Roughly one month ago, I got the opportunity of a lifetime and attended Cosmoprof North America (CPNA), the single largest business-to-business beauty trade show in all the Americas. The show spans a full three days, is held annually in Las Vegas's Mandalay Bay Convention Center, and 2018 alone hosted an incredible 40,000 attendees and a record-breaking 1415 exhibitors from 56 different countries. Never before have I squeezed in so many steps in so little time—the show floor space is 311,150 square feet, after all—or so many cups of coffee. (Sky-high caffeine levels are key for survival.) Essentially, I speed-dated hundreds of the most promising indie beauty brands in the industry—and discovered twice as many products—from hair and skincare to makeup and nail polish.
By far, CPNA was one of the most memorable experiences I've had as an editor in the industry thus far, and I returned to L.A. with just short of a gazillion new brands and products swirling around in my head—exciting, yes, but also a bit overwhelming. So many products, so little time to test and try! Because honestly, I had enough to bid me a lifetime's worth of experimentation. Obviously, I wanted to share everything as soon as possible, but to be honest, there was a lot of sifting to do before I could report on the brands and products I truly felt most excited about. So hundreds (and I mean that literally, not dramatically) of products and testing hours later, I've finally come up with a list of my ride-or-dies—the fresh, under-the-radar items that go above and beyond in packaging, innovation, whimsy, experience, and results. Curious for a glimpse? Keep reading for the 17 best indie beauty products I discovered at Cosmoprof in 2018.
All right, so before you get overly excited, this Hannibal Lecter–looking mask isn't actually available yet in the United States. That being said, I want you to know about it for when it is (still TBD) and in the off chance you find yourself in Korea for a K-beauty-inspired shopping spree anytime soon. This epic lifting mask is infused with lotus and camelia (for antioxidants and hydration) and perfect for wearing on the jaw and chin area while you Netflix- or Hulu-binge to your heart's content.
We have masks for virtually every other body part (including our boobs!), so honestly, why not our bums as well? Not only was I enamored with Bawdy's founder, Sylwia Wiesenberg (such a badass spark plug), but I was also hopelessly entranced by the array of butt masks she presented. Like most sheet masks, you simply apply them to dry, clean skin, wait 10 to 15 minutes, and voilà! Plus, the ingredients are 100% natural and clean.
FYI: Every one of the products within the Marin Bee family is wonderful, but after a lot of testing and mind-changing, I've decided the Honey Polish is officially my number one. (Probably because my hands, elbows, and feet are hideously dry 360 days a year.) The potion is formulated with soothing aloe vera, exfoliating salt, and all-around beautifying California wildflower honey for a silky head-to-toe finish.
After reading our contributing editor Kaitlyn McLintock's skin-changing review of JKosmmune's beta-glucan serum, I couldn't wait to get my hands on it at Cosmoprof. And not surprisingly, it didn't let me down (never has a serum left my skin so incredibly smooth and silky). It's inspired by Korean beauty, and in addition to making your hands rival the softness of your favorite silk pillowcase (but really), it also offers intense hydration, anti-aging, firming, and brightening prowess. And if you dare, pair it with the brand's luscious Toner ($32) as well.
I'm a sucker for anything that will gift me with an otherworldly glow, and these gleaming tubes of radiance from Melanie Mills go above and beyond on that front. (If I had to choose, it's the product discovery I'm most excited about post-CPNA.) Born on the sparkling set of Dancing With the Stars (Mills worked on set for 13 seasons as a makeup artist), it stands up to the sky-high standards of shimmying celebrities and dancers—transfer-resistant, skin-evening, blurring, and hydrating. Plus, there are seven gorgeous, universally flattering shades to choose from.
You've likely seen these convenient, cheeky makeup bags in the aisles of Nordstrom and Sephora, but just in case you haven't, let me introduce you. Not only is the not-so-common square shape perfect for storing your makeup and long, oddly shaped brushes, but the bags were also created by makeup artist and professional educator Angelique Velez to celebrate women's love for makeup with an empowering and soul-invigorating spirit. (I love the fun jelly texture of this clutch in particular, which is super easy to wipe clean.)
It's almost impossible to choose a favorite mask from K-beauty-inspired brand Oh K! (there are just so many—from sheets to targeted to hydrogels to mix-your-own), but this cherry- and violet-infused lip mask was a standout for me. Not only is it like a living Korean adaptation of Katy Perry's infamous lyric, but it also leaves lips soft, plush, and hydrated. Plus, the masks are shaped like lips, which gives it an extra-fun feel if you have a thing for playful beauty products like I do.
Okay, these aren't your grandma's hot rollers. Instead, they make up the chicest hair tool I've seen as of late, and they deliver the prettiest of curls. Supremely innovative and unique, the set utilizes a patented heating mechanism in which it only takes eight seconds for the velvety rollers to reach their optimum (and safe!) temperatures using induction heat technology.
Truth be told, I haven't loved a body butter this much since I was in middle school. And for the record, this skin-transforming one from Pistaché Skincare is so much better than the oily glitter-spiked ones I paired with my rhinestone-studded camis and gaucho pants. Smartly formulated with pistachio oil, it smells absolutely heavenly. The formula is also anchored with metabolism-boosting blue-green algae, which helps the skin naturally maintain its glow and elasticity. (Plus, it's what gives the butter it's all natural pistachio-inspired hue.)
If you're worried this shimmering oil will feel too reminiscent of your '90s roll-on glitter habit, don't be. It's so unbeatably gorgeous. It's made with superior ingredients like argan and coconut oils, mica, and a feathery mixture of floral essences, and sweeps skin in a candlelit veil of subtle luminosity and hydration. Plus, it's super lightweight and doesn't feel overly sticky or oily.
If you have a flair for beauty box subscriptions, prepare yourself. British Beauty Box comes to your door every three months and will include five full-size luxury beauty products currently beloved across the pond. Plus, the brand offers handy payment options ($33 monthly, $65 quarterly, or $230 annually), which allows some flexibility depending on how your beauty budget rolls out each month.
Even if you hate the unicorn trend, you're guaranteed to love this whimsical compact blow-dryer from Aria Beauty. First of all, the contents of your carry-on have never looked more adorable. Second, it's one of the smallest blow-dryers I've ever laid eyes on (even among the compact variety) and boasts hair-improving negative ions and a powerful 1200-watt dual voltage. Trust us, you'll reach for it even when you're not traveling.
Mood nail polish will always have a special place in my heart, but for a more mature take on the trend, LeChat does it best. In preparation for the imposing doom of winter (was that dramatic enough?), I've been painting the brand's Dare to Wear Mood Nail Polish in A Bit Chilly across my tips. It's temperature-activated and will fluctuate hues of a light aqua blue to a bolder shade of denim. Both are flattering and unexpected shades for fall, which I love.
An exciting hair product from across the pond, My Haircare (especially its Infuse My Colour line) offers the beautifully packaged, expertly formulated, color-depositing and -extending shampoos of your dreams. (So many have a tacky factor.) Choose from Ruby, Copper, Gold, Cobalt, or Platinum (my pick!) for a vegan, biodegradable color refresh that's as easy as a quick suds-up in the shower.
If someone offered to envelop your distressed strands and scalp in hydrolyzed silk, avocado oil, jojoba seed oil, honey extract, and royal jelly extract, would you argue? Probably not. And this game-changing hair mask does just that. I've been loving this iteration for color-treated hair, but the brand also offers a handy alternative for natural hair.
We already told you all about the benefits of black seed oil, but to recap, it's chock-full of antioxidants, backed by ancient Egyptian beauty rituals, and perhaps most importantly, one of Kim Kardashian West's most notable skincare secrets. This pure elixir from Nigella Therapy is beautifully packaged and features 100% pure Egyptian black seed oil—and 0% funny business.
I'm not a huge fan of bath salts, but I'm a huge fan of this dreamy collection from Laguna Herbals—especially Love, a deliciously organic concoction of Epsom Salt, pink mineral salt, lavender, and ylang-ylang. Doesn't sound like your bath time cup of tea? Opt for one of the brand's three other options: Dream, Tranquil, or Happiness.