What's new on the US indie beauty scene?

From the t-zone to the v-zone, indie beauty has gone head-to-toe holistic. Free The Birds’ Sara Jones presents the top five trends from Indie Beauty Expo NYC 2019

People talk about the personal being political. Well, in my case, working as a beauty junkie in beauty branding, the personal is very much professional. Almost nothing can beat that feeling of excitement you get spotting something totally new and inspiring. In recent years, much of that newness has come from indie brands who’ve disrupted the industry with their bold social media and word-of-mouth marketing. The evidence is on my bathroom shelves and in my make-up bag, which are filled with indie upstarts like Glossier and Eleni & Chris, alongside my usual MAC and Chanel.

So, when a business trip to the States coincided with the Indie Beauty Expo (IBE) NYC, I knew it couldn’t be missed. NYC – home of entrepreneurial spirit – was an apt host to the first ever IBE in 2015, which connects indie brands with potential buyers, press and investors (the consumer day being dropped this year to focus on B2B). Alongside it was a new section, Uplink Live, for brands to discover service providers such as PR companies, manufacturers and logistics firms.

IBE NYC was held right on the Hudson River at the Pier 94 warehouse building from 21-22 August, with a staggering 260 brands from around the US – from Idaho to Hawaii – and from far further afield, including Finland, Korea and Australia.

Taking a step back and viewing the offer as a whole – in addition to their ownership status – there were some overarching brand characteristics linking most of them together. Natural, organic, ‘clean’, cruelty-free, vegan and sustainable were the buzzwords of the day, and could apply to most of the indies present, according to their literature, indicating strongly that what was once a differentiator for indie brands is now pretty much a starting point.

Indeed, many of the products listed below, could have been listed in several trend areas due to this convergence. Beauty, healthcare, personal care: individual categories are fusing into a need-based hybrid. What’s clear is that if indies are to keep their momentum and remain as the driver of growth and innovation in beauty, they’ll have to further differentiate and elevate their offer beyond being ‘indie’ into truly novel areas and formats, and most importantly, compelling brand stories and communications to match.

With this in mind, here are my top five trend areas from the show:

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