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How indie beauty brands are changing the rules in the world of beauty and wellness

18th September 2019 | Daniel Appleton

How indie beauty brands are changing the rules in the world of beauty and wellness

The world of beauty was long ruled over by behemoths such as Estee Lauder, COTY, Proctor & Gamble, Johnson and Johnson and Unilever; brands that dominated store-space and smiled out from glossy magazines in every corner of the globe

However, the rule of these giants has been toppled by a revolution undertaken by the indie beauty brands of the modern age, with Beauty Independent commenting that “…mass retailers have trimmed legacy brands’ store allotments to make room for niche lines.”

The indie beauty takeover has been a long time coming, with Marc Rey, the President & CEO of Shiseido Americas, commenting that traditional makeup was down 1.3% in 2016, while independent brands were up 42.7%. A staggering increase that signalled a critical shift in the market. 

So why exactly is it that indie beauty brands are moving to the forefront of the beauty market? 

President and CEO of QVC, Mike George, states that there are four reasons for the changes – an erosion of trust in society, competitors aiming to be the cheapest, a lack of authenticity in larger brands and altering sources of influence. 

All of these reasons have given indie beauty brands the opportunity to “change the rules”, and forge a path of their own in the once-thought saturated beauty and wellness market. 

An erosion of trust in society

Consumer trust in big brands is at an all-time low. Scandals, animal testing, and out-of-touch leadership of leading beauty and wellness companies have all added to a general feeling of mistrust.

A study by Gallup revealed that 70% of Americans possess “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in small business, more than treble the confidence rating for big business, which lags behind at 21%. 

Indie brands have brought trust back into the beauty world, with smaller and more accountable organisational structures. Often the owners of the brands are well known within local communities, and act as influencers and ambassadors for their own products over social media.

An example of this can be seen in the co-founders of indie brand Milk Makeup, who regularly take to their personal accounts to promote the brand. This communication with the consumer allows the brand to appear more friendly, open and honest. 

Indie beauty brands also tend to stock a more natural and ethical offering, essential for a market where, as Amy Regan of Skinfix notes: “Seventy-three percent of millennials say they want natural skincare products.”  

Competition to be the cheapest

A “race to the bottom” between huge beauty brands has meant a squeeze on prices that have pushed both quality, and consumer opinion, to its lowest level in years.

The competition to be the cheapest has devalued the offering of huge beauty brands and turned consumer heads towards the indie beauty market where prices can be reasonable, yet maintain a luxury feel with quality ingredients and ethical origins. 

The fact is that people are willing to pay (within reason) for beauty and wellness products, as long as quality is always at the forefront. 

There is also a need among modern consumers for transparency over prices, and understanding precisely what their money is paying for. Beauty Pie, an indie beauty brand that prides itself on its “no-frills” chic aesthetic, claims to offer products with similar formulations to luxury beauty products, without the hefty price tag. On their website, they boast that “Members have access to luxury products, from the world’s leading beauty labs, but can buy up to 5X MORE for their money!”

Beauty Pie goes so far as to break down the cost of products, with The Guardian commenting “For example, the price of a (very nice) £20 lipstick plummets to £2.24: £1.61 on product and packaging, 8p on safety and testing, 17p on warehousing, plus VAT.”

This transparency with pricing fosters a greater level of trust between the brand and consumer, while also highlighting the excessive charges of the luxury beauty brands. 

A lack of authenticity in larger brands

The larger the structure of a beauty and wellness business, the slower the brand is likely to respond to shifts in beauty trends and ride the waves of changes in consumer culture. 

Indie brands have smaller structures that allow them to be agile and sensitive to changes that larger brands will struggle to keep up with. Alicia Yoon, founder of Peach & Lily, a K-Beauty focused indie brand agrees, as she said: “Indie brands are often able to innovate quickly – there are fewer processes than in larger companies—[allowing them to] create products that catch consumers’ eyes,” This enables indie brands to appear more authentically linked to the wants and needs of their audiences. 

The messaging of larger brands has lost its sheen with the modern audience. Often sickly-sweet, over stylised and excessively edited, the communications of large beauty corporations can come across as disingenuous. 

This lack of authenticity is especially stark when compared to the marketing efforts of indie beauty brands that often harnesses the power of social media, using “real people” as their ambassadors. 

Altering sources of influence

The success of indie brands has much to do with their social media presence, through which they have garnered cult audiences, and created real communities of dedicated users. 

Social media opened the door to the use of “influencers” as a method of advertising. Indie beauty brands have made good use of influencer opportunities, giving their product exposure in already-established social communities through “real people” promoting, using and recommending their products.  

Alicia Yoon, the founder of Peach & Lily, commented: “We find our community wanting to have a dialogue with us and with each other…” Yoon added, “Picking a brand these days feels a little bit like choosing friends, and a lot (of) indie brands are so great at providing that warmth and connection.”

Social media gave indie beauty brands an opportunity that had never before existed – putting their products in front of the masses without a bottomless advertising budget. This has not only provided a window for indie brands but also “empowered” shoppers by allowing them to discover new brands and products, leading to shifts in brand loyalty and consumer needs in the beauty and wellness market. 

All of the reasons above have allowed indie beauty brands to bend, change and break the rules of the industry, welcoming an exciting time for the industry. 


Goodall Brazier is internationally recognised as a specialist talent management service, with an in-depth understanding of the beauty and wellness sector. 

We deal with talent management throughout the industry, and are highly experienced with providing indie beauty brands with second-to-none talent that will drive success within your brand. 

To fully take advantage of the emerging opportunities for indie beauty brands, it is essential to have an effective and strategic talent management strategy in place so that you have the right talent to steer your company to success. 

Goodall Brazier’s specialist recruiters can help your business with this, and are renowned for providing industry-leading talent capable of driving real organisational improvement. For more information, contact us today.