As CF’s Around the World In Beauty series – our celebration of beauty brands’ inherent connection to their countries of origin – comes to an end, enjoy our final stop on the tour – North American beauty.
Unsurprisingly, the United States is a hub for skincare, makeup, fragrance and haircare brands, providing a massive source of beauty innovations, powered by big and small corporations alike. However, Latinx beauty, especially from Mexico (via some crossover with South America) and the Caribbean also form part of this beauty-focused continent, offering solutions for the widest range of beauty needs and goals.
From Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty that transformed the diversity of our makeup bags, to the Cerave cleanser that won’t stop selling out due to digital hype, this is a continent that will supercharge your beauty routine.
Read on to discover the best Northern American beauty brands that the CF team have tried, loved, and would recommend…
North American makeup brands are responsible for some of the biggest trends and developments of the past few decades. From new-age tools and more inclusive shade ranges, to novel product categories, these companies have made it easier and more accessible to be both creative and natural-looking with your cosmetics. There are plenty to choose from, but these are the brands making a big splash on the global stage.
Rare Beauty was the most successful launch into Space NK in UK history – an incredibly impressive feat for the American-Mexican actress Selena Gomez. The full collection has been met with rave reviews by editors and customers alike, but it is the blendable liquid highlighters and blushes that have really earned their place in our makeup bags.
Barbados-born Rihanna ripped up the rulebook when she launched Fenty Beauty, transforming what was deemed acceptable in terms of brands providing a diverse range of shades (finally). Her 50 shades of foundation are equally loved by all skin tones for its matte but not drying longwear finish, but you'll fall in love with the lightweight, colour-inclusive powders, creams and lipsticks too.
When American entrepreneur Emily Weiss launched Glossier it's no understatement to say that it changed the beauty model, by focusing on a digital-first strategy that targeted customers over social media and online, rather than traditional retailers. It's still a brand to trust if you want no-nonsense 'no makeup' makeup, with Boy Brow and Balm Dot Com to be found in many a makeup artist's kit.
Latina makeup artist Ann Silva took the humble cosmetics sponge and changed how we apply our makeup forever. By tweaking the shape and getting rid of awkward corners, her blending creation allowed even the most inexperienced beauty-lover to achieve a more natural-looking base. No wonder she's an example of an inspiring female entrepreneur to the CF team.
It seems fitting that it was a former architect, Anastasia Soare, who rebuilt our approach to brows. With laser-sharp pencils for pin-point definition to tinting formulas to add the allusion of fullness, the brand is responsible for the red carpet brows of many celebrities over the years. The eyeshadow palettes are our beauty editor's absolute go-to for shimmery, eye-brightening looks.
Arguably one of the original products to properly trend on social media due to its popularity among content creators, it was quite the occasion when American-founded Tarte Cosmetics was made available more globally. The concealer gained its legion of fans due to its long-lasting full coverage finish and the slanted-tip applicator makes brightening under-eye circles and blurring blemishes a breeze.
Creator of one of the first (and still beloved) liquid lipsticks, Stila was the idea of celebrity makeup artist Jeanine Lobell who wanted to push boundaries within the industry. In fact, Stay All Day set the standard for creamy-matte full-coverage lip colours, as you can apply it with a single swipe and trust it to stay in place, even after eating.
Conceived by fashion and beauty alumuni out of the photography studio Milk Studios in New York, Milk Makeup has grown quite the following for multi-tasking formulas that do the hard work for you. Our beauty editor's biggest recommendations are the stick-based formulas, especially the sculpting sticks and blushers, which will keep your skin looking defined and flushed when travelling, even hand luggage-only.
From classic brands that can be credited with helping kick-start the global beauty industry, to the newer products that are conquering our imaginations via social media, the North American skincare offering really does have the power to transform our routines. You can discover gentle cleansers to start the whole process off thoroughly, all the way through to the serums and creams that contain the latest trending actives. There’s something for all skin types and goals here.
Alongside Helena Rubenstein, Canadian-American entrepreneur Elizabeth Arden can take credit for accelerating the growth of the beauty industry, with her brand starting back in 1910 in New York. Alongside supplying red lipstick to the suffragettes, Arden was known for constantly breaking new ground, including launching the first travel-sized products and helping make capsule-based actives popular. Last but not least, Eight Hour Cream – the nourishing balmy moisturiser – has really earned its place as a cult classic.
Proof that the North American skincare industry is powered by some of the market's most impressive experts, Skinceuticals founding chemist was the distinguished Yale-trained professor and dermatologist Dr. Sheldon Pinnell, who earned eight patents in his lifetime. The most important for the brand (and our skin) was the stabilisation of vitamin C, which gave rise to one of the best-selling vitamin C serums on the market, which beauty editors still trust to this day.
An iconic name within the industry, Estée Lauder started what is now one of the world's biggest beauty companies by demonstrating her products on women while they were sitting under hair dryers. The Lauder brand stretches across all categories, including makeup and fragrance, but it's her classic Advanced Night Repair which is the UK's best-selling serum. Her family has also continued to have massive influence – her daughter-in-law Evelyn Lauder helped launch Clinique, the brand behind the "cleanse, tone, moisturise" revolution.
There's been such a flurry of celebrity-owned skincare brands launching of late, but beauty editors have been raving about this one from American supermodel Hailey Bieber for good reason. It's the sort of skincare that's designed to help your makeup paint on super smoothly, while providing a glossy, nourished complexion (thanks to trending ingredient, peptides), which means you need to wear less on your face anyway.
You might be surprised to know that the number one recommended cleanser by skin experts (and social media darlings) actually had very humble beginnings. CeraVe launched fairly quiety back in 2005 with the help of three dermatologists who recognised that ceramides – a moisturising ingredient found naturally in the skin – could support skin health. Then, from the quiet corners of Reddit thread recommendations, suddenly it was everywhere online and the high-quality formula found the limelight it definitely deserves.
Iranian-Canadian founder of The Ordinary, Brandon Truaxe was behind the skincare industry's ingredient-led revolution. Arguably, without his influence, most customers wouldn't know what hyaluronic acid and retinoids even were, because he was responsible for single-ingredient formulas at excitingly affordable prices that brought such education to the fore. Our beauty editor's continued favourite from the company is the Azeliac Acid Suspension, which helps with her rosacea-prone complexion.
If you have breakout-prone skin, the Paula's Choice classic BHA toner is the solution to keep in your bathroom cabinet. It's not just popular online; it's conceived using Paula Beguon's research-backed approach, as a founder and skin expert who has been known for years for her approach to educating customers. Need more convincing? You can ask the brand's Scientific Advisory Board for more information on the research behind her formulas.
Beautiful, healthy hair for all hair types – from poker-straight to afro – that’s the aim of the continuingly-growing haircare market in North America. African American founders are leading the way in ensuring that coilier hair types are not missed out of the narrative, and showing the rest of the world how it is done in the process. Collectively too, there is a focus on caring for and working with your natural texture to keep it in its best possible condition.
Created by award-winning actress and activist Tracee Ellis Ross (daughter of Diana Ross), Pattern is a haircare range designed specifically for curly, coily and tight-textured hair patterns – hence the name. From caring creams and shampoos that don't strip drier hair types, to electricals with built in afro-picks to make styling easier, Ross not only educates with her brand but makes products that curly-haired women actually want to use.
Founded by American hairstylist Jen Atkin (and Dubai-based entrepreneur Lamees Hamdan), Ouai brings effortless 'cool girl' attitude to your hair, giving you the confidence that you won't have a bad hair day again. From the chic shampoo and conditioner bottles that enclose beautifully fragrant aromas, to the range of hair-growth helpers, including these supplements, it's no wonder that supermodels trust Atkin with their tresses.
The Miracle Leave-In Treatment from It's A Ten is our beauty editor's absolute hair essential for her tangly hair, and we have Puerto Rican-American, Carolyn Aronson, to thank for it. The unassuming bottle holds a host of haircare solutions (10 in fact) that include acting as a detangler, shine-booster and de-frizzer. It's a must-pack for beach holidays, alongside the brand's expanded range of shampoos and conditioners for all hair types.
JVN is a celebration of all hair types and textures – much like the charismatic founder, hairstylist and activist Jonathan Van Ness, who you may recall from the show Queer Eye. Designed to treat your hair as carefully as your skin, the formulas are powered by hemi-squalane, a nourishing yet lightweight hero moisturising ingredient that doesn't sit on the hair like some silicones. Sustainable packaging and traceable formulas make your in-shower routine more planet-friendly too.
Former Goldman & Sachs banker and the youngest African-American to launch a product line at Sephora, Nancy Twine's texture-specific products target concerns, such as wavy, coily, dry or thin – rather than broadly grouping by ethnicity. And the results speak for themselves. The, at least 90% naturally-derived, formulas provide really nourishing solutions to boost shine and curl definition, making wash day a more enjoyable and stress-free experience.
A leading light in the Natural Hair movement on Youtube, Whitney White was inspired to create her own brand in partnership with her sister, due to her followers' continuous questions about what formulas they should be using. Our top-picks are the leave-in conditioner and this African Black Soap shampoo. It clarifies your scalp and hair using a host of trending ingredients including tea tree, charcoal powder, turmeric root extract and shea butter.
Enriched with Dominican beauty secrets, Bomba Curls was born when Afro-Dominican founder Lulu Cordero was searching for a solution to her traction alopecia and reverted to her native country's nourishing ingredients. The result was products like this award-winning hair mask, which is a best-seller for a reason. It contains Cupuacu butter, alongside raw cinnamon and pistachio, to deeply penetrate all hair types, but especially coils, from root to tip.
Whatever kind of fragrance tends to be your signature spritz, you’re bound to find something to excite your senses within North America’s fragrant offering. It includes multi-award-winning cult classics that continue to delight on the world stage, to smaller niche brands that have broken through in a big way, changing how the fragrance industry operates. Discover our favourites below.
When beauty insiders talk about sensual scents, you'll find they tend to rate it on a scale where Black Orchid by Tom Ford is a clear reference point. That's because the fragrance – despite being launched back in 2006 – continues to have an addictive hold on our understanding of what makes a brilliant 'come a little bit closer' evening aroma, with its enveloping blend of black truffle, black orchid and patchouli.
The king of unisex fragrances, which helped break the gender-segregated mould when it launched in 2004, American designer Calvin Klein's free-spirited scent is designed to feel as fresh and clean as laundry, with a green tea accord mingling with citrus notes. A classic summer spritz, you'll find many modern brands looking to CK's example within the industry.
You might be loathe to share what your wearing (although you'll definitely be asked) when you apply an Ellis Brooklyn scent – such is the joy of finding an unusual yet wearable fragrance like the ones on offer here. The niche, Williamsburg-located eco-friendly brand is on the cusp of world-wide acclaim, having been founded by New York Times beauty writer Bee Shapiro. In particular, you won't be able to get enough of this tropical, salty blend that changes playfully on the skin the longer you wear it.
American designer Marc Jacobs creates fragrances that are infinitely wearable, with just enough curiosity contained within each spritz to keep you interested. It's a brand that knows the power of a great story and packaging, with the iconic Daisy being a stalwart on many beauty insider's dressing tables. The clever blend of juicy top notes, a clean jasmine heart and soft sandalwood base means there's never an occasion not to wear it.
Never did a fragrance quite monopolise the fashion world like Le Labo Santal 33. In fact, rumour has it that the runway front-row is still infused with it. Inspired by the Wild West, the clever earthy, dryness of the woods-based scent epitomises how the niche fragrance brand, founded in New York by Eddie Roschi and Fabrice Peno, shook up the traditional fragrance market. You'll still find beauty and fashion insiders alike trying to get their hands on each new Le Labo launch.
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