20 Bold Indie Beauty Predictions For 2018

This year has been monumental for indie beauty. Emerging brands siphoned market share from behemoth beauty conglomerates. Retailers across the spectrum from department stores to discounters pounced on the upstart bandwagon. Mergers and acquisitions soared with brands such as Vital Proteins, Hum Nutrition, Hourglass Cosmetics, Maison Francis Kurkdjian, True Botanicals, Pai Skincare, Wander Beauty, Drunk Elephant and Tula Skincare receiving injections of capital or getting bought. Amazon presented a platform to unknown brands that otherwise wouldn’t find avid customers, and the strength of social media influencers to christen the next big beauty brands was unparalleled.

If next year wants compete with the excitement of this year, it had better start with a bang. We’re not expecting it to be dull and certainly believe we’ll have plenty to write about when 2018 rolls around. Here are 20 predictions of the dynamics that will be shaping our coverage and the indie beauty segment in the months ahead.

The Goddess will make her presence felt.

After a chaotic 2017, Elena Severin, director of retail and a buyer at The Detox Market, forecasts beauty shoppers will seek calm, peace and a sense of spirituality in 2018. She points to Pursoma’s After The Class Post Workout Bath that incorporates an intention stone as a surprise in every package as indicative of the sorts of products infused with higher meaning that will draw shoppers. Chloe Nordlander, owner of the shop RadRitual, says, “Especially now in the time that we are living in, a lot of people are becoming more conscious and are turning to spiritualty and less tangible ways of healing and feeling better. We’ve seen a big crossover in our space between beauty and spirituality, and there’s a lot of interest.”

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Goliath will cozy up to David.

“Brands in complementary industries are identifying indie brands and are thinking, ‘Wow, we share the same values. Let’s do a collaboration, and it will be win-win.’ It expands the audience reach in an organic way, and in a way that indie beauty brands wouldn’t be able to tap into on their own,” says Rachel Roberts, founder of Oyl + Water. “It could be an indie beauty brand that’s white labeling for a celebrity or influencer, but it’s not just happening with influencers. We are also looking at major legacy brands that are doing these collaborations with indie brands. The smart indie brands are making that happen. They are reaching out to legacy brands and saying, ‘We want to do something that’s exclusive for you.’”

The indie beauty ecosystem will blossom.

“We see more and more service providers, agencies and firms being formed specifically to help indie brands thrive in areas like marketing, distribution, design, branding, PR. It was very hard for small brands to find quality services in the past. Bigger agencies were time and cost prohibitive,” says Mia Bell, founder and CEO of OPAL Avenue. “Now, indie brands have options and are able to work with passionate individuals who are happy to devote their talent and skills to their brand, and really elevate them.” New firms servicing indie beauty brands include Palm, Meet Jointly, ShopThat, Cliq and Ritual Rebellion.

The local ingredient movement won’t just be about food.

Beauty brands are going local in their quests for ingredients. Beargrass, for example, uses goldenrod from its native Kentucky. Norwegian brand Eleni & Chris sources cloudberry and glacier water in Scandinavia. Jillian Wright, co-founder of Indie Beauty Expo, says, “Brands that use local ingredients are the unsung heroes in the beauty industry. Not only are they reducing their carbon footprint in production, but they are supporting local farmers and suppliers, which ultimately supports the local economy and encourages sustainability.”

Meet jointly

Women founders will band together to confront obstacles impeding their professional lives.

Lemon Laine’s recent Nashville entrepreneur event and the rise of Beauty Mastermind, a Northern California assemblage dedicated to women sharing their experiences at beauty enterprises, are signs of an increasing eagerness for solidarity among beauty businesswomen. “Finding a group of women who understand what it’s like to be an entrepreneur has helped keep me going. When I first started Lovelyloot, I didn’t have any friends with a side hustle or who had their own business,” says Ida Linden, founder of Lovelyloot and a member of Beauty Mastermind. “Part of this journey has been making an entirely new group of friends, but our Mastermind is much more than that. Our goal is help each other work smarter, not harder. We do everything from bounce ideas off one another, share resources, make sure we all know about opportunities and deadlines, give honest feedback, and yes, talk each other off the ledge. We exist to bring each other up, and that support has been invaluable.”

Indie beauty will infiltrate the brick-and-mortar landscape from coffee shops to juice bars and acupuncture places to aerial yoga studios.

“We wouldn’t have seen this 10 years ago. Coffee shops wouldn’t have put in La Mer or L’Oréal,” says Roberts. “There’s something very accessible about indie beauty, and there’s a cool factor that goes hand-in-hand with the artisan movement. When you’re really big and corporate, you can’t play on that scale. It doesn’t make sense to go small. But, when you are indie, you can connect with small brick-and-mortars, and it feels more personal.”

Beauty brands will respond to consumers craving breaks from their iPhones.

“The aspect of self-care that seems vital to people is taking time and space away from technology,” says Shannon Gervois Vaughn, founder of Pursoma, which markets a Digital Detox Bath specifically to encourage people to part with their phones. “If you get in a bathtub that’s so hot that you can’t use your phone and text, you have to detox. It’s a way to disconnect. If people buy this product, they know they need to digitally disconnect. They’re burnt out. The problem with the cellphone is that it does so many different things on top of emails and texts. You need to find some balance.”

An anti-Insta backlash to over-the-top Kardashian makeup will mount.

“I predict a movement toward more effortless makeup looks. ‘Instagram’ makeup has had its time, but I think many women are realizing that they can maximize their best features without having to layer on multiple products over the course of 20-plus minutes,” says Rachel Anise, the digital influencer better known as the Beauty Professor. “This shift will result in a reduction in heavy contour (just use a dash of bronzer), overly opaque matte lips (try a lush cream formula instead), and false lashes (mascara has come a long way), and a gravitation toward glowing skin, translucent and shiny lips, and natural eye looks that can be achieved in seconds rather than minutes.”

Small beauty brands will begin to seriously ponder their roles in the world of voice.

“While shopping is not yet the primary use case, L2 predicts that voice-based commerce will become a significant sales channel in the future, particularly in categories that require frequent product replenishment such as CPG and Household Cleaning,” reads an L2 report on the subject of voice. For 2017, the data insights firm details, “The number of Americans using a voice assistant device is forecast to increase 129% this year to 36 million, with Amazon capturing a 70% share of the market.” By 2020, voice-controlled smart speakers are expected to penetrate more than half of American households.

While tired mall retailers and department stores struggle, small beauty and wellness stores will become coveted destinations for social interactions.

“People want connection,” says Nordlander. “Personally, I have found that I do much more sales in-person in the physical space than online. People just seem to want that person-to-person experience, and they want to try things and test them out, and know who their hard-earned money is going to.”

Clean makeup brands will endeavor to emulate Fenty’s extensive complexion shade range.

“Offering a vast range of foundation shades has always been central to our mission as we believe everyone should have a clean beauty option. We’ve spoken quite a bit internally about how Fenty has certainly done tremendous things to drive this conversation in a very mainstream and powerful way,” says Morgan Krause, marketing director at Au Naturale Cosmetics. “As far as what that will do to the trend forecast in 2018, hopefully all makeup lines strive to be just as inclusive as Fenty has been. We will certainly continue to strive for maximal inclusivity in the clean space.”

Your colleague may roll her eyes at your ashwagandha. Products that mingle beauty and wellness will wind their ways from beauty shops to workplaces as they become pervasive.

“The whole category of wellness and beauty from within is definitely not going anywhere, and it’s really exciting to see the integration of wellness brands into our daily beauty regimen. Drinking your Beauty Dust by Moon Juice or your Ashwagandha by Sun Potion in the morning as you get ready for the day is now becoming as intuitive as applying your sunscreen,” says Severin. “Beauty mirrors wellness, and wellness starts from within.”

Indie beauty companies will be hyper focused on customers, especially top customers who will be treated akin to influencers for their abilities to spread the word about products.

“We’ll see brands going deeper are personalized and prestigious loyalty programs and more experiential marketing like popups and ticketed events. Because beauty is so saturated and we’re all generally overwhelmed with choice, brands are realizing they must connect intimately with the customer, and that only happens through personalized experience and an authentic, thoughtful exchange,” says Roberts. Shel Pink, founder of SpaRitual, is keen on throwing small events for regular customers and fans to promote her book Slow Beauty: Rituals and Recipes to Nourish the Body and Feed the Soul. “I just want to connect with people,” she says. “It can be really fun to do the whole online thing and get likes, and see what people are commenting about, but I like spending time with people and having deeper conversations and asking about what are their needs, and how they are feeling.”

The word natural will get knocked out of the beauty vocabulary.

The word natural has been muddled to the point of obfuscation. To compete in the crowded green beauty environment, brands will have to come up with better messaging. The Future Laboratory prophesizes that, “Next year, ‘zero-irritants’ will become the new standard in natural beauty.” The trend forecasting agency cites Peet Rivko and Marie Veronique as brands leading the anti-irritant charge. But clean brands will zero on other terms to broadcast their differences as well such as sustainable, price and fragrance ingredient transparent, locally-sourced and fresh.

Patches will compete with sheet masks for beauty consumers’ attention.

Skin patches delivering nutrients with beauty benefits are headed to store aisles. “We think it’s the quickest way to get a nutrient,” says Leilah Mundt, founder and CEO of Crème Collective. Therese Clark, partner and chief marketing officer at Crème Collective, adds, “While they have been around since the 1970s in pharmaceuticals, I’m seeing a resurgence of them, and they are aesthetically cooler. It’s not a patch you want to hide. It’s a patch you want to show people like the sheet mask.”

Following a year in which Ulta reigned over beauty retailing, Riley Rose will ascend in 2018 and demonstrate the power of apparel retailers when they make beauty more than merely side notes to their mainstay clothing businesses.

“What Riley Rose did is brilliant because it’s a store created for millennials, but makes it exciting for older women to shop, too,” says Galit Strugano Wigdor, founder and creative director of Girlactik. “There’s such a vibrancy and great energy when you walk into the store. The store was done perfectly.” Referring to the retail segment more broadly, Sonia Summers, founder and CEO of Beauty Barrage, declares, “Retailers that are in it to win it will continue to blur the lines by making the shopping experience more entertainment focused so they can keep customers engaged and shopping.”

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The controversy over palm oil will grow to a crescendo in 2018.

“People are just becoming aware of it,” says Zofia Wolicki, chief operating officer of palm oil-free Hand in Hand. “I don’t think it’s going to change overnight, but it is one of these things that is starting to pick up. It’s in everything. Any packaged good you look at has palm oil in it, even we have a hard time avoiding it. We are constantly checking our labels. There are ways it hides in stuff. We are making sure anything used during the process of getting our ingredients is not using a derivative of palm oil. It’s scary when you really look at what is happening with it in terms of the rain forest devastation and global warming.”

Pinning down leading beauty trends will be difficult as cosmetics product portfolios diversify to cater to customers desiring a multitude of looks.

“In the past few years, we have seen trends take hold and stay that way for about a year. That may change. I think that people are getting sick of all looking the same. I think what indie beauty brands are going to do is bring to the table lots of different trends at the same time,” says Megan Cox, founder of Amalie. “With lip gloss, there’s going to be metallic and high-sheen gloss at the same time as velvety mattes. We are going to see all the finishes.”

The natural deodorant deluge won’t decelerate as aluminum-free odor-busting options become simultaneously narrow and wide.

Baking soda-free natural deodorant choices are poised to flood personal care departments as are deodorants suited to skin types and concerns. Earth Mama Organics deodorants tailored to pregnant or breastfeeding women and those who suffer from sensitive are illustrative of stench-eliminating products that accommodate specific consumer needs. “Natural deodorants are going to blow up even more,” surmises Cassy Burnside, founder of Fatco. “As more natural options become available, stores like Target will completely change that category. If you walk down the deodorant aisle today, the shelf is still full of P&G brands. I see room for a lot of natural deodorant growth.”

Brands will urge women to pare down their personal care routines and stick to the most impactful products.

Women slather as many as 16 products on their faces before they walk out of the door in the morning. Are all those products worthwhile? Brands are increasingly telling consumers they’re not worth the time, energy and expense. The brand Ayuna, for instance, advocates a concept it calls topical fasting. “People are adding more ingredients, more products, and it’s leading to overstimulation and unbalance. The current approach isn’t right,” says Isabel Ramos, co-founder and chief scientific officer at Ayuna. “What we should be doing is being conscious of our skin and providing just what the skin needs to reset its regeneration system.”