More often than not, if you were to walk up to a beauty editor and ask them to ID every single beauty product they’re wearing—from bronze to strands—you’d receive an eclectic earful.
My personal product roster is proof, and I also happen to be friends with and regularly attend events alongside plenty of other product-wise beauty editors.
There are certain
super-iconic beauty brands that are household names—the well-known power players that consistently make best seller lists and march across the glossy pages of our favorite magazines. We’d be lying if we said we don’t own, love, and regularly use a collection of products from said brands, but the majority of our beauty must-haves hail from lesser-known indie beauty brands no one seems to talk about, which is odd considering how strong a following they have within the underground world of beauty-product fanaticism (i.e., beauty editor group texts and Gchats worldwide).
During seemingly historical maskless days, strangers would be met with confusion and wonder after I revealed the culprit behind my highlight or the believability of
my mid-winter tan. As a beauty editor, there’s nothing more satisfying than sipping product tea with a fellow beauty lover, and the party becomes twice as fun when you can reveal an unknown they’ll undoubtedly fall head over heels for.
Since the current times don’t warrant an in-person shopping excursion like before, we thought we might as well dish up all of our best beauty dirt here and now by highlighting 27 of the best under-the-radar hair, skin, and makeup brands beauty editors love like a fifth limb but are still relatively unknown to the general public. Keep scrolling! (And maybe ready your credit card and make some room on your vanity.)
There’s a fine line when it comes to combining makeup and skincare, and in our very discerning eyes, Onomie is one of the only brands that exceed expectations. We’re especially obsessed with its Lip + Cheek Sticks, which are infused with glow-boosting ingredients and effortlessly flush your complexion with the most flattering color.
Whenever I’m asked about my favorite makeup brand, Kosas is one of the first to come to mind and is one of the few brands that manage to nail the tricky combination of nontoxic meets high performance. Thanks to the hydrating formula and long-wearing durability, the brand’s lipsticks are pretty much the only ones I wear anymore. I love Rosewater for daytime and Stardust for evening.
Australian brands are having an exciting moment in the beauty world, but the majority of standout products have been more in the realm of skincare. ModelCo is a game changer, and this fiber-enriched mascara duo just might change your life. It has changed mine, and people always think I have extensions when I wear it. We’re equally obsessed with every other beauty product we’ve tried from the brand.
If you love sparkle, meet Lemonhead.LA. The Los Angeles–based brand describes itself as “the original mess-free glitter for adults” and offers a cortisol-soothing array of shimmering formulas in every conceivable color that you can effortlessly layer anywhere. The above Phantom blue highlight is limited edition and is the latest product we can’t stop talking about.
Stellar Beauty is a brand that is far too overlooked. For those who have never heard of it, note that it was founded on the pillar of universal colors and revolutionary beauty. It’s hard to choose our favorite product, but this radiance-enhancing setting powder is maybe the best we’ve tried to date.
Out of the 100-plus highlighters I’ve tried in my life, this cheeky powder option from TheBalm is, unequivocally, the best. I’ve been using it since college, and I’ll probably continue to use it until my dying day. I dust it pretty much everywhere (it’s natural looking) but concentrate my application on my eyelids, cheekbones, and Cupid’s bow. Oh, and if you’re looking for a great bronzing and/or contour powder, Bahama Mama ($20) is a game changer.
Everyone from celebrities to beauty editors to Hillary Kerr, our chief content officer and co-founder, adores makeup artist Gucci Westman’s relatively new line of makeup, Westman Atelier. That said, her professional offering of foundations, blushes, makeup brushes, bronzers, and highlighters is still lesser known among those who aren’t beauty insiders. Her makeup pieces are an investment, but the packaging and easy-to-blend formulas are some of the best in the makeup biz right now.
Koh Gen Do has been an industry staple and makeup artist must-have for years, but the classic Japanese brand still doesn’t reap the general public attention it deserves. Then again, maybe that’s what makes it feel all the more covetable. The brand has been used on film sets for years, and whenever my fellow editors and I wear the foundation, we receive a bounty of compliments on the glow and evenness of our complexions.
Here’s a fun fact: I actually first discovered these pretty eye shadow palettes from a makeup artist friend, and shortly after the fact, I became aware of an equally excited buzz within the beauty community. Unlike so many of its well-known palette counterparts, these shadows from Juvia’s Place are actually affordable and don’t compromise on pigment payoff or quality.
Jillian Dempsey is a makeup artist legend, and we’d like to make sure her amazing makeup line becomes just as legendary. Featuring mesmerizing lid and cheek tints (and obsession-worthy eyeliners), her clean line of makeup is full of must-haves we can’t recommend enough. They’re lifesavers if you only have five minutes to slap some makeup on. You’ll look like you had a professional do your makeup.
Full disclaimer: I don’t know a single beauty editor who doesn’t keep a pot of celebrity esthetician Renée Rouleau’s Triple Berry Smoothing Peel in their bathroom cabinet at all times. I use it at least once a week, and I know my other beauty editor acquaintances sprinkled all over the country have a similar practice. Use it once, and the smooth and glowing result will have you hooked for life.
A fellow beauty editor first whispered in my ear about Bali Body some time ago (maybe last summer?), and having never heard of the brand, I very mistakenly dismissed her praise. But now, here I am eating my ignorance. A couple of weeks later, the Australian brand sent me a few new launches in addition to a few of its well-loved products, and I was so impressed. I’ve tried every self-tanning mousse in the business, and there are only about three that I will touch. This one is the best in the industry right now—period. It’s easy to apply, is eerily natural looking, and barely smells.
Skincare is not one-size-fits-all, and we have a deep-seated appreciation for any brand that acknowledges that fact, especially the unpredictability of hormonal woes like acne. Knours (short for know your skin) pretty much dismisses skin type and instead addresses fluctuating hormones and the impact they have on our skin. Every one of its products is created to tackle a specific kind of issue so you can tweak your basic routine around any hormone-induced afflictions you’re currently dealing with. Genius, right?
Receiving a facial from the magical and holistic fairy skin godmother Tammy Fender was an experience I’ll always remember. (Truly, I’ve never walked away from a facial feeling like I had just mediated, practiced yoga, and de-clogged my pores all in one sitting. She’s amazing.) Since I, unfortunately, can’t hire Tammy to be my personal nightly facialist, I keep the magic and relaxation going with her dreamy product line. Her Epi-Peel ($80) is one of my all-time favorite products for an insane skin glow, but lately, I’ve loved slathering this luxe Bulgarian lavender blend all over my body post-shower, pre-bedtime. (And this is saying something because, historically speaking, I hate body oil.)
Unlike so many other skincare brands that feature more predictable oils like coconut, jojoba, argan, and the like, we’re obsessed with Maya Chia’s unique hero ingredient—super-critical chia. We also love that the brand gives back to the Mayan people, serving as a corporate sponsor of Adopt-a-Village Guatemala. You can’t go wrong with anything from this exciting indie brand, but right now, I can’t live without this mystical skin elixir, which I spray on my Beautyblender pre–makeup application.
Another exciting skincare brand from down under, Dr Roebuck’s and its prettily packaged skin elixirs, which manage to heal and perk up even the most decrepit complexions, have beauty editors smitten. This Healing Mask is enriched with superfood ingredients like turmeric, avocado, and Manuka honey and is at the top of our skincare favorites at the moment.
Emma Hardie is an award-winning British skincare line, and I had heard whisperings of its amazingness for a while from beauty editor friends and co-workers before finally trying this formula from the brand a few weeks ago. Fast-forward and my dry and dehydrated winter complexion is obsessed and saturated with every MVP ingredient your face is probably craving right now: vitamins C and B3 (for hyperpigmentation and strength), red algae extract (to help undo UV damage), and shea butter and grape-seed oil (for hydration).
I love facials, and I love Meghan Markle. So when I received a facial using products from Eminence and promptly discovered that Markle has been a longtime fan, my newfound love for the organic brand was pretty much written in the stars. Word on the street is Markle is a big fan of the Bamboo Firming Fluid ($62), but to truly wake up your complexion, I recommend this fun green mask, which heats up to spark improved circulation and blood flow.
Whenever I’m on the hunt for an epic skincare recommendation, I head straight to Versed’s brand director, Deven Hopp. (Take one look at her perfect skin, and you’ll understand why!) Despite how many beauty insiders are familiar with cruelty-free bath and body line Kayo, we still receive a lot of blank faces whenever we bring it up to non-editors. Deven loves this firming serum, in particular, and uses the caffeine-, witch hazel–, hyaluronic acid–, and coconut oil–spiked formula on her neck and chest for its anti-aging benefits.
K-beauty is no longer a beauty industry secret, and there are more amazing brands and products out there than we know what to do with. Thus, for utmost quality and dependability, the pickiest of skincare-loving editors seem to agree that Peach & Lily offers some of the best Korean-inspired skincare picks you can get your hands on. Even more exciting, the Korean-beauty retailer launched its very own namesake arsenal of formulas last year, and we’ve been impressed with all of its products thus far. This lightweight serum is an expert melding of peach extract, niacinamide, East Asian mountain yam, madecassoside, peptides, and hyaluronic acid.
A first-of-its-kind brand, Virtue Labs still flies under the radar, but we have a hunch it won’t for long. Every hair product from the brand features Alpha Keratin 60ku, which is a pure, whole human protein that not only grants endless good hair days but that also improves your hair’s health in the long-term. Editors keep a bottle of this dry shampoo on hand at all times since it nixes oil, odor, impurities, and sweat in one fell swoop.
Full disclosure: There aren’t that many natural and clean hair brands that actually make exceptional products with nice-feeling, long-lasting results. Playa, however, is leading the pack, and it’s my first recommendation whenever anyone asks. This curl- and wave-enhancing spray is an industry favorite and features key natural ingredients for keeping hair compliment-worthy and healthy. For instance, the sea salt the brand uses is harvested in Southern California, and it contains beta-carotene, a UV protectant that protects your vulnerable scalp and strands from environment-induced damage. Oh, and it smells really, really good.
Surprise! Another amazing indie beauty brand from Australia. Technically, Grown Alchemist is a skincare brand, but since our hair is an extension of our skin and scalp, the brand fittingly has lust-worthy offerings for hair as well. A co-worker was actually the first person to introduce me to the brand, and she personally swears by its collection of shampoos and conditioners. For her thick and curly hair, she loves the Nourishing Shampoo and Conditioner, which lend shine and health and smell dreamy (think damask rose, black pepper, and sage) to boot.
I’ve sworn by the hair-healing prowess of Unite for years (ever since half of my hair was bleached off the top of my head), and I have yet to meet a celebrity colorist or hairstylist in L.A. who doesn’t have just as much love for the brand. It has products to suit every hair color, type, and texture. For blondes, the new leave-in treatment not only brightens and reduces brassiness, but it’s also one of the only purple formulas to strengthen and repair. (FYI: Most purple shampoos and conditioners seriously dry out your hair.) . For curly-haired girls, the brand’s Boing Defining Curl Cream ($28) delivers ultimate definition and shine, and those with any texture or thickness will love the Texturiza Spray ($32). It encourages weightless, buildable volume that will last for hours—not just for three minutes post-spritz.
Created by Riawna Capri and Nikki Lee (ahem, hair gurus to the stars and the co-owners of Nine Zero One Salon in Los Angeles), In Common is a new luxury hair line that focuses on inclusivity, hair health, and an authentic, feel-good brand ethos. The brand’s first and only product (so far) is touted as a universal elixir that’s both reparative and preventative in nature, making the styling process so much less of a pain. You can use it on dry or damp hair, and it’s equally fabulous for all hair types and textures.
We all know hair doesn’t only grow on top of our heads, and regardless of your styling MO down under, lesser-known (but very chic) beauty brand Fur totally has your, um, back. When sisters Emily and Laura Schubert and their friend Lillian Tung noticed a gap in the market for products catering to pubic hair, they decided to launch Fur, which is the first brand to launch an all-natural collection of hair products specifically tailored to pubic hair and skin, legs, chests, beards, and brows. We die over the luxurious packaging and formulas.
If you peeked into the hair product collection of any beauty editor on either coast, I guarantee you’d find at least one, but likely more, formula from luxe French haircare brand Leonor Greyl. Not only is the line a dream when it comes to scent and experience, but it also creates the shine and style of our dreams. Plus, the story behind the brand is pretty fascinating. French-born Leonor Greyl (a hair fanatic) and her husband (a botanist) co-founded the environmentally friendly brand back in 1968 before natural beauty products were even really a thing. This oil is a cult favorite and the perfect first investment piece.
Next up, 28 Holy-Grail Skincare Products That Cost Less Than $5 Per Wear
This article was originally published at an earlier date and has since been updated by Isiah Magsino.