Top Indie Makeup Brands

Top Indie Makeup Brands

Hello, beautiful creatures! Today I’m sharing the Top Indie Makeup Brands. I’ve been a lover of indie makeup since 2008, which led me to start my blog and share my indie makeup swatches. Makeup is a hyper-focus for me, and I love playing with and sharing it with you.

Last year I was interviewed by Gayle Guyardo on Bloom TV to discuss indie makeup. I love talking about indie makeup and sharing it with the world!

What is Indie Makeup?

First, let’s take a close look at the word indie. Indie is short for independent. Merriam-Webster defines independent as not subject to control by others, not affiliated with a larger controlling entity, and it gives the example of an independent bookstore.

By the word’s literal definition, an indie brand is a brand that is independently owned, not beholden to a parent company, much like the independent bookstore mentioned. An indie makeup brand controls what it makes, how it makes, and everything about it.

Two Brand Examples

In contrast, a brand like Urban Decay, which L’Oreal owns, is not an indie brand because they are owned by a large conglomerate that controls much of the company. People often hate when L’Oreal and Estee Lauder buy brands, as they tend to dilute them and remove anything that makes them stand out, and the brand loses its je ne sais quoi or edge. 

A brand like Danessa Myricks Beauty, which makeup artist Danessa Myricks owns, is an indie brand because she owns the company and works with a lab to manufacture her products. Danessa is incredibly talented, and her pro makeup artistry products are excellent. Additionally, she treats her staff well.

Handmade Only?

Some people will argue that an indie brand is only handmade. Others will say that an indie brand can’t be sold in mainstream stores such as Ulta or Sephora. If you’re asking me, I will maintain that an indie brand is a brand that is free from outside control. I am not a fan of the purity police, who often state that their definition is the only right one – handmade in someone’s studio.

Some indie brands, such as Fyrinnae, hand press and make all their products in-house with their equipment. Other indie brands, such as Sugarpill, contract with manufacturers to make specific formulas and packaging for their products.

Why Do I Love Indie Makeup Brands?

Indie Makeup Releases

I love indie beauty brands because they typically offer affordable, high-quality products, and I love indie fashion brands because they usually sell high-quality products, many of which you can order custom to your size or specifics. In fact, I especially LOVE bespoke fashion! My gothic couture wedding dress was custom-made just for me. I love buying unique things made by artists.

What about Private Label Brands?

Unfortunately, many brands claiming to be indie are selling private-label formulas that they don’t customize. So while they may be an independent brand, as in not controlled by a parent company, it’s also likely you could buy the same product for a vastly different price from another seller.

As an example, I love teal makeup. Several years ago, I bought what was supposed to be four different teal gel eyeliners from four indie brands for vastly different prices ranging from $4.99 to $19.99. Imagine my surprise and disappointment when I discovered they were all the same gel eyeliner from a private label company.

Transparency and Honesty Matter

I genuinely feel that brands selling a non-unique private label formula from a manufacturer like LadyburdAliexpress, or Alibaba need to be very clear about it. Many people who buy indie are doing so to support independent artists and do not want to purchase private label that lacks creativity and may lack quality.

I do not feel that ‘brands’ that pick eyeshadows and packaging out of a catalog and have nothing to do with creating the formula belong in the indie makeup brands category. They are akin to MLMs, crypto, NFTs, or junk in my mind. That may sound harsh, but I have been duped by thinking a brand was indie, only to find out it’s a private label, which upset me. I want to support indie brands and artists.

At the end of the day, what I want is transparency and honesty from companies. Don’t pose as an indie company if you’re not.

Where to Buy Indie Makeup

Where do you go to buy indie makeup? Mostly, you buy indie makeup directly from a brand’s website, Etsy or Storenvy. Sometimes an indie beauty brand will be big enough to be carried at a larger store, such as UltaSephoraCamera Ready CosmeticsHot TopicCredo BeautyAmazon, and other retailers.

I highly recommend paying for indie products with PayPal because PayPal has a Buyer’s Protection program. PayPal’s Buyer’s Protection protects you in case of an issue with the company. You can get a refund between PayPal or your credit card company if you do not receive the product you ordered. Contact PayPal or your credit card company if you have issues.

What about Clean, Cruelty-free, or Vegan?

The terms’ clean beauty,’ ‘cruelty-free beauty,’ and ‘vegan beauty’ are not FDA regulated. Clean Beauty is often a marketing gimmick, and cruelty-free generally means not tested on animals, and vegan means not tested on animals and no animal ingredients.

Watch my What’s the Difference Between Cruelty-free and Vegan? video.

My Beauty Conspiracy Theory

In general, I try to avoid clean beauty. Having a concealer go rancid within a month of using it soured me on most clean beauty brands. I like preservatives in my makeup that will make it last. My beauty conspiracy theory is that clean beauty brands popped up to get people to buy makeup more frequently because we’re in late-stage capitalism. Brands feel like they must have growth all the time to please their shareholders.

How to Tell if an Indie Product is Good

What is Indie Makeup

You may need help with where to start with indies and how to tell if an indie product is good. Googling, checking Reddit, and checking YouTube for reviews and swatches are the best way to find top indie makeup brands. Research what people think of the brand, if the brand has good products and customer service. You can also check my blog! I’m currently fixing 600 old posts with formatting and image issues, so if it is an older post and looks strange, that may be why.

For indie makeup products, I recommend looking at the ingredients listing. If the listings say ‘shimmer, pigment, or frost,’ that’s a product to avoid as those are not FDA-approved ingredients. See the current list of FDA-approved color additives for cosmetics here.

As I’m USA-based, this is written with a USA focus when talking about ingredients.

Indie Ingredients Examples

Eyeshadows

Below are a few eyeshadow examples:

  • Silica, CI 77019 (Mica), Caprylic/Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone, Octyldodecanol, Magnesium Stearate, Kaolin, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Copernicia Cerifera Cera (Carnauba Wax), Ethylhexylglycerin. [+/- (May Contain): Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77499, CI 77492, CI 77491 (Iron Oxides), CI 77861 (Tin Oxide), CI 77007 (Ultramarines), CI 77510 (Ferric Ferrocyanide), CI 77288 (Chromium Oxide Greens), CI 77742 (Manganese Violet), CI 77000 (Aluminium)
  • Mica, Titanium Dioxide. May contain Tin Oxide, Silica, UltraMarine Blue, Hydrated Chromium Oxide Green, Iron Oxides, Chromium Green Oxide, ferric ferrocyanide, Ultramarines, Calcium Aluminum Borosilicate, Boron Nitride, Bronze Powder, Copper Powder, Silicon Dioxide, Cetyl Dimethicone, Zinc, and Calcium Sodium Borosilicate.
  • Mica, Silica, Titanium Dioxide

Eyeshadow ingredients in general, should have zinc oxide, magnesium myristate, kaolin clay, coated mica, zinc stearatae, carnauba coated mica, or silica on the list of ingredients helps an eye shadow to have blendability and lasting power.

Blushes

Here are a few blush examples:

  • CI 77019 (Mica), Magnesium Stearate, Kaolin, Zinc Stearate, Dimethicone, Caprylic/ Capric Triglyceride, Dimethicone/ Vinyl Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Phenoxyethanol, Dimethicone Crosspolymer, Silica, Ethylhexylglycerin. [+/- (May Contain): Synthetic Fluorphlogopite, CI 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), CI 77499, CI 77492, CI 77491 (Iron Oxides), CI 778161 (Tin Oxide), CI 77007 (Ultramarines), CI 77288 (Chromium Oxide Greens), CI 77742 (Manganese Violet), CI 42090 (Blue 1 Lake), CI 16035 (Red 40 Lake), CI 19140 (Yellow 5 Lake), CI 15850 (Red 7), CI 45410 (Red 27 Lake)]
  • Sericite Mica, Iron Oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Magnesium Stearate. May contain: Manganese Violet.
  • Mica, Silica, iron oxides, Titanium Dioxide, Tin Oxide

Foundations

Below are a few foundation examples:

  • Mica, Zinc Oxide, May Contain (+/-): C.I. 77891 (Titanium Dioxide), C.I. 77492 (Iron Oxides), C.I. 77491 (Iron Oxides), C.I. 77499 (Iron Oxides)
  • Mica, Titanium Dioxide, Zinc Oxide, Silk Powder, Magnesium Stearate, Boron Nitride, Silica
  • Zinc Oxide, Titanium Dioxide, Mica, Silk Powder, Magnesium Stearate, Boron Nitride, Silica

SPF Claims

It’s very important to note that if a foundation makes an SPF claim, it must be FDA-rated. Companies can’t claim a specific SPF rating from the FDA without doing expensive testing. Normally, only larger brands can afford this testing to make the SPF claim.

Questionable Ingredients

Bismuth Oxychloride is an ingredient I avoid because it can cause irritation and rashes. If an ingredient is not approved for use in the USA, but I see that it is approved for use in the UK, I will typically give it a try. I understand that others may make different decisions.

If you’re a brand and want to see an ingredient approved, you must submit a petition to the FDA. Unfortunately, like many other US government agencies, they’re woefully understaffed and behind on approving ingredients.

Read more about prohibited and restricted ingredients at the FDA website.

What About Talc?

After reading numerous studies about talc, it seems like talc is very dangerous because it is also found next to asbestos deposits. You can read what the FDA has to say about talc. It’s something that I am now doing my best to avoid. Unfortunately, it is in some of my favorite eyeshadow palettes.

And please, do not fall for the fearmongering of sites or apps like Think Dirty, EWG, Yuka, or Clean Beauty. These apps and sites are misleading and make you think everything is toxic when that is simply not the case.

Harassment in the Indie Community

My love of indie makeup was severely diminished for a while because of harassment from some indie brand owners and their sycophants. (See the Dark Side of Indie Beauty) These individuals spent from 2012-2014 daily telling me I was stupid, ugly, and talentless and that I should unalive myself or quit blogging, which was awful. Harassing comments came in through my blog, email, Facebook, and even on Reddit.

Harassment soured me on the indie community for a while. Who wouldn’t want to avoid a community where you were harassed? Thankfully most of those brands have gone out of business. They included Shiro, One Hand Washes the Other, Detrivore, and a few other indie brands, all that I had featured on my blog. Mob mentality is a real thing.

Surprisingly, I’ve received apologies from some of the people who took part in the harassment, and I’ve forgiven them. A genuine apology goes a long way with me. An apology without changed behavior is just a manipulation.

It was incredibly disappointing to see how some of the online indie community made excuses for those brands, such as Shiro, and their bad behavior. Thank goodness I have my therapist, who helped me develop a thicker skin and work through the trauma.

Makeup Brands to Avoid

People will avoid brands for various reasons, and I don’t expect everyone to avoid the same brands I avoid. I personally avoid the following brands because of the way customers have been treated, the way I’ve been treated, bad brand behavior, or product quality: Menagerie Cosmetics (formerly Makeup Monsters, formerly Lynx Cosmetics), Notoriously Morbid, Touch of Glam, Looxi, Shroud Cosmetics, Chaos Makeup, Saucebox Cosmetics, Moonslice Beauty, Jeffree Star, Juvia’s Place, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Ofra, and JD Glow. Glamlite has been added to this list because of their lack of customer service with defective products.

Are There Different Types of Indie Brands?

Are there different types of indie brands? The answer is yes!

Handmade Beauty Brands

There are several 100% handmade indie beauty brands. These brands create their own unique base formula for products, then mix in their micas or dyes to make their items. Many handmade brands create loose eyeshadow, loose blushes, loose foundations, etc. Silk Naturals and Aromaleigh Cosmetics are my two favorite examples of this type of top indie makeup brands. Follow Silk Naturals on Instagram to see behind-the-scenes of creating products!

Unique Formulas and In-House Lab Beauty Brands

The next type of indie is a larger one. This brand has 100% unique formulas and an in-house lab to press and manufacture its products, and it may have fancier packaging than a strictly 100% handmade brand. My favorite examples of this type of indie are Lethal CosmeticsBaby Bat Beauty, and Fyrinnae.

Unique Formulas + Private Labeling

Some brands create 100% unique formulas for their eyeshadows and staple product lines, but they also sell some private-label products. They have gorgeous eyeshadows, but they sell items such as private-label lashes and indelible gel eyeliners as extras and clearly mark them as private label. The last brand I knew of that did this is no longer in business.

Outside Labs + Unique Formulas

The brands I often see the most confusion over are those with 100% unique formulas but use an outside lab to create and fill their products rather than in-house. Some examples of this would be Danessa Myricks BeautySugarpill, and Black Moon Cosmetics. They often have sleek packaging that looks very similar to their mainstream counterparts and are sometimes sold at the same major retailers. Read the interview I conducted with Amy (Shrinkle) of Sugarpill in 2010 to see how hard she works on her brand.

Indie Makeup Releases

Where do you find out about indie makeup releases? I recommend going to Reddit’s Indie Makeup and More to start. Indie Makeup and More, affectionally called IMAM for short, is the most fabulous place to learn about indie makeup releases online. If you’re on Instagram, you can follow The Indie Mood (although they were last active in November 2022), the Indie Makeup Hot Spot, TrendsTopia, and Angelica Nyqvist, who features a lot of indies.

While the vast majority of posts on IMAM are about perfume these days, there are also sales notices for new makeup releases. You will see nails, jewelry, fashion, and more featured there.

Indie Makeup Brands List

Indie Makeup and More

Below are my picks for the top indie makeup brands. My list is not exhaustive, but it is a list of brands that stand out to me. I created this list with extensive research, and it is as accurate as I can make it to the best of my abilities. If any of these companies are not indie – if they are owned/controlled by an outside source like a board of investors or a big conglomerate like L’Oreal – please let me know so I can remove them. Also, some of these companies may make items in multiple categories below, but I listed them in the one for which they are best known. Please let me know if you have any review requests for specific brands!

Top Indie Makeup Brands List

Indie Perfume Brands List

Top Indie Nail Brands List

Be sure to check out the Polish Pickup, a site with new indie nail polish every month!

Indie Skin Care, Bath, & Body Brands List

Top Indie Hair Brands List

Indie Fashion Brands

I know this post is focused on top indie makeup brands but I also wanted to include some top indie fashion brands for you too.

More to See

20 Comments

  1. Thank you for providing this list! Have you tried Prados Beauty? I was surprised not to see them on this list because I hear really great things about the products as well as their brand as a whole. I would be interested in your opinion!

  2. Thank you for putting together this comprehensive list of indie brands to support and others to stay away from.

    I noticed that Lemonhead LA is on your list of brands that you support. This reddit post details that the CEO of Lemonhead LA is a MAGA Trump supporter and there’s a picture of her in “blackface” from 2015. https://www.reddit.com/r/BeautyGuruChatter/comments/gy5nq1/ly_vien_posts_several_pictures_detailing_the_past/
    Did the brand do something to remedy their CEO’s problematic past?

    I didn’t see Ensley Reign (makeup) or LynBDesigns (nails) in your lists, so I was wondering if you had opinions on them/were aware of them.

    Take care!

  3. Hello Thank you for that list it must have been a lot of work to compile 🙂
    you don’t mention Gavissi Beauty, did you try them already? Thank you

  4. I came across your site when looking at cruelty free blogs and brands. You have a cool website and some great content. I have followed you on social media.

  5. Really great post and I found some new companies I haven’t heard of.
    I didn’t know about the Shroud issues until I saw it on your list of brands you don’t purchase from.

    Black Moon…I love their cosmetics, but their customer service has been TERRIBLY lacking for me. I e-mailed them asking if they were restocking fall items multiple times, over the course of a year to see if they’d restock. I missed it when they did (I was subbed to e-mails too), and asked again. I understand they’re a small company but I thought at least one of my questions would be answered.
    No answer on issues I had with two of their lipstick colors not looking anywhere close to the photos on their site. I watched swatch videos too before purchasing and it seems the batch I ordered from was completely off for two colors. No reply. I still love them but that’s been my only bad interaction with a company.

    I wish Sugarpill got more love! I’ve followed them from the beginning after being in livejournal groups with Shrinkle and I don’t see them get as much love anymore!

    Thank you tons for sharing clothing companies too!!!

    1. I’ve had issues waiting on Black Moon to restock Armageddon and Myth! I had to toss around 60 liquid lipsticks that went bad in the past few months and wanted to repurchase Armageddon, Myth and Haunting at the same time, but they’re still not in stock. They did respond to my email though and told me it was supply chain issues for ingredients. It irked me a little bit that they were selling full sets of the Black Metals but didn’t have individual Black Metals I wanted. I’m so sorry you experienced frustrating issues with them too.

      Yes, I still adore Sugarpill! Their capsules are awesome.

  6. WOW! This is phenomenal..so much effort must have gone into this post. Thank you so much .. it will be so helpful for so many of us!

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