According to Karen Doskow, director of consumer products, Kline, Parsippany, NJ, indies may be small in terms of sales volume, but they are currently the most sought-after brands by cosmetics marketers, retailers and shoppers alike due to compelling ingredient stories, creative consumer engagement and first-rate digital marketing tactics.
For Paula Floyd, founder of retail strategy firm Headkount, Bend, OR, it is all about the innovators behind the brand. The best of them have the ability to create unique products and build a strong community rich in culture.
“They take time to invest in their people, just as they do in finding the perfect formula,” she told Happi. “The indie brands are making it happen today. They don’t wait but seek ways to improve and pull the trigger on investments to accelerate growth.”
Here’s a look at the trailblazers of 2022 that are making waves in the beauty industry (our list is sorted by years in business from newest to oldest):
Year Founded: 2021
What started out as just a couple of skin care-obsessed friends with the same name swapping homemade serums has flourished into Sundree, a new personal care collection.
Names To Know: Co-Founders Sahar Sanjar Dejban and Sahar Vazin Nezhad
Major Products: Skin care serums, masks and more
Hero Product: Pept Eyes Biocellulose Eye Masks
Newest Launch: Sundree’s inaugural product line launched in May 2021, with new launches coming in early 2022.
Brand Story: Sahar Sanjar Dejban’s love of skin care grew out of her frustration with her own skin. After struggling with acne, she sought guidance from aestheticians and dermatologists which is where her education in skin care began.
“Our skin can reflect what’s going on internally,” she told Happi.
Sahar Vazin Nezhad is a beauty junkie at heart whose obsession started at an early age. As a young girl, she watched her mother carefully apply her products and learned the importance of taking care of your skin. After graduating college, she was determined to create her own brand. While pregnant, she became wary of “toxic” ingredients in most of her products.
“I realized skin care doesn’t need to be complex, but rather clean, simple and effective,” said Nezhad.
Why We’re Watching: Sundree’s goal is to encourage a commitment to health inside and out. “Happy skin, happy within” is not just a tagline—it’s a mantra to live by,” said Sanjar Dejban.
“Happy skin helps you feel better within and vice versa. Happiness on the inside gives you a natural glow on the outside! Each product is curated to help you feel confident and look your best while hydrating and brightening your skin. All products are free of parabens, sulfates and phthalates, and are vegan and cruelty-free,” she told Happi.
Another noteworthy aspect of this rising indie beauty brand is the intersection of skin care and mental health. Sundree partners with the Mental Health Coalition where 1% of Sundree’s sales are donated to the organization.
“At check out, you’ll see that exact contribution—giving you another thing to feel great about!” said Sanjar Dejban.
What’s Next: Sundree is currently in the research and development stage of its upcoming 2022 launches and looks forward to announcing launch plans later this year.
Year Founded: 2019
SIIA Cosmetics is an inclusive, US luxury cosmetics brand with the mission to bring the best-quality beauty products to the greatest number of people possible. These prestige K-beauty products are made 100% in Korea.
Names To Know: Megan Rein, co-founder and chief business officer; Simon Jeon, co-founder and CEO; Hicham Khodri, co-founder and chief vision officer; Minsung Yoo, co-founder and CSO/R&D in Korea
Major Products: Face (liquid and stick foundations, concealer, contour and highlight sticks); Lip (liquid, original, matte lipsticks and gloss); Eyes (liquid eyeliners, eyebrow pencils and mascaras); Skin (foaming cleanser, primers, makeup remover and setting spray)
Hero Product: Luminous Longwear Liquid Foundation, Ultimate Fit Concealer, Duo Face Illuminating Multi Stick, Change Agent Liquid Lipstick in Midnight Rose, Everlasting Makeup Setting Spray
Stocked At: www.siiacosmetics.com and in select independent beauty supply stores
Newest Launch: Limited Edition Holiday Ultimate Luxury Gift Set and Limited Edition Holiday Luxe Party Kit
Brand Story: SIIA Cosmetics was founded by a diverse team with very different backgrounds—an American from the international business world, a South Korean immigrant from the ethnic beauty market and a Moroccan immigrant from the hospitality industry. But they shared a mission to bring the highest quality, prestige cosmetics to the greatest number of people possible. It was founded in 2019, soft-launched in 2020 to a select number of independent beauty supply stores and launched fully, including online direct to consumer in June 2021.
Simon Jeon, a South Korean immigrant, was an executive and salesman at a hair extension and wig business that served the independent beauty supply store market prior to founding his own company. He met Hicham Khodri, a Moroccan immigrant with extensive executive experience in the hospitality industry. After moving to the US and joining the previous business where Jeon was located, the two decided to partner and found Rose De Nuit, a hair extension and wig brand.
Megan Rein, who is married to Khodri, is a graduate of the London School of Economics and worked at a major international aerospace and defense company for seven years as an international program manager, managing hundreds of millions of dollars of industrial development in India, the Middle East and Europe. But she also has a passion for beauty.
“In the same way there are ‘food deserts’ throughout the US, there are also ‘beauty deserts;’ areas where high-quality cosmetics and personal care products are inaccessible,” Dallas-based Rein told Happi. “While large and very invested in beauty and personal care, this customer base has often not been front of mind in the beauty industry. Likewise, there are many customers served by larger stores, but they cannot find high-quality, skin-enhancing products and K-beauty cosmetics to fit their budget.”
After conducting research with both customers and store owners, the trio identified a “massive gap” in the independent beauty supply store market for high-quality beauty products. They teamed up with Korean beauty veteran Mingsung Yoo to launch SIIA Cosmetics.
Recently joining the SIIA Cosmetics team as president of strategy is Brian Edgar, a former executive vice president at Tommy Hilfiger and former president of Bestseller, a Danish fashion business.
Why We’re Watching: According to Rein, SIIA Cosmetics’ unique vision takes high-performing prestige formulations and adds top Korean beauty ingredients and technology to create “the ultimate cosmetics.”
SIIA Cosmetics calls out to customers on its website with the following: “SIIA Cosmetics is inspired by the real people in the world who see things differently, create beauty and make their world better. Every part of our brand is dedicated to reflecting the beauty of these people back and telling their stories. Whether it’s a successful publisher of art and fashion reflecting on what inspires her, a young college student from Ghana explaining why she loves concrete because of its imperfections, or the other fantastic women and men we’ve met, SIIA focuses on getting to know them through how they see the world and, especially, what they see as their beauty.”
What’s Next: In 2022, SIIA Cosmetics will expand into eyeshadows, blushes and powders, and add more shades to its makeup range.
“We are also in talks with major big box stores and international distribution to continue our mission of bringing the best products to the greatest number of people possible,” said Rein.
Year Founded: 2018
Curlsmith’s mission is to help everyone love their natural hair without compromising its health.
Names to Know: Michal Berski, founder and CEO; Kate Berski, co-founder and chief staff officer; Jennifer Moran, president; Vicky Metcalfe, chief marketing officer; Gaia Tonanzi, senior brand manager; Spora Ndumbe, head of marketing; Helena Haciepiri, brand communications manager
Major Products: Nourishing hair care products that benefit all hair types with clean, vegan ingredients.
Hero Products: Bond Curl, Bonding Oil, Curl Quenching Conditioning Wash, Moisture Memory Reactivator, Multi-Tasking Conditioner, Weightless Air-Dry Cream, Hydro Style Flexi Jelly, Curl Transitioning Kit
Newest Launch: Along with its new finishing product, Bonding Oil, Curlsmith this month launches Shine Recipe, a complete set of hair care essentials and finishing touches, following the Curlsmith 4-Step Method: Shine Shampoo, Shine Conditioner, Shine Cream, Shine Gel and Shine Jelly.
Brand Story: Curlsmith—billed as “gourmet hair care that actually understands and embraces diversity,” according to its Founder and CEO Michal Berski—has deep roots in the beauty business. Berski is a self-described serial entrepreneur with more than 15 years of experience in luxury and beauty. Formerly with P&G, Unilever and L’Oréal, he has a strong track record of creating and bringing new brands to market.
After working with some of the top hair care companies in the world, Berski noticed a problem: there were very few products, and almost no education, available for those with textured hair—despite the fact that they make up about 60% of the population. Berski himself is curly, and has many friends and family who are, as well—including two young nieces whose parents were struggling to find products and information for curly hair care.
“Most of what was available focused on straight hair or looser waves, and products made for curly hair tended to be insufficient and/or damaging, causing many people to resort to straightening their hair with harsh treatments or hiding their natural locks away,” said Berski.
So, he started an Instagram page as a community for people to share tips and education about textured hair. As the account quickly grew to more than 10,000 followers in just a few months, Berski realized that he had struck an important chord with a community that was eager to talk, educate each other and share ideas. It was this community that urged Berski to turn his Instagram page into an official brand that became Curlsmith.
“Community has been a major part of Curlsmith since day one, with its community of ‘curlfriends’ sampling and talking about the brand as well as influencing product development,” said Berski. “As a result, Curlsmith can offer nourishing, luxurious products that people with textured hair actually want, will use and benefit from.”
According to Berski, Curlsmith is now the No. 1 textured hair care brand at Ulta Beauty.
Why We’re Watching: Curlsmith is truly a community.
“Curlsmith began as an online community for people with textured hair who felt that their hair needs were not catered to within the industry,” Berski told Happi. “As the first gourmet hair care brand specifically created for all types of curls, coils and waves, Curlsmith aims to spread education and awareness of the various needs of textured hair, strongly impacting the entire industry. With premium product lines developed in collaboration with trichologists, hair stylists, experts and even their very own customers, Curlsmith allows those with textured hair to reach their full hair potential.”
What’s Next: Celebrity stylist and Global Senior Hair Stylist Jennie Roberts has joined the company and will help promote the launch of Shine Recipe, which debuts this month.
Year Founded: 2016
This “beauty wellness” brand approaches hair care from the inside out.
Names To Know: Dan Hodgon, founder and CEO
Major Products: Vegamour currently has two major collections of hair wellness products in the market today, Gro and Gro+ Advanced.
Hero Product: Gro Hair Serum, a formula designed to combat signs of hair shed, energize follicles from the root and support visibly thicker, fuller, longer looking hair.
Newest Launch: Enso collection of shampoos, conditioners and a mask
Brand Story: Vegamour is billed as a “beauty wellness” brand that targets a unique demographic—hair health from the inside out. It currently has two major collections of hair wellness products in the market today, Gro and Gro+ Advanced. Each line features a range of breakthrough plant-based hair, lash and brow products, along with bioavailable ingestibles that are carefully designed to help address early signs of hair shed and support hair’s natural renewal cycle from the inside-out, according to Founder Dan Hodgon.
“Our origins begin in nature,” Hodgon told Happi.
Hodgon developed an early interest in agrobiodiversity from working summers on his uncle’s dairy farm in Vermont. He built a successful career establishing sustainable, eco-friendly supply chains for natural ingredients for beauty and hair care throughout Southeast Asia, Africa and Madagascar at companies such as Southern Botanica GmbH. He also launched Akhassa Bath & Beauty, an Asian-centric, holistic line of natural spa products and treatments for the luxury spa market. Using locally sourced, organic ingredients under Fair Trade practices, Akhassa opened doors at the Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental, Delano & Viceroy Hotel Groups.
From this experience, Hodgon is a big believer in the health benefits of natural ingredients.
“Just like in nature, without a balanced ecosystem, our own bodies simply cannot flourish,” he said.
With that concept in mind Vegamour was born.
According to Hogdon, Vegamour’s mission is to change the way consumers think about and approach hair care.
“We’d like to pioneer a shift in focus from our outward appearance that traditional hair care taught us, toward our holistic hair health; for the first time encourage people to consider their nutrition, physical, mental and emotional health at the root to be just as important as using clean and quality products in order for your hair to thrive,” he explained.
Why We’re Watching: Vegamour’s formulations feature karmatin, a unique vegan keratin.
“Karmatin is also a first-of-its-kind patented technology found within all of our shampoos and conditioners, proven to deliver better performance than any synthetic or animal derived alternative with longer-term results and without harmful side-effects,” Hogson told Happi. “Additionally, all of our formulas are fully intentional, multi-sensorial experiences, leveraging only the most functional plant-based ingredients and essential oils that calm and soothe while also leaving your hair smelling delicious.”
What’s Next: Vegamour is getting ready to introduce its latest hair wellness innovation, Enso, a range of shampoos, conditioners and a mask that instantly adjusts to the unique needs of fine, medium or thick hair on contact.
Also, in addition to the five new patents the brand is working on for its original award-winning and most-loved formulas, Vegamour continues to make inroads in the hair tech space with plans to expand into the anti-aging category with new “game-changing technology” designed to help preserve hair’s natural pigment for longer, said Hogdon.
“We’re calling it a history-defining beauty innovation that will redefine our journey forward,” he concluded.
Year Founded: 2015
Danessa Myricks Beauty reimagines what makeup can be and develops innovative multifunctional products that work everyplace on every face.
Names To Know: Danessa Myricks, CEO and founder
Major Products: Color cosmetics for makeup artists and consumers
Hero Product: Colorfix 24-Hour Cream Color
Newest Launch: Infinite Gemstone Collection and Lightwork Palette Volume III + Lightwork III Mini
Brand Story: A self-taught makeup artist and photographer, Danessa Myricks learned how to use makeup in unconventional ways to create stunning looks. Ignoring industry norms, she began to teach other artists about her techniques and product selections, and created a name for herself in the beauty world.
Myricks also led product development for some of the most successful launches from brands like Kiss Lashes and Benefit Cosmetics Brow Collection. But she decided to launch her own brand, Danessa Myricks Beauty, to further expand innovation in the cosmetics industry. She began by mixing pigments in her basement—creating unique color stories and finishes for innovative highlighters suitable for all skin tones—and has evolved to develop ing innovative formulas in labs all around the world.
Myricks’ brand was founded on the principle that race, gender, age and personal style should not limit anyone from experimenting with makeup and discovering their signature look. When she launched her eponymous brand, she reimagined what makeup can be and developed innovative multifunctional products.
“Every product isn’t designed for just one application. All of our products are multifunctional and created to work in multiple places and on all faces,” she told Happi.
Why We’re Watching: The namesake beauty brand is celebrated for its inclusive and cruelty-free collection that offers a “playground of texture and color” with skin-illuminating, award-winning, multi-use products.
“We have something for artists, beauty lovers and everyone in between. Danessa Myricks Beauty Is beauty reimagined,” Myricks told Happi.
What’s Next: The core of Danessa Myricks’ innovative product development is rooted in her expertise as a makeup artist. With this in mind, 2022 will introduce her vision for “the future of skin,” she contends.
Year Founded: 2012
Manna Kadar Cosmetics is a luxury beauty line designed to both elevate and simplify one’s beauty routine.
Names To Know: Manna Kadar, founder and CEO
Major Products: Miracle Balm, Photo Finish Foundation, Renewing Lip Oil
Hero Product: Liplocked Lip Stain
Newest Launch: Lip Balance Color Chemistry Lip Balm
Brand Story: Hailing from Paris and now based in Irvine, CA, entrepreneur Manna Kadar was surrounded by the very best that fashion and beauty has to offer. But she felt something was missing in the vast domain of both makeup and skin care.
“I wanted to create a prestige line of luxury cosmetic products formulated with the finest ingredients and most innovative technology,” she told Happi.
For more than a decade now, Kadar has been a celebrity in the entrepreneur world, carving out a name for herself in California as the “go to” in all things affordable luxury. The self-made, self-funded minority mompreneur expanded the Manna Kadar Cosmetics family of brands to include Manna Kadar Beauty, Goddess by Manna Kadar, Beauty and the Bump, Haute Dog (luxury pet products), Mason Man Skincare and Manna Kadar Luxe Bath and Body. She is also the creator of the “7 Minute Face,” a three-step “beauty simplified” system.
Kadar cut her business teeth early on, proving herself as a successful young entrepreneur in the competitive realm of sales and marketing. Her background is in banking.
In 2007, Kadar left finance, taking everything she learned and applying it to her new venture: developing a chain of tanning salons called Island Tan Salon & Spa that would one day lead to the Manna Kadar Beauty empire. Seeking to maximize revenues, she turned her tanning salon lobby into a beauty bar. The idea quickly gained traction and prompted Kadar to develop an original cosmetics line.
Today, Manna Kadar is a family of six brands, with more than 600 SKUs in 40,000 stores nationwide—all without outside investment.
“My motto is ‘when you look good, you feel good’—and this means something different to everyone,” Kadar told Happi.
Why We’re Watching: Kadar’s innovative approach to both beauty and business has earned her a spot on the Orange County Business Journal’s top 50 most influential people list for 2021 and “Top 40 Under 40 Beauty CEOs” in the region.
What’s Next: According to Kadar, now that the world is starting to reopen, Manna Kadar Beauty is focusing on expanding its retail distribution worldwide as well as its personal care portfolio. In fact, Kadar said she will be adding a hair care line called Mane this year. She plans to branch out into home goods in 2023.
Year Founded: 2007
St. Moriz, a UK-based maker of skin care-driven, salon-quality self-tanning products with the best “non-toxic,” cruelty-free ingredients has crossed the pond to become a favorite among US consumers at Ulta, Target, JCPenney and elsewhere
Names To Know: Melanie Brownlow, founder and managing director; Fiona Lazenby, commercial director; Renata Holmes, director of sales and marketing (USA); Jordan Cook, global tanning expert
Major Products: Sunless tanning products for the face and body
Hero Product: Professional Self-Tanning Mousse
Stocked At: Ulta, Target, JCPenney, Amazon
Newest Launch: Advanced Pro Clear Spray Tan in a Can
Brand Story: Melanie Brownlow of St. Moriz is a dynamic entrepreneur based in Yorkshire, England with a background in corporate beauty and a passion to deliver effective, luxurious products to the masses at accessible prices. She started working for Gillette as a trainee in the blades and razors division which was very “male orientated” at the time.
Brownlow moved on to Coty working in its cosmetics and personal care business where she gained a passion for branding and consumer products. Later, Brownlow went to work for UK retailer Boots, where she gained experience and knowledge in product development.
“I have always loved spray tans, but when I sought out a less expensive at-home alternative, I became frustrated with the results from using products on the market. What started with a sprinkle of courage and many innovative ideas, St. Moriz was created with the goal of offering salon quality tanning products at an affordable price,” she told Happi.
St. Moriz started with just one SKU, the Professional Tanning Mousse, which remains a bestseller. The brand gained fame for its “skin-loving” formulas and natural glows for every tone, and quickly became a leader in the UK self-tanning category. The brand evolved and expanded due to the enthusiastic demands of consumers. Today St. Moriz has 50-plus SKUs and counting.
Brownlow continues to be entrenched in every facet of the brand, driving product innovation and helping to expand into new markets around the world.
Why We’re Watching: St. Moriz is driven by an entrepreneurial spirit that champions confidence-boosting messaging, depiction of real bodies in marketing campaigns (all shapes, sizes and backgrounds) and honest customer feedback to deliver the best brand experience and inclusive product range.
St. Moriz offers affordable, good-for-you products without compromising quality and effectiveness, said Brownlow. The cruelty-free formulas are made with moisturizing ingredients like vitamin E, aloe vera and hyaluronic acid.
“We pride ourselves in offering a tan for every tone, making the category an inclusive, welcoming space for every consumer regardless of age, background or gender,” said Brownlow.
What’s Next: According to Brownlow, exciting retailer expansions and new product innovations are on tap for 2022.
Year Founded: 2001
Made in the US and family-run, Merlot Skin Care is celebrating 20 years of innovation. Its venerable personal care collection is fueled by natural red grape seed antioxidants that work to fight free radicals.
Names To Know: Wayne Beckley, CEO and founder; Michele Beckley, VP of operations; Nicole Beckley, marketing director; Drew Beckley, e-commerce manager
Major Products: Merlot Grape Seed Moisturizer, Moonlight Radiance Night Cream, Grape Seed Eye Cream, Grape Seed Cream Cleanser
Hero Product: Merlot Grape Seed Moisturizer, a lightweight gel-cream that absorbs quickly and works as the perfect pre-makeup primer to make skin feel silky and protected with natural grape seed antioxidants.
Newest Launch: Advanced Repair Fine Lines Cream, which uses a retinoic acid-like peptide, Myristoyl Tripeptide-31, to deliver the benefits of wrinkle-reducing retinol without the side-effects.
Brand Story: More than 20 years ago while watching the TV program “60 Minutes,” entrepreneur Wayne Beckley heard about “the French Paradox;” i.e., the French diet is heavy in saturated fat, but its citizens suffer virtually no heart disease. The report linked the findings to the drinking of red wine.
Intrigued, Beckley chronicled more 70 research studies indicating that drinking red wine each day could be beneficial in warding off certain cancers and lowering cholesterol in the body. The reason? The antioxidants found in red grapes.
Investigating further, Beckley found studies revealing the grape’s true power came from the seeds. Research studies showed that grape seed antioxidants are 50 times more powerful than vitamin E and nearly 25 times more powerful than vitamin C.
Beckley reasoned that these antioxidants could have benefits not only internally, but externally as well. Using his background in chemistry with a bachelor of science degree from Purdue University, in 2001 Beckley launched Merlot Skin Care—a skin care brand utilizing the power of red grape seeds in each unique formulation.
Prior to Merlot Skin Care, he founded a company in the car care industry where he worked to develop waxes and polishes.
“Harnessing nature’s most powerful antioxidants, Merlot products work to protect skin against the signs of aging and to fight free radicals—the harmful molecules caused by smoke, smog, pollution, stress and UV rays,” said Beckley, who is based out of El Paso, TX.
Since then, Merlot has released multiple products to target specific skin care concerns.
“We ensure that we use innovative and effective ingredients as well as keeping price points accessible,” Beckley told Happi. “Merlot’s good-for-you philosophy maintains that customers can look like a million bucks without spending that much.”
Why We’re Watching: According to Beckley, when the brand began, there wasn’t an awareness about antioxidants or their importance.
“Luckily now, most people know how effective they are, and seek out products that contain them,” he told Happi. “Our niche has always been in utilizing grape seed specifically and making it the core of our formulations. We’ve also always prioritized natural ingredients, keeping our formulas vegan, cruelty-free and paraben-free. It’s also unique to be a family-run brand from Texas.”
What’s Next: Merlot Skin Care has been focused on expanding to new e-commerce channels, including Walmart.com, and is exploring social commerce options.
“We’ve also been keeping our eye on the grocery space as a potential retail target,” Beckley told Happi. ‘We’re always generating ideas for new products and are experimenting with various humectants for new hydration-focused offerings coming soon.”
Kline has identified three indie beauty brands that could be tomorrow’s billion-dollar buyouts in a recent report from late 2021.
In earlier studies, Kline flagged Drunk Elephant and The Ordinary as the most desirable acquisitions. Drunk Elephant was subsequently acquired by Shiseido for $845 million, a valuation 8.5 times sales. Similarly, Estée Lauder later closed a deal for a majority stake in Deciem, the parent company of The Ordinary. The transaction valued the company at $2.2 billion, making it the largest deal in Estée Lauder’s history.
Also spotlighted by Kline prior to their transactions: Drybar, which was acquired by WellBiz Brands in February 2021; eSalon, Henkel acquired a 51% stake in the brand in 2019; Kylie Cosmetics, acquired by Coty in 2019; and Olaplex, acquired by Advent International.
So, why have Glow Recipe, Ilia Beauty and Prose caught Kline’s attention?
In identifying M&A candidates, all three brands have registered strong increases from their date of launch, have outpaced beauty industry growth, and have found ways to innovate while maintaining brand premise and origin story.
Glow, in particular, has caught the attention of North Castle Partners, which announced a strategic investment and partnership with the fruit-forward skin care brand, Gen Z and Millennial favorite. The terms of the investment were not disclosed when the deal was announced in October 2021.
North Castle Partners has more than 20 years of experience investing in leading consumer businesses and has a long history of partnering with best-in-class founders, entrepreneurs and management teams in the beauty and personal care industry. The partnership provides the company with additional resources and expertise to assist Glow Recipe in its continued growth and increasing global presence.
Glow Recipe initially launched in 2014 as a seller of curated Korean skin care products. In 2017, the company launched its namesake Glow Recipe brand in an exclusive partnership with Sephora in the US. Today, Glow Recipe is one of the fastest growing indie skin care brands in the market and ranks as a top 10 skin care brand at multiple retailers globally.
Follow Happi and Happi.com throughout 2022 to see what happens with these rising indie beauty brands.