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14 cool female-founded beauty brands that we are loving

Add this to the list of new things you learned today: 71 percent of leadership roles in the beauty industry are held by men.

Yes, you read that right. In 2019, the shocking statistic was revealed by gender equality database LedBetter, and proves that despite women being the primary customer base in the industry, we’ve still got a long way to go in the name of representation behind the scenes.

Now, don’t get us wrong, men are totally capable of running a successful beauty biz (see: Revlon and MAC cosmetics), but there’s something to be said about supporting those that are created by women and for women. Today we’re highlighting our favourite female-founded beauty brands and getting candid about some amazing She-E-Os.


Fenty Beauty

Who else but Rih has done more to push the beauty industry forward in recent years? Leading the charge to establish inclusive product shades and brand representation as the norm, all while hitting trend touchpoints we never really knew we needed, she’s the epitome of a modern and fearless beauty businesswoman. – Megan Bedford, beautyheaven’s makeup and fragrance editor.

Curio Noir

From a New Zealand perspective, it’s been great to see founder Tiffany Jeans develop her fragrance brand in recent years. She’s continued to march to the beat of her own drum, offering unique thoughtfully-curated scents, in parfum and candle form. I love the way her scents are available in accessible pocket sizes, 50 ml bottles, or for something no one else will have; refillable heirloom hand-blown glass vessels, which is only available in her Ponsonby Boutique. Megan Bedford, beautyheaven’s makeup and fragrance editor. 

Pat McGrath Labs

As a beauty junkie who’s always loved fashion, I’ve always admired Pat McGrath. She has been a continual presence behind the scenes at the biggest high-fashion brands over the past couple of decades. Whether it be working backstage at international fashion weeks or on-brand campaigns, she’s been highly influential, even before starting her beauty brand. As a makeup pro it’s not surprising she demands excellence from products that carry her name and is why you can buy with confidence every time. Megan Bedford, beautyheaven’s makeup and fragrance editor.

RMS Beauty

A makeup-as-skincare brand founded by New Yorker Rose-Marie Swift, who has been a legend in the makeup world since the ’70s and is also a passionate advocate for green. She made ‘clean’ beauty cool twenty years ago, and is super opinionated and inspirational! If you’ve got sensitive skin her Un Cover-Up Foundation and Concealer are game changers, and IMHO, she has created the clean industry’s best matte, red lipstick – the iconic, super pigmented RMS Red. Helene Ravlich, beautyheaven’s skin, body and wellness editor.

Votary Skincare

A skincare brand founded by Arabella Preston, a UK makeup artist who loved to play with oils. They are gentle but hugely effective, and transformational. The brand is proudly vegan (and always has been), and no Votary products contain any animal-derived ingredients. All of their products are made in the UK in small batches from the highest quality ingredients, and although the price point reflects that, they are worth it. My favourite is the Super Seed Facial Oil, which is made from 22 different seed oils for skin that is sensitive, in hormonal flux or unsettled. Packed with natural, plant-powered goodness, it definitely brings back your glow. Helene Ravlich beautyheaven’s skin, body and wellness editor.

Elizabeth Arden

For paving the way for every female beauty entrepreneur mentioned in this article and beyond, I can’t look past Elizabeth Arden who opened her first door (red, obviously), in New York in 1912. Effectively pioneering the American cosmetics industry, this OG suffragette also created a legacy of female empowerment through initiatives like March On, still in play today. Phoebe Watt, beautyheaven’s hair editor.

Bobbi Brown

One of the OG makeup brands, Bobbi Brown is famous for starting out with a simple line of 10 lipsticks. Her ethos has always been focused on ‘natural colours for all’ and the range has become a gold standard for makeup that enhances your natural look. While she is no longer at the helm of her namesake empire, she’ll forever be one of the originals who broke away from the heavy looks that dominated the eighties. Read any ‘Best of Beauty List’ and you’ll be guaranteed to find at least one Bobbi product listed – likely the long-wear gel eyeliner, two of which are sold every minute! Maily Pham, beautyheaven’s digital marketing manager.

A friend and inspiration, Lisa Anderson, the founder of is my ultimate #girlboss goals. Too often the story behind start-ups isn’t reflective of the actual journey. No beauty brand (except Fenty…obviously) is ever really an overnight success. We need more women, like Lisa, to encourage real women that they can pursue their dreams while juggling a career. Behind every success story is blood, sweat, and tears – Lisa puts in the hard yards after hours outside of her full-time job to build her brand. The philosophy behind the brand also really rings true with me: transparency, research and an inside-out approach to skin. Erin Berryman, beautyheaven’s editor.

Frank Body

Jess Hatzis and Bree Johnson, the women behind cult body scrub brand Frank, took a huge leap of faith and it paid off. Starting off with just $5000, no marketing budget and making the scrub by hand in the kitchen, they now make almost $20 million a year in revenue. We can all take something away from these two: trust your gut!Erin Berryman, beautyheaven’s editor.

Go-To Skincare

To say I admire and adore Zoe Foster-Blake is the world’s greatest understatement. I literally love that lady. I feel like I’ve grown up with her – we’re the same age, our kids are the same age and we both started out in mags and beauty in our early 20s. She’s incredibly vibrant, intelligent and always brings the lols, channelling her decades of knowledge and journalism skills into coveted columns and books, then into her own skincare brand in 2014. The philosophy behind Go-To is such a goodie – a basic staple of hardworking, clean, cheap and cruelty-free products that can be used in conjunction with gruntier treatments and cosmeceuticals as and when required. All over it. Amy Houlihan, beautyheaven’s celebrity beauty editor.

Tarte Cosmetics

For me, the absolute greatest part about Sephora launching into New Zealand was that we could finally get our hands on Tarte Cosmetics. The brand was founded by New Yorker and PhD dropout Maureen Kelly, who decided to change her trajectory and pursue her passion by launching a cheek stain in 1999. Fast forward 20 years and she’s the ultimate beauty boss, with her iconic cruelty-free, high-performance brand sold in 190 countries. The Buffer Airbrush Finish Bamboo Foundation Brush is one of my most prized possessions, giving a flawless base in literally 10 seconds. My other absolute cannot-live-without Tarte essentials include the Amazonian clay matte waterproof bronzer, Shape Tape Concealer and the Tartelette In Bloom Clay Palette, which is one of the most wearable bronze combos I’ve ever come across. – Amy Houlihan, beautyheaven’s celebrity beauty editor.


One of our biggest local success stories, down-to-earth Wellington sisters Sarah Gibbs and Catherine de Groot founded Trilogy back in 2002. The natural skincare, eco-conscious pioneers were seeking a solution to their sensitive skin issues and boy did they hit the mark with their iconic rosehip seed oil. The range now extends to over 40 products and is sold all over the world with their hero oil reportedly being a firm favourite of the Duchess of Cambridge, Kate Middleton.Tracy Davis, beautyheaven’s Over 40’s editor.

IT Cosmetics

After being turned down by every major beauty retailer, we admire IT Cosmetics’ founder, Jamie Kern Lima’s, bravery and perseverance for going bare-faced on American shopping channel QVC to show her debilitating rosacea. On live TV she demonstrated how her concealing formula could make her skin look flawless without irritating it further. Phones went wild; she sold out in minutes and is currently QVC’s largest selling beauty brand in history. Jamie’s company has since been picked up by L’Oreal for a cool $1.2 billion US. – Tracy Davis, beautyheaven’s Over 40s editor.

Beauty Bakerie

Single parent, cancer survivor and founder of multi-million dollar cosmetics line – Cashmere Nicole is one of the many amazing women in the industry that I just can’t help but admire. Cashmere started Beauty Bakerie with nothing but a passion for beauty and an entrepreneurial spirit in 2011. Before starting the brand, she was living off of food stamps whilst supporting her daughter. Fast-forward to the present and she’s managed to produce cult products that are POC-friendly, non-toxic, vegan and cruelty-free. Her journey to success is a testament to the enduring strength of women when placed in adversity. Jameela Gatanela, beautyheaven’s digital content producer.

Compiled by: Jameela Gatanela
Header image by: RMS Beauty

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