When you think of beauty brands, where to buy them, or what the “best” ones are, I’m sure many people will give fairly similar answers, especially if they’re active in the online beauty community. And it’s not hard to see why.
So often, you can pretty much lay money on seeing certain brands on a content creators feed. You can search for the hashtags of a particular brand only to be bombarded by hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of pictures tagging and hashtagging the same brand, and often the same few products. It makes the beauty world seem so small, so limited.
I hear a lot of people bemoaning the lack of “new” products, how every brand seems to be doing the same thing. How brands aren’t measuring up ethically to what we as consumers value. Most of all, I’ve found that people are becoming more aware of the “corporate” feel of the mainstream beauty industry. And that’s not to say these large brands aren’t producing good products or that they’re all unethical. But there’s a certain feel that has been lost when we engage with these products and these brands.
We’re inundated with constant new products that all feel the same, often because so many brands are coming out with the same things around the same time. The newness feels orchestrated, production for the sake of production and without the passion project fire behind it. After all, large conglomerates are in many ways too big to fail. If one new release flops, there’s always a new one to look forward to, or old successes to fall back on.
We beg for something new, something different, something that speaks to us and is brimming with love and is an extension of the creator themselves.
And it’s right in front of us. It’s right under our damn noses.
Step away from Sephora, Ulta, the department stores. Dig deeper through the explore page on Instagram and go to the content creators less viewed. You will find a whole world of new, exciting makeup and skincare and so much more. Look at The Indie Mood alone, and you will see so many incredible businesses driven by a sheer love of what they do and a drive unlike anything I’ve ever seen.
These independent, small brands are creating products that don’t just look and work, but fuel their day to day lives and the things most important to them. They build their businesses around what they love most, their customer, and what they value. Take Menagerie Cosmetics, for example. All their products are vegan and cruelty free, and part of their profits go towards the Animal Welfare Institute. This is a brand that has meaning behind it, it has a message and a purpose and fantastic products.
And that’s only one example. There are so many more doing the exact same thing by creating products and supporting the things that matter and when you contact the company, you’re talking to the person that founded it. Or, you’re only a step or two away from talking to them. The customer service, product quality, and sheer love is completely unrivaled.
I know this from shopping with them, but I also know this because it’s my family’s livelihood. My parents have had their own business since the 80s, and I know firsthand the difference support can make. But I also know what happens when the support isn’t there.
Just recently, a company that I love had to announce that despite overwhelming interest and demand for a new product, too few people actually acted on it. So few, in fact, that the launch had to be canceled. The announcement broke my heart when I read it because I could see how much of themselves that they had put into this, how much they had invested to make this happen only for the support to be pulled out from under them. Ultimately, everything worked out. But it was a stark reminder of a simple fact:
We need to put our money where our mouth is.
We know what we want from brands. We know what matters to us as consumers and we know how important it is to support one another. But we need to actually do something about it.
For so many large brands, even if they don’t sell out a release, they’ve still made enough to make a profit. There’s no concern for minimums or funding, it’ll happen and they will survive regardless. At this point, it’s almost Kafka-esque how self perpetuating they are. But for small, independent brands that are run transparently, follow their ethics overtly, and put their soul into every release? It’s an entirely different game.
We say we love them. We say their products are incredible. We know these brands are run in a way that we should support. But do we support them in the same way that we do larger brands? Do we post about them the same way?
Most of the time, no. We don’t. I follow so many influencers that only shop with large brands, and only mention large brands. In turn, as their own audience grows, those in the audience continue the same cycle, something Mara from The Library Apothecary pointed out in a conversation about this very phenomenon. And why? The products aren’t always that much better and we all know that we’re yearning for something off the beaten path.
We want the attention. We want the recognition. We want the PR and the clout and the likes and the rest of the shit. My most popular post ever on Instagram (promoted post notwithstanding) was a Glossier haul. I’ve mentioned brands that are helping communities in Ghana, brands that use locally sourced ingredients to create a small handful of absolutely amazing products, brands that are active in their support of women and LGBT+ and so many more. But those never get the same attention. Ever.
I wish people would search for the smaller brands and the independent brands with the same fervor they hashtag the same five cosmetic brands. For sure, it’s something I can do better with and I’m working hard to do so. These are brands that cannot do what they’re doing without our support. The big guys? They’ll keep going despite scandals and flops and the rest.
But if we want the industry to change in a mindful, intentional, holistic way, we need to support the brands that are doing the work with the same energy that we do the large brands. I’ve been guilty of perpetuating that cycle, but I invite you to join me in helping support indie and small brands the same way we do brands like ABH. You don’t even need to drop the big brands, because so many produce good products. But we do need to do right by independent brands, especially if they’re delivering on the promises we wish the big brands would make. There’s room for every brand, but if we want the smaller brands to be heard in the same way we have a lot of legwork to do as consumers.
I will be following up on a post about independent brands that I love, because honestly that deserves its own post. Talking about the why needed its own moment, its own frank discussion. Personally, I would love to get to the point in consumerism that a post like this wouldn’t be a need. But it is. It’s so easy to overlook these things, to not talk about them or ignore them. Let’s talk about it. Let’s remind ourselves of what matters.