Chemist-Approved Cleansers, Armpit Masks, Star-Faved Body Scrubs & More: The Best Cali-Based Finds from Indie Beauty Expo

From vegan-friendly skincare to science-powered serums, there's something for everyone.

Last month's Indie Beauty Expo featured over 180 brands hailing from near and far — so you can imagine it's quite the overwhelming feat to find the bazaar's cream of the crop. From K-beauty brand Kocostar's lip-plumping capsules and Kitsch's charming palm leaf shower caps and microfiber hair towels to new Canadian label Veriphy's high-performance vegan skincare powered by plant-based glycogen (a rejuvenating ingredient usually harvested from shellfish), there was no shortage of intriguing discoveries that we spotted at this year's IBE.

Of course, that's just the tip of the beauty iceberg — so in an effort to explore the two-day DTLA event (which took place in January at the California Market Center) with laser-like focus, we opted to base our IBE itinerary on Cali-based companies. (Let's not even mention the boatload of samples we've yet to dive into at home.)

Here, contributor Jennifer Conroy and editor/founder Danielle Directo-Meston share their top Golden State-bred finds from the epic expo. (Yup, it took two of us to tag-team our way through the massive happening.) From established celeb-faved brands that are dropping cool new products to just-launched companies offering everything from good-enough-to-eat body products to globally-conscious beauty rituals, get to know brands that made the cut and read on below.

Alitura Naturals

A near-fatal accident while crossing Melrose Avenue is what inspired model and actor Andy Hnilo to create his luxe skincare line, Alitura Naturals, which takes its name from the Latin word for feeding and nourishing. The brand was born from Hnilo's homemade clay mask ($59) that he perfected with unique, nutrient-packed ingredients like freshwater pearl powder (for exfoliating and smoothing wrinkles), grass-fed colostrum (it's the pre-milk nourishment produced by cows that helps skin cells regenerate), kelp powder (for drawing out impurities), and a variety of clays that help unclog and tighten pores. Alitura's lineup also includes safety razors (zero-waste beauty buffs, rejoice), a titanium microneedle derma roller, the people-pleasing Gold Serum (a concoction of vitanol, Co Q10, marine collagen, and more glow-giving ingredients), and more. Danielle Directo-Meston, Uncover LA founder/editor


Already beloved by celebrities and beauty buffs for its cranberry toner pads, the LA-based line has launched yet another skin-saving product: The Celestial Activating Essence ($52), which we fell in love with ate IBE. The essense is packed with ingredients like D-ribose (for improving elasticity), SensAmone (a peptide-based ingredient that calms skin), Luminescine (for blurring fine lines and wrinkles), and antioxidants (for protecting the skin from the environment). It's among the products you can find at Arcona's relocated skincare studio, which moved from Santa Monica to Beverly Hills a few months ago. — Danielle Directo-Meston

Ayr Skincare

Southern California-born Kirsten Thomas founded Ayr Skincare to address her own sensitive skin issues — which is why the natural label is dedicated to offering non-irritating and non-toxic products for all skin types. (You won't find petroleum oils, parabens, synthetic fragrances, dyes, gluten, or soy, to name a few no-no ingredients). The brand is known for its moisturizing Dead Sea Spa Body Bar ($24) and the Reveal Exfoliating Foam Facial Wash ($44). — Jennifer Conroy, contributor

Bili Beauty

After noticing the lack of South Asian representation in the media, beauty PR and marketing maven Sarah Sophy Thomas founded Bili Beauty, a cosmetics company inspired by India. The just-launched Long Beach-based brand pays tribute to India's diverse cultures through its artwork, packaging, and shade names, as seen in its Eyes of India eyeshadow palette ($54), which features a range of 10 neutral and vibrant shades (including a classic black Kajal shade, a vibrant red Mehndi hue, and the shimmering purple Rani). A percentage of Bili's annual sales goes to Destiny Rescue, a nonprofit organization that rescues children from sexual slavery and exploitation. — Jennifer Conroy

C & The Moon

Malibu-based C & The Moon is an environmentally-conscious skincare line founded by Doula Meyer (sister of star-loved fine jewelry designer, Jennifer Meyer), who's already earned celeb fans like Cami Mendes, January Jones, and Kris Jenner for her organic (and delicious-smelling) body scrub. The AHA-rich formula is made with brown sugar, coconut oil, sweet almond oil, castor oil, jojoba seed oil, and food-grade vanilla — ingredients that help exfoliate sensitive skin while providing long term moisture. — Jennifer Conroy

Chemist Confessions

Photo: Chemist Confessions

What began on Instagram as a serious skincare 411 account that debunked beauty snake oil claims and decoded countless ingredient lists has become a transparent brand focused on creating of effective, science-backed products. Co-founded by chemists Victoria Fu and Gloria Wu (who previously worked at L'Oréal), the company launched with four moisturizers to address every skin type and concern: An oil, a gel, a balm, and a balanced soothing formula ($29 to $39), which are also available in travel sets and kits. We also love that they're up front about their own ingredients and list the exact breakdown of what and how much they use. — Danielle Directo-Meston


Photo: Danielle Directo-Meston/UncoverLA

Originally founded in Amsterdam in 1850, this heritage brand was revived by San Francisco-based sisters Roxane Pekelharing Stossel and Liana Pekelharing as a wellness-focused line that blends ancient botanicals (including memory-enhancing lion's mane mushroom and stress-relieving eleuthero root, among other adaptogens) and modern active ingredients (like skin-plumping hyaluronic acid). The Electra mist and tincture are meant to be paired to "awaken both mind and body" ($68 for a set; $52 to $72 for full-sized versions), while the Lumen moisturizer and soon-to-launch brew work in tandem to hydrate from the inside and out. — Danielle Directo-Meston

Code of Harmony

Tapping into the skin-saving potency of CBD, founder and aesthetician Janet Schrever created Code of Harmony (formerly Crave Skincare), a skincare line formulated with THC-free, CO2-extracted blends of botanicals, antioxidants, and cosmeceuticals to calm the skin. Based in Long Beach, the brand is known for its dull skin-banishing Salvation oil serum ($46) and firming and toning Virgin Skin serum ($49) as well as its Oil Cleanser ($16 and up). Most of the products are packed with vitamins, antioxidants, and phyto-nutrient rich extracts, making them ideal for those seeking to treat acne, rosacea, and most inflammatory skin issues. — Jennifer Conroy

Honey Minx

Reality TV star-turned-House of Harlow 1960 designer Nicole Richie launched her California-inspired lifestyle brand with Working Sundays last November, expanding her empire to beauty, luxe sleep essentials, and more. In addition to offering celestial-inspired jewelry, loungewear, and accessories (we were obsessed with the velvet cosmetic bags and satin kimono robes at the brand's IBE booth), Honey Minx also unveiled a peel-off 24k manuka honey face mask ($48) packed with "potent vitamins and nourishing botanicals" that reveals firmer, revitalized skin. — Danielle Directo-Meston


Beverly Hills-based founder Debbi Symes collaborates with women's coops and sustainable farmers and artisans to create her globally-conscious line Lanima, which is inspired by ancient beauty rituals from around the world — and empowers its partners in the process. The gently exfoliating Daily Power Cleanser ($65) channels the hammam ritual of cleansing the face with Moroccan rhassoul healing clay (which draws out impurities) and holy basil (which balances skin tone), while the glow-giving Refining Clay Mask ($55) clears out pores and stimulates skin cells. Up next for Lanima is the launch of its Africa-sourced line of adaptogenic oils, which have "the highest linoleic acid content of any plant oil ever found [to] reduce inflammation, balance sebum levels and strengthen skin's protective barrier." — Danielle Directo-Meston

Marine + Vine

The Polynesians know a thing or two about concocting natural body products that protect and hydrate skin from the elements — and that's the inspiration behind Marine + Vine. The new LA-based brand harnesses the power of monoi — a Tahitian concoction of coconut oil infused with tiare flowers — to create a hydrating body oil that's free of pthalates, animal products, parabens, and petroleum products. The local label put its own spin on the classic formula (which is produced in the South of France) by blending it with macadamia, kukui, and passion fruit oils that'll leave you smelling like you just returned from a vacay in paradise. — Danielle Directo-Meston

PYT Beauty

When former Sephora exec Amy Carr and entrepreneur Mary Schulman saw an empty space on beauty shelves when it came to affordable, high performance, and multi-tasking makeup that was also hypoallergenic and cruelty-free, they decided to fill it themselves. San Francisco-based PYT Beauty launched with double-sided concealer brush sticks ($18) in 11 shades, dual-ended lip gloss and matte lipstick ($18) that moisturize and nourish the lips, and the No-BS Eyeshadow Palette ($28) containing eight go-to matte and shimmer shades "with major color payoff " for all skin tones, among other genius products. — Danielle Directo-Meston

Sage Lifestyle

LA-based jewelry designer and perfumer Sage Machado's name may already be familiar, thanks to her starry clientele (Madonna, Amber Valletta, and Julia Roberts are among her famous fans) and her previous boutiques on Beverly and Larchmont Boulevards. Her line of exquisite gemstone-inspired vegan perfume oils are all handcrafted locally using natural essential and fragrance oils and do not contain alcohol, water, or phthalates. She's best known for her Diamond scent ($45) a soft and warm fragrance (designed specifically for sensitive noses) that features notes of Indian sandalwood, white amber, and oceanic musk with hints of rain dew and white floral accord. — Jennifer Conroy


Manhattan Beach-based musician and tap and hip-hop dance teacher Tyler Critelli didn't originally set out to create a cinnamon-infused body care brand — in fact, his Sin-Min line of horchata-inspired body products began as sweet swag to promote his brand of men's pants. (The "a-ha" moment? When a student gifted him some homemade lemon lip balm.) He whipped up cinnamon-infused balm as a "mini portable billboard" for his company – but when a Burbank store owner got a whiff of it and asked to stock it in her shop (the balm, not the slacks — that would be weird, no?), the entrepreneur decided to refocus his business plan. Inspired by Critelli's love of Disneyland churros, CTC, and of course, the "creamy, quenching, and sweet cinnamon vanilla qualities" of horchata, the brand also offers delicious-smelling candles, organic coconut oil body butter, a tropical Cocochata balm, reef-safe sunscreen, and more — all non-GMO and free of petrolatum, pthalates, parabens, and gluten. — Danielle Directo-Meston


Simi Valley-based Sway isn't your average natural deodorant brand. The new company's aluminum-free product range includes pH-balancing rollerball deodorants ($13) that fight odor with apple cider vinegar, underarm charcoal masks ($22) that detoxes your pits, and arrowroot dusting powder ($5.50) to neutralize and absorb perspiration (they're all meant to be used as a trio). The label also introduced new skincare items at IBE, like an antioxidant-rich micellar water cleanser ($30) and a hydrating face toner ($32) made with ACV, witch hazel, seaweed extract, and a superfruit complex to clarify skin and reduce redness. — Danielle Directo-Meston

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