Cosmetics are a booming industry, generating more than $56 billion in the U.S. alone. Major brand names take most of the share, with companies like L’Oreal dominating the market. Big-name makeup brands including Nars, Urban Decay, Maybelline and Covergirl are familiar to makeup consumers. The world of makeup, however, extends beyond what can be found in Sephora, and companies like Shiro Cosmetics, Detrivore and Fyrrinae are finding their niche.
Indie makeup companies are booming. Small and usually run by a handful of people at most, these companies make comparatively smaller batches of their products than large companies, almost always at cheaper prices, and with far more customer service (given that the customer-to-employee ratio is typically much smaller). Products range from loose eye shadows and nail polish to bath soaps and perfumes.
Second-year Allya Yourish started making her own nail polishes about three years ago. Starting off as a nail polish blogger reviewing major companies, Yourish’s move into the nail polish making business placed her in small company. “I got into the business before indie cosmetics boomed, so there weren’t actually many places for me to have purchased from at that time,” Yourish said.
Learning how to make nail polishes was trial and error. “I had to just figure it out myself. I knew what kind of base I needed, but figuring out appropriate pigments and glitters had a learning curve,” Yourish said. Yourish’s company, Polishes, has sold about 200 bottles so far.
“The colors I design myself – non-custom ones – are more interesting and unique than anything else on the market,” Yourish explains, stating that the increased range of options is what draws customers to indie companies.
And indie companies are rapidly improving to meet or exceed the standards set by mainstream companies. Life’s Entropy, a science-themed company started in 2014, has released in their first few months products similar to OCC liptars, Anastasia Beverly Hill dipbrow and NARS Audacious lipsticks.
Companies like Shiro and Victorian Disco release products themed after popular cultural references like Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, and the variety of perfumes available is dizzying. Silk Cosmetics offers foundations in several different colors and undertones, and the owner of the company encourages potential customers to email a photo of themselves and receive a personalized approximation of what foundation colors might work for them.
Sample sizes of products are almost universal for being significantly cheaper than the full sized products, and many companies will throw in extra samples or treats for customers.
Indie makeup is also subject to many of the problems found in bigger companies. Successful indie Lime Crime Cosmetics has been under fire recently for a major credit card security breach, as well as long lasting allegations of claiming products are vegan when they are not, unsanitary working practices, selling repackaged product at a significant markup and harassing reviewers.
Nevertheless, the indie trend is expanding, with new companies and a customer base growing steadily.