The indie beauty market has exploded in recent years, and is credited by analysts as one of the most important segments driving growth in the global multibillion-dollar industry. These niche brands have garnered massive followings among the coveted millennial demographic, and industry giants such as L’Oréal and Estée Lauder have taken note. IT Cosmetics, Becca and Too Faced are just three of the indie brands that have been acquired in recent years, in some cases for sums greater than US$1-billion.
Canada has its own rich heritage of entrepreneurship in the beauty marketplace. Cosmetics pioneer Elizabeth Arden was born in Woodbridge, Ont., in 1878 and M.A.C Cosmetics was founded in downtown Toronto in 1984. Today, there’s no shortage of innovative, independently owned beauty brands that call Canada home, many of which take an all-natural approach to skincare, makeup and even fragrance. Here are five of the dozens of emerging beauty mavens to watch.
Rocky Mountain Soap Company
Rocky Mountain Soap Co. is one of the country’s most widely recognized natural skincare brands, and its home base in Canmore, Alta., is a logical fit. “We’re constantly inspired by the health of the community and the lifestyle here,” says CEO Katrina Birch, who purchased the brand in 2000.
Known for its bars of natural soap made with such ingredients as pumpkin, lavender and lemongrass, Rocky Mountain now produces more than 200 products. Each is made with 10 ingredients or less. A cult-favourite foot butter softens skin via fir-needle, patchouli and carrot tissue oil.
With locations in British Columbia, Alberta and Manitoba and wholesalers across the country, this summer Birch is bringing branded storefronts to Ontario, with three pop-up locations in Toronto. It’s all part of her larger plan to encourage simple steps towards wellness among Canadians. “The goal is healthy skin and a healthy body and I believe that natural ingredients are the best way to achieve both of those.”
Rocky Mountain Soap Co. Foot Butter, $16 though rockymountainsoap.com.
JB Skin Guru
Jennifer Brodeur tends to some of the most famous faces in the world, but you won’t find any selfies with Oprah Winfrey or Michelle Obama, both regular clients, on her Instagram feed. The Montreal-based entrepreneur values discretion as much as she does natural ingredients, and takes a wellness-first approach: she turned her battle with celiac disease into a career in skincare in 1996.
It was a time when her all-natural, local and sustainable approach to business still raised eyebrows. “People thought I was insane,” she says.
Fast forward a few years and her Max+ device, an LED light therapy system she created in 2003, has earned her a place in Winfrey’s personal beauty regime. In 2016, Brodeur launched Peoni, a four-piece line of skincare that’s luxurious, simple and made with organic ingredients.
As with her A-list clients, Brodeur prioritizes an individual’s rituals of self care. “It’s not just the gesture of doing it, but it’s also the feeling of it,” she says. “Even if it takes five minutes, that’s five minutes for you.”
Peoni Le Nettoyant, $60 through jbskinguru.com.
Kaia Naturals founder Mary Futher believes that buying natural products should be easy for everyone. Founded in 2009 in Toronto, the idea behind Kaia Naturals is to take the guesswork out of choosing natural beauty products. “Most consumers are looking for clean beauty alternatives but are not sure what is real or what is hype,” explains Mary Futher, Kaia founder.
As a former product developer, Futher takes pride in being transparent about each ingredient she uses. In 2017, Kaia was one of 10 brands selected to take part in Sephora Accelerate, a month-long program hosted by the LVMH-owned retailer that helps female entrepreneurs build their beauty brands.
Kaia’s product offering is tightly curated, with a focus on luxurious basics that complement the active lifestyle of a modern professional, including Juicy Bamboo Gentle facial cleansing cloths, the Takesumi Detox charcoal deodorants and, its most recent launch, an overnight dry shampoo. “It’s powered by detoxifying charcoal and time-activated ingredients to absorb oil, sweat and odour while you sleep,” Futher says. “It gives two benefits: You save time in the morning and you get the best results.”
Kaia Naturals Takesumi Detox Overnight Dry Shampoo, $32 through kaianaturals.com.
Tips Nail Bar
In a city that seems to have a nail salon on every corner, Toronto’s Tips Nail Bar has a following like no other. On any given day, you’ll find a mix of fashion industry insiders, busy professionals and friends being pampered at its original location on Danforth Avenue.
Tips’s services, which include some very sophisticated nail art, are so in demand that, in April, owner Leeanne Colley added a second location on Dundas Street West. Beyond its reputation for service, Tips’s popularity can be traced back to the environment that Colley has created, one that feels like being welcomed into her home at every visit.
“I’ve been in the industry for over 20 years and I had tired everything from freelancing to working in hair salons to working in nail salons,” she says. “Nothing really felt quite cozy enough or homey enough, so I created that myself.”
Spa manicures start at $40. For more informations, visit tipsnailbar.ca.
Céla by Celine Tadrissi
A few years after opening Hammam Spa in Toronto’s King West neighbourhood in 2005, Celine Tadrissi started having trouble sourcing the perfect products to accompany her massage, body and facial treatments, which pioneered Turkish spa rituals in Canada. She began by ordering raw ingredients and using them on the 700 or so people who visit Hammam every week.
“The issue became that people love them and they weren’t available for sale to take home after a treatment,” Tadrissi says. So three and a half years ago, she started developing Céla.
As a 12th generation Canadian, it was only natural that Tadrissi incorporate our local botanical bounty into Céla. The six Canadian botanical extracts – northern highbush blueberry, blue elderberry, evening-primrose, juniper berry, rosemary and lavender – in Céla’s first batch of five bodycare products bring a luxurious spa feeling to at-home maintenance.
“What I see is so key to a beauty ritual and skincare goes back to the beginning of the Turkish bath treatments, being on a regular schedule of exfoliating, moisturizing,” she says. “It’s a ritual, and that’s what I wanted to create for people to have wherever they are.”
Céla Crème de la Crème the Very Best Cream, $37 through thisiscela.com.