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Beauty, Insight

10 Indie Beauty Innovations from Around the World

Sara Jones writes for Global Cosmetic Industry

Since its launch in New York City in 2015, the Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) expanded to Los Angeles and Dallas and has now landed in London.

The show, which connects indie brands with potential buyers, press, consumers and investors, was held at the Old Truman Brewery in the heart of London’s East End.

More than 900 people attended, split between a consumer day and a trade-only day, with more than 70 brands exhibiting from all across Europe and as far afield as South Africa, New Zealand, Thailand and Bali.

Here is our list of the Top 10 innovations, brand stories and designs seen from the U.K. perspective.


1. Nail Polish Removal Cream (Germany)

The stand out product of the show, and IBE co-founder Jillian Wright’s personal top pick, was German company Sign’s newly launched Remove & Chill (formerly Nailfix & Chill), claiming to be the world’s first nail polish removal cream.

Housed in a screamingly red tattoo-inspired metal tube, the acetone-free cream uses macadamia, almond, argan and vitamin E to condition and has a barely detectable fresh scent. Hand baggage-friendly, the cream is a mess-free marvel.

2. Handmade Heritage (Portugal)

Something just a little older is Benamôr. Founded in Lisbon in 1925, Benamôr still hand-produces its natural-based range of exquisitely packaged face and body creams and soaps. Its first and hero product is Créme de Rosto, miracle face cream, still in its original formulation.

Benamôr’s “heritage reinvented” brand provides a welcome antidote to some of the fake heritage private label brands we’ve seen in U.S. drugstores of late.

3. Minimalist Customisation (Spain)

At the other end of the design spectrum is Alex Carro, a Barcelona-located, herb and essential oil-based minimalist beauty brand set up by Brit Alex, who was inspired to set up her brand after her husband kept stealing her beauty products.

Described as “beauty simplified,” the range consists of just five mixable, multi-use unisex products, meaning that people can tailor-make a beauty routine without reams of bottles.

4. Prestige Oral Care (United States)

More of a trend than a simple pick, and one likely well known to U.S. indie aficionados, Lebon’s beautiful oral care brand still brings a smile to the mind with its elegant colorful packaging, which now includes the Making Waves alcohol-free mouthwash in a glass bottle.

Lebon stands out because premiumised oral beauty care is still in its infancy in the United Kingdom and mainland Europe. The tide is turning, however. For example, luxury dental care brand Swiss Smile presented another IBE standout, Pearl Shine Dental Conditioner, an on-the-go all-in-one cleanser, whitener, desensitiser, remineraliser and stain protector.

5. Microbiome Innovation (United Kingdom)

Gallinée is a British-based microbiome brand founded by a French pharmacy whizz (and self-confessed science nerd), Marie Drago. The core range of products is built on Drago’s patented complex of probiotics, prebiotics and lactic acid, which reportedly supports the skin’s good bacteria and rebuilds its natural barrier.

The brand’s latest product, Face Vinegar, is a soothing toner for sensitive skin that contains Actibiome, a novel prebiotic and hibiscus vinegar. The vinegar is claimed to purify, soothe, repair and brighten skin, making pores smaller.

6. Scandinavian Glam (Norway)

From science to Scandinavia, Norwegian-based beauty range Eleni & Chris challenges the usual conceptions of Scandi beauty being minimal, monochrome, natural and perhaps even a little earnest. Founded by mother-daughter duo, who together run one of Europe’s largest hairdressing chains, Eleni & Chris highlights Scandinavian ingredients but with a decidedly glam and innovative twist. Its latest product is the mini-sized Peeling Pen, combining lactic and glycolic acid (7% AHA) and cloudberry extract, providing exfoliation to even sensitive skin types.

7. Luxury Organic Men’s Grooming (United Kingdom)

Another gorgeous duo are the first two multipurpose products from Vitruvian Man, launched at IBE London. The organic, natural, and impeccably elegantly and sustainably packaged brand is the brainchild of Hong Kong-born and London-based Vivian Lau. The brand is named for architect Vitruvius, who strived for everything in perfect proportion of strength, beauty and functionality (iconified by da Vinci’s drawings). A trained chemist and Fine Artist, Lau was inspired to help a close friend’s skin problems caused by his highly stressful work. Active ingredients in the Anti-Pollution Cleanser and Toner and Resurrection Cream SPF20 include organic ginger root juice, nut grass, resurrection plant extracts and silver ear fungus to soothe and protect.

8. Instagram-friendly Wellbeing (United Kingdom)

Vivien Leung gave up working as a global advertising strategist after her health started suffering. Advised by her chiropractor that mineral salt baths could help relieve her back pain, Leung identified a massive gap in the U.K. bath care market. The result? Verdant Alchemy, a range of vegan and COSMOS-certified mineral bath salts in Instagram-friendly graphic packaging. Encouraging consumers to take time out in a busy life and designed to relieve different wellbeing issues, bath salts look set to be the new candle.

9. Rethinking Texture (United States)

The reputation of hair perms in the United Kingdom is not good. Say perm to a Brit and images of crispy 1980s poodle rock hair come to mind. Say American Wave, however, and things sound very different, indeed. Well-known to the U.S. market, Arrojo’s American Wave is a curly and textured-hair-friendly range of perm products that could be the thing that finally tempts Brits away from their straightening irons and toward bouncy curls.

10. For Mothers, By Mothers (New Zealand/The Netherlands)

A final choice, and one that really sums up the truly global nature of IBE’s incarnation in London, is Abel, a natural perfume brand from New Zealander Frances Shoemack, who has settled in Amsterdam. (The brand is named for Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, the first European to encounter New Zealand). Shoemack was passionate about fragrance but couldn’t find anything natural that, in her opinion, looked as good or performed as strongly as synthetic-containing brands. The outcome is Abel, a wonderful range of elegant, 100% organic fragrances designed with fellow New Zealander and nose Isaac Sinclair. Abel’s latest collaboration with children’s clothing brand Grey Label, Nurture, is by nose Fanny Grau, Isaac Sinclair’s partner and the mother of their child. Described as “created by mothers, for mothers,” Nurture “reminds a mother to take care of herself while also taking care of her little one.” A brand message that this mother can really get behind.

Sara Jones for Global Cosmetic Industry