , £52, and Celery Green Cream , £46.
We've loved strawberry skincare since we tried Bybi's Strawberry Booster , so we were excited to find another skincare product with the berry included in the ingredients list. Strawberries contain 14 per cent more vitamin c than an orange, providing serious brightening power so we're keen to give this a whirl.
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Founded by US bloggers Marianna Hewitt and Lauren Gores, Summer Fridays was created to address lifestyle problems we all suffer from. After being plagued by plane face (ie. dry, dull skin after being on a flight), the founders dreamed up and launched the Jet Lag mask , £22.50. Packed with ceramides, vitamins and antioxidants it combats the effects of zipping through time zones in recycled air.
Fans of the mask included Kim K and Jessica Alba, and it went down such a storm that the brand has since launched a serum , £57, a gel cleanser , £34, and two further masks.
While we'd love to pop the Jet Lag mask on our wishlist, we've heard so much about it we feel like we've already tried it. So in goes the Overtime Mask instead, designed to combat dull and congested skin, that reflects how we feel when we've been chained to our desks for many hours. Pumpkin and apricot seed powder exfoliate and hydrate your skin for your glowiest complexion after just ten minutes in this mask, which comes in a plastic-free (ie metal) tube.
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One of the original skindie brands, and one we've raved about many time before is Lixirskin . It continues to innovate with its small highly curated edit that encourages us to buy only what we need. It was founded by Colette Haydon, who spent many years as a formulator for big-name brands before striking out on her own and creating Lixirskin. It's all about mix-and-match products, ranging from £20 to £36. Its Universal Emulsion replaces your day cream, night cream and serum and a selection of boosters containing ingredients such as retinol, ceramides and exfoliating acids allow you to dose on the day according to what you need. The packaging too is ultra-Insta worthy, which has helped make it a bloggers favourite too, although we have to say everything we have tried performs really well, as you'd expect from a formulator-founded brand. The Electrogel Cleanser, £25, and a Vitamin C paste , £32, are favourites.
This does-it-all cream can be used as a day moisturiser, a night cream and serum and can be applied to the face, eye contour, lips, neck, décolleté, arms and hands. It’s milky but absorbs easily, leaving a dewy and plump finish on the skin. It has an SPF10 in it too, so really is a great all-rounder and a must-have for travelling when you have limited space.
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Until 28 February 2020 Cult Beauty is offering GTG readers an exclusive 15 per cent off skincare when you spend £20, with the code CULTXGTG15