It’s hard to go wrong with the brands everyone knows and loves. From Covergirl to Bobbi Brown, major beauty companies are constantly launching products that are practically begging to be bought. Editors rave about new products, ads fill magazine pages, and the retail presence is undeniable. But we want to take the chance to introduce you to more understated, underrated lines that offer great and unique items that you won’t find at Duane Reade or Sephora. For those who love something different, here are five of our favorite beauty underdog must-haves.

Laqa & Co Cosmetics

Nail Polish Pen in Bounty Hunter ($14): Make a statement on your nails with Laqa & Co’s Nail Polish Pen—the brand’s first product—in Bounty Hunter, an attention-grabbing bright fuchsia. The company, which is based in New York, understands girls on the go and developed this convenient pen with busy schedules in mind. In every color from basic nudes (Birthday Suit) to fun shades like bright purple (Blurple), the pens make painting your nails or touching up your manicure a breeze. Bonus: The company gives emerging artists exposure by commissioning them to design their product packaging.

Tammy Fender

Cleansing Milk Lavender & Fo-Ti ($55): Tammy Fender’s custom blended formulations are rooted in traditions of holistic wellness. Her 100 percent botanical products emphasize pure and “energetically balanced” ingredients that promote healing on physical, emotional, and spiritual levels, including organic plant oils, vitamins, and herbal infusions. The refreshing Cleansing Milk gently cleanses and decongests, great for dry and sensitive skin. Lavender balances the skin by equalizing sebum production and clears the mind with a soothing scent, while Fo-Ti, a Chinese herb, detoxifies skin and wards off premature aging.

Paul and Joe

Moisturizing Foundation Primer ($35): Named after her two sons, Sophie Mechaly launched fashion brand Paul and Joe in 1995 and expanded into beauty in 2002. Paul and Joe Beaute remains true to the essence of Mechaly’s brand; the products are incredibly effective while the packaging is luxuriously chic, perfect for doing double décor duty on your vanity. The Moisturizing Foundation Primer, available in three shades, deeply hydrates the skin while adding wear-time to foundation and dramatically improving its appearance. For women who prefer light makeup, the primer can also be worn alone. Botanical ingredients help the skin retain the primer’s moisture all day, so your skin glows.

Red Flower

Japanese Peony Moisturizing Body Lotion ($26): Red Flower was founded by Yael Alkalay, who first began selling flower candles and organic flower teas at Barneys New York in 1999. Since then, Red Flower’s product line has expanded to include beautifully scented shampoos, conditioners, lotions, and body treatments. Add a little luxury to your skincare regimen with the Japanese Peony Body Lotion, which like all of Red Flower’s body lotions is formulated with whole-flower extracts, vitamin-rich oils, and butters that increase moisture and soften the skin. Japanese Peony Body Lotion is soft and delicate, capturing the fragrances of peony, lily of the valley, lemon blossom, and Bulgarian rose.


Pure Mint and Echinacea Stem Cell Volumizing Shampoo ($9.99) and Conditioner ($9.99): ACURE emphasizes natural plant- and food-based ingredients that are as effective as they are safe (no synthetic preservatives, fragrances, parabens, or sulfates). Perfect for fine hair, the Pure Mint and Echinacea Stem Cell Volumizing Shampoo and Conditioner build volume by fortifying hair, with Echinacea stem cells that hydrate at the follicle level and vegetable proteins that protect the hair and prevent breakage. In addition, ten cents from every hair product sold is donated to, a charity devoted to increasing accessibility to safe drinking water.

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