Whether it's sourcing organic sugar cane alcohol from a solar-powered distillery in Oregon to make a perfectly thoughtful perfume (hat tip to Skylar) or late-night, kitchen-mixing to create the perfect nude lipstick for women of color (thank you, Mented), these brands have dug deep into the American spirit to create collections you’ll be proud to own. Here are ten of our new favorites.
Clean and uncomplicated, Context’s genderless skin, color, and hair collections use natural ingredients for results-driven everyday products. While the White Charcoal Detox Mask has earned the New York-based company significant buzz (Byrdie, Vogue, GQ, Sweet and others have sung their praises) and their impeccably curated 5-free nail lacquers have caught our eye, it’s their Hydrating Toner that founder David Arbuthnot can’t live without.
“It has a witch hazel base and doesn't contain any alcohol so it won't dry your skin,” he explains. “It's loaded with soothing natural extracts and antioxidants like green tea, algae, and vitamin C. Our clients are addicted to it.”
As the beauty industry wakes up to the need for inclusive options across all categories, Harvard Business School grads KJ Miller and Amanda E. Johnson were ahead of the curve. They founded Mented, a dreamy, creamy nude lipstick, gloss, and polish collection made in New Jersey, to compliment women of all colors without appearing gray and ashy. As their name implies -- Mented is short for ‘pigmented’ -- the cruelty-free, vegan blends of pink, beige, and brown are lush, saturated, and ever-flattering.
Wondering where to start? “My favorite product is Dope Taupe, one of our original nude lipsticks,” says Johnson. “We literally made it on one of our first attempts at cracking the code of makeup for women of color. I’ll never forget that moment, and I’ll always love this shade.”
Transparency has become the key pillar to clinical aromatherapist Kirsten King’s line of organic serums, creams, and other skin- and hair-loving elixirs. After discovering the alarmingly high-level of impurities and diluents in essential oils on the market, she made the first skin brand to use gas chromatography–mass spectrometry -- a method of breaking down and separating complex chemical mixtures -- to expose any unwanted ingredients standing between your body and her botanical blends. Products ship from Oille’s South Carolina lab, where each carefully mixed concoction is housed in a matte black glass that preserves potency and looks ever-so-hip on your vanity.
Post- and pre-workout beauty collections are a dime a dozen, but what about makeup made for women who just live an active lifestyle? Enter: Sweat. This all-day, all-circumstance mineral makeup line is founded by five former pro and Olympic soccer players.
“Being athletes gives us the ability to formulate products that actually meet this athleisure need,” say founder Courtney Jones, a two-time national champion and former Boston Breakers and Kansas City Blues player.
The buildable powder colors -- which come encapsulated in refillable tap-to-dispense brushes -- are formulated with broad spectrum SPF 30 and are tested to be sweat- and waterproof for up to 80 minutes. And knowing the huff and puff of a tough workout, Sweat’s founders made sure the Los Angeles-made formula included all natural anti-redness agents (like stress- and weather-resistant Rhodiola Rosea and milk thistle, an antioxidant with anti-inflammatory properties) for cardio-to-cocktails flawlessness.
Despite America’s obsession with getting squeaky clean, oil-based cleansers have become a strong contender for our go-to nightly ritual. At the core of their product line, Delaware-based Kindred’s luxurious multi-step oil cleansing systems provide well-balanced routines for newbies trading in their traditional soap or gel. Founded by Frances Thrasher, a Materials Science Engineer, each of the science-researched, oil-based botanical products -- ranging from a night formula and a blemish-banishing cleanser -- is specially formulated to imbibe skin with moisture, rather than stripping it, while gently washing away dirt, pollutants and makeup.
Are these the good witches of beauty? With backgrounds in makeup and fine artistry, L.A.-made Rituel De Fille -- created by sisters Michelle, Caroline, and Katherine Ramos -- relies on the organic magic of color and texture to transform the faces who wear them -- without chemicals or filler. Their Eye Soot, an inky cream-powder pigment made to be smudged across the lid for instant cool girl glamour, is a favorite. While their multi-tasking pitch black cream highlighter (called Eclipse) breaks of the rules of traditional contour, providing a dewy shadow, that adds both darkness and subtle shine. And more practical magic: The products are 99% natural, and 100% cruelty free.
This chic, small-batch fragrance line is the brainchild of former The Honest Company executive, Cat Chen. When the MIT and Wharton grad realized she was dedicated to a “no makeup” makeup routine, she also wanted a fresher, cleaner (read: free of parabens, allergenics, phthalates, etc., while also being cruelty-free and eco-friendly) version of her daily perfume, too. Skylar’s four-scent debut collection features #shelfie-ready watercolor packaging by Los Angeles-based artist Jeff Fontelera and equally attractive direct-to-consumer pricing -- a 1.7oz. bottle will cost you $78.
“We partner with an experienced team of perfumers and artisans in L.A. to handcraft our perfumes the way they used to be made, one bottle at a time with the utmost care and attention to details,” says Chen, who primarily produces out of her home city. “Producing in the U.S. was a very conscientious and clear choice for us. We wanted to maintain close oversight on product quality, minimize lead time, and utilize the abundant talent in this country.”
When celeb colorist Justin Anderson -- who has tinted the tresses of Jennifer Aniston and Emma Roberts -- and entrepreneur Donna Pohland joined forces to create an accessible haircare brand, they started small with innovative salons that taught women to continue their color and care routine at home. Since, their Twin Cities flagship location has expanded to bring their signature products -- including the Root Touch-up Kit and Gloss+ conditioning treatment -- to shelves at beauty retailers nationwide in 2016. Their ubiquitous ACV Hair Rinse uses the cleansing power of apple cider vinegar to pull impurities from your strands and scalp while keeping your color and natural oils intact.
Of course a Californian chemist-cum-painter dreamed up a stylish collection of nourishing organic lip colors. Kosas’ bronzing duos, lipsticks, and blushes are a lived-in palette of natural flushes -- sheer jammy berry hues and blotted brick reds -- making them a favorite of naturalistas and product connoisseurs alike. But it’s their minimalist packaging, moisture-rich, and nut- and fuss-free lipsticks that got them on our must-have list.
“I like to apply lipstick directly to clean, exfoliated lips,” explains founder Sheena Yaitanes about her first and signature product, which is made in Los Angeles. Her method: Start with finger tips. Apply a generous amount to the pad of your middle finger, then pat and wiggle it into the lip. “You can stop there for a more blotted, stained look, or then layer straight from the tube,” she says. But think of that first layer as a primer. “It’s meant to receive the next layer, like the first coat of nail polish or the crumb coat on a cake.”
BEECAUSE founder Jonathan Ledee’s dedication to creating the purest formulations stems from his own health scare, leaving him to seek out an effective alternative to mysterious chemical and toxin-laced store brands. What began as a beeswax-based lip balm has since expanded to face masks, oils, and body scrubs made that are as good to the environment as they are to your body.
Citing his love of honeybees, Ledee is a dedicated advocate of sustainable steps to prevent Colony Collapse Disorder. Think: bee-pocolypse, a phenomenon often attributed to toxic chemicals and pesticides, which also leads to drops in the other crops that are dependent on their pollination. By choosing his ingredients carefully, Ledee hopes he can do his part to help put the hive back on track. “We formulate with raw, unrefined and certified organic ingredients, sourced locally (when possible) and worldwide,” he says. “These lack the residue from pesticides, synthetic chemicals, and fertilizers to reduce the risk of toxins that may contaminate the environment, our bodies and our little bees.”