The Business of Beauty Haul of Fame: A Vibe Check for Sustainable Brands


Welcome back to Haul of Fame, the weekly beauty roundup of new products, new ideas and a very popular face wash that’s now 70 percent off.

But first,

It’s been a hard week for the cool girls. Regenerative fashion champion Mara Hoffman announced the end of her label on May 19, a particular blow since her designs were both responsible and exciting. Two days later, Susie Cave of The Vampire’s Wife waved the white flag, too, even though her sylph-y gowns were on thousands of mood boards. Mary Benson, a super-cool independent label in London, is shuttering her core collection after this season, too, citing “impossible” financial constraints to keep it afloat along with her thrumming custom atelier.

Losing independent, sustainably-minded fashion brands is a bummer for shoppers, and an exhausting signal flare that affordable, ethical and independent clothing brands need more help than current systems provide. It also made me wonder if affordable, ethical and independent beauty brands feel like they’re in the same boat.

So I called one of the OGs of cool girl beauty, Rachel Budde, for a state of the union. Budde is an herbalist and the founder of Fat and the Moon, a 13-year-old brand that’s both completely independent and fiercely picky about its ingredients. FATM is sold mostly in tiny independent apothecaries, but fans like Kristen Bell and the Vogue girls have helped move its scented balms and berry lip stains into the organic cotton tote bags of people who love Dôen.

“We’re still profitable!” Budde confirmed from her office in Nevada City, California. “But the last few years have been super challenging. We’re hanging on, though.” Budde says the most challenging thing for a small business right now is the “schizophrenic” nature of current financial forecasts. “The numbers say the economy is very good,” she explained. “But everything is more expensive for us to buy, to package, to ship. Inflation is real for us as a business, and for customers, too. The disconnect makes it hard for people to decide if they should invest in little extra things like beauty, or if they should save. People are making really hard choices.”

As a brand committed to zero-waste practices and organic ingredients, Budde says greenwashing has also become a massive challenge. “Making products with really good, high quality ingredients hasn’t become harder,” she said. “But greenwashing is getting more sophisticated. We’re coming up against people calling themselves ‘clean,’ and I’m like, ‘Maybe that ingredient is not going to kill you, but once it accumulates in the ocean, it’s going to kill everything.’ That’s a bummer. But as I said, we’re still profitable. And I think it’s because people are loyal to products they know will work, and to values they don’t want to cheat on.”

Budde has also witnessed a softening in social media sales conversions, thanks to fickle algorithm changes and an IOS update. Instead of investing more money into online eyeballs, she’s focussing on retail pickup and seeding at yoga studios, massage therapists, and Tai Chi classes. “Strategic micro influencing,” she calls it, noting that when products are present IRL, first-time sales occur faster. “Finding our people has always been a passion of mine,” she said. “Because once people use us and love us, they stick with us.”

Now 41, Budde said, “I’m finally at a stage in my life, and in the business, where I am okay saying, ‘It would be nice to have some help.’ She is considering a variety of pathways to funding, including like-minded angel investors along with crowdfunding programmes for brand fans: “I like that our community might have a stake in the game.” She’s also planning 2024 product expansions into hand soap and hairspray — but for now, that’s it.

“This is totally the herbalist in me talking, but I think the reason some independent beauty brands topple is because their tree has so many leaves, but the roots aren’t strong, like the financial foundation, the core products, the customer trust. I’ve always been a root-first entrepreneur. Make those strong, and all the new products branch out from there.”

What Else Is New


Of course I am obsessed with the Kiehl’s-to-Grown Alchemist swaparoo at Equinox. Though the trauma of exchanging one fancy body wash for another elicits the tiniest of sad violins from me, I do find the online uproar fascinating — and a nice example of how beauty seeding can turn into an identity-building exercise for brands and facilities alike. (Not gonna say “I told you so,” but… uh… see here.) On May 23, Kiehl’s announced it was entering the Amazon Premium Beauty Store, which certainly gives them a wider reach than a luxury gym chain. Meanwhile, the memes alone are amazing.

Beekman 1802 debuted a new sunscreen, called Hello Sunshine SPF 50, on May 19. It promises to “hydrate like a moisturiser” and blends into the skin with no weird white streaks during its brand video tutorial. IT Cosmetics launched its own Hello Sunshine SPF 50 in April, which also comes in a cheery white and yellow tube. Reese Witherspoon: How do you feel about all of this?

If you’d rather get your sun protection with some star power, Scarlett Johansson’s brand, The Outset, debuted a Hydrasheer Mineral Sunscreen on May 22. The launch coincides with The Outset’s first-ever pop-up shop at The Grove in Los Angeles from May 24 to Jun. 19. It includes a “gentle skincare clinic,” which sounds really lovely.

Meanwhile, La Roche Posay has popped up at Target, which is excellent news if you love its matte face moisturiser.

This week, Nordstorm welcomed two independent brands founded by women of colour: Dune Suncare, the surfer-tested SPF range with a melt-y gel texture, and Wild Elements, a body care range rooted in hydroponic ingredients and refillable packaging. Dune is the brainchild of former DJ and fashion publicist Mei Kwok, while Wild Elements was created by Nikki Eslami, the founder of Bellami hair extensions who’s now on Rare Beauty’s board of directors. Full disclosure, Mei and I were once neighbours, and several years ago, I worked with Wild Elements on an editorial project to help spotlight female climate activists. But the Nordstrom thing is all them. Like, I didn’t even know it was happening until I saw it on Instagram.

On May 21, Glo Skin Beauty released its new Acne Collection with four products, including a “microbiome-restoring cream”— a fantastic name. Also on May 21, Good Molecules introduced a Vitamin C Serum with Oryzanol, which is a rice bran extract with UV-absorption properties. Want to know more about it? Ask Good Molecules on Instagram, where their social media manager isn’t afraid to get science-y with their 617k followers.


Chanel has co-signed the maroon mascara trend! Their latest Noir Allure release includes decidedly non-noir shades like burnt orange and lilac, along with the bright burgundy shade enjoyed by Millie Bobby Brown. Props to runway makeup artist Diane Kendal, who created the first must-have maroon mascara for MAC way back in 2017.

On May 16, Dior introduced three new Lip Glow Oil colours — lilac, poppy, and golden bronze — along with limited-edition Lip Maximiser Gloss shades Icy Blue, Shimmer Gold, Shimmer Candy and Poppy Coral on their Instagram. The lips at the brand’s April runway show in Brooklyn were blurry and matte, but hey, makeup contains multitudes.

There’s also Karuna’s (much cheaper) Tinted Lip Oil, out May 17. Its formula includes red ginseng root and “vegan hydrolysed collagen,” which feels like a lot for a tiny 4.8 millilitre tube!

Half Magic debuted its own new lip product, called Lip Snuggie, on May 17 — but the brand by “Euphoria” makeup artist Donny Davy swears it’s “not another sheer balm.” Instead, the six nude shades are high pigment formulas that add shine without sacrificing colour.

May 19 brought ColourPop into the convo, with So Juicy Plumping Lip Gloss Balm with Peptides hitting Target. To me, they look a bit like Tarte’s Maracuja Juicy Lip sticks — except their six shades come with a “peppermint cookie flavour.” Cute!

On May 18, I went on an Ulta Beauty spree and saw Eyeko Black Magic liquid liner being sold at the mega-retailer for the first time! Eyeko was one of those IYKYK British brands back in the Gossip Girl 1.0 era. Lisa Eldrige used their brow gel backstage at an Isabel Marant show and Alexa Chung did a collaboration with the line, created by out-on-the-towners Nina and Max Leykind. In 2018, the brand was acquired for a reported $20 million by THG, the firm that also recently purchased Biossance. Eyeko’s website is currently a chaotic mush of “meh” visuals and lukewarm messaging. But seeing its classic formulas on Ulta Beauty’s New Arrivals page feels like a crocus peeking up from the soil. Maybe it’s gonna blossom again. Maybe.

Manasi 7 rolled out a new tangerine shade of their All Over Colour balm on May 20. It comes with a glossy finish and a fairly clean list of ingredients, including almond oil and carnauba wax.

Met Gala makeup debuts are usually not that cool, but when Lana Del Rey is involved, that changes. The singer wore the Ethereal Glow Balm by Ortega Cosmetics on May 6, thanks to her makeup artist Etienne Ortega, who created the brand. The creamy, shimmery highlighter is now available to everybody — it hit shelves on May 21.

If you prefer powder to primer, OneSize Beauty released a new Ultimate Blurring and Setting Powder on May 21. It comes in seven shades, including literal “translucent” for vampire-pale people like me. (Thank you, OneSize, for including The Damned in your activism. Seriously.)

Milk Makeup’s Pore Eclipse Matte Stick hit their website on May 22; it rolls into Sephora May 27. The stick uses “pore-minimising niacinamide, skin-smoothing bakuchiol, and oil-absorbing lentil extract” to keep skin non-shiny and lock on makeup. But if more shine is your thing, LYSS BEAUTY dropped their highlighter sticks, called Aim High (cute), on May 24.

Hair Care

Crown Affair introduced their Texturising Air Dry Mousse on May 21. Its key ingredient is Bolivian pink salt, a rock salt that comes from the volcanic mineral deposits in South America and has to be mined by hand.

Bellami introduced its new ponytail hair extension by stylist Andrew Fitzsimons on May 21 — kind of. Though the swishy attachment is just hitting stores now, it’s actually been available to red carpet circles for about two years, which explains why Jennifer Lopez and Kim Kardashian have already tested it out.

And Finally

I found Florence by Mills $18 cleanser, by my favourite-ever beauty entrepreneur Millie Bobby Brown, for $5 at Marshalls. Naturally I bought it, thrilled. But is a discount “surprise and delight” moment good or bad for a beauty brand? DM me if you’ve got thoughts.

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