I’ve Tried Countless Custom Beauty Brands–These Are the Ones You Should Try
Because beauty products aren’t always a one-size-fits-all.
Beauty products are deeply personal. Everyone has issues with their skin and hair that they'd like to manage better, so investing in a plethora of products seems like the logical thing to do. But sometimes, what you pick up from the store doesn't do the trick. Maybe it treats some of your concerns but not all of them, or maybe the product just falls flat as a whole. That's why customizable beauty brands have been on the rise for the last few years, and they don't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.
As a beauty writer, I've had the privilege of being able to try many customized beauty products, from fragrances mixed specifically to my tastes to moisturizers that were formulated to address both my eczema and my skin's other sensitivities. Though there are a handful of store-bought products that I still swear by, the customized ones always make a deep, lasting impression.
My favorite nude lipstick I've ever worn—and the only one that has properly emphasized both the yellow and olive undertones in my tan Filipino skin—is the one I custom-made at Bite Beauty's Lip Lab in L.A. My hair has never looked better than when I formulated a shampoo and conditioner with Function of Beauty to target both the brassiness and dryness of my strands. The fragrance that I can't stop picking up is the one I concocted with Olfactory.
Though customized beauty products are often more expensive than the mass-produced versions, I'm totally comfortable with investing in them because I know they work. Take a look at a few of the best customizable beauty brands below, and get to creating your dream beauty products in just a few clicks.
It's no secret that quality designer fragrances can run you a pretty high price tag. But what if I told you that you could customize a fragrance to your tastes, and that it would be created by master perfumers who have worked for houses like Le Labo and Tom Ford—and that your bottle would cost you less than $100? Olfactory NYC started its perfume customization business as a standalone studio in NYC's SoHo neighborhood, but as of the beginning of this year, you can order custom fragrances online.
Order anExplorer Boxto try out all nine of the brand's core scents and pick out your favorite. Then apply the $18 you spent on that box toward a Tinkerer Box to try playing with different added blends so you can suit that core fragrance to your specific tastes. Once you've found the core scent and blends that you like, you can order your custom fragrance (with a $20 credit from the Tinkerer Box). It's highly affordable, but still feels luxurious because you had the opportunity to customize the fragrance to your liking. I'm a huge fragrance snob and I'm totally head-over-heels in love with my Olfactory scent—I haven't been able to stop wearing it since I got it.
To buy: $78; olfactorynyc.com.
2. Bite Beauty Lip Lab
Everyone loves Bite Beauty's signature lipsticks, and at the Lip Lab (located in NYC, L.A., San Francisco, and Toronto), you can create your own custom shade. Whether you're leaning toward a fiery red, your perfect nude, or want to do something totally crazy—they have shades of blue, yellow, and green to play with—you can easily concoct your dream lipsticks with the help of one of their experts. They offer different finishes and scents, and to top it all off, you can engrave the lipstick bullet with your shade name of choice so your lipstick is 100 percent you. I can honestly say that the pink-brown nude lipstick that I made while at the Lip Lab is my favorite nude I've ever owned.
To buy: $60+, bitebeauty.com.
3. Function of Beauty
Hair is never just one thing: Your locks can be oily and frizzy, dry and fine, thick and straight, or any other combination, which makes it hard to shop for the perfect shampoo and conditioner. Products you buy from the store may address some of your hair's concerns, but not all of them. Enter Function of Beauty, a company that makes shampoo and conditioner totally customized to your hair type. Since I tried out the brand, it's safe to say that all other shampoos and conditioners have been totally ruined for me. The customization process makes a huge difference in the health of my hair, especially because I color-treat and heat-style it often.
You fill out a form to detail your hair type, structure, and typical moisture level. You then set up to five hair goals for yourself, which can be anything from strength and deep conditioning to thermal and color treatment protection. Finally, the fun part is picking your set's fragrance, name, and color. You can also choose to add on a custom leave-in treatment, a custom mask, and/or a custom hair serum that are all created based on your hair goal preferences. And if you foresee using the products a ton, you can set up an auto-ship order for every one, three or six months so you never have to worry about reordering.
To buy: $40+; functionofbeauty.com.
4. Skin Inc.
Serums are usually the most powerful products in your skincare routine, so it makes sense that you should be able to customize it to your skin's needs. The Skin Inc. Skin ID serum takes everything about you into account—from age and genetics to symptoms you experience during your menstrual cycle and how much you travel on planes—to create a water-based serum tailor-made for you. You can even customize the color of your bottle and put your name on it so you know it's yours. For me, the best part about my Skin Inc. Skin ID serum is using it with Skin Inc.'s Tri-Light LED device ($295; i loveskininc.us) because the device amplifies the effects of the serum.
To buy: $84; iloveskininc.us.
Prescription acne products are not only sensitizing to your skin, they're also crazy-expensive. So it makes sense that someone would try to reinvent the wheel and create a better solution for acne-prone folks. Enter Curology, a totally customizable formula that not only helps fight breakouts, but also addresses other skin concerns like dark spots, firmness, pore size, and skin texture. Curology's philosophy is that your cleanser and moisturizer can be the same as everyone else's, but the treatment is what really makes the difference in your skin's health.
You can purchase the full set in either a 30-day or 60-day supply of each product, and you can choose to have your restock automatically sent to your home so you never run out. If you're a little apprehensive about trying it out because it's an over-the-counter, prescription-strength acne treatment, don't worry—you can try out a month's worth of the products totally free to see how you feel about it. Just pay for shipping.
To buy: $5+; curology.com.
6. Kiehl's Apothecary Preparations
Like Bite Beauty's Lip Labs, Kiehl's Apothecary Preparations counters are currently closed due to COVID-19, but you'll definitely want to hit up one of its stores when they reopen. Each Apothecary Preparation starts with the Skin Strengthening Concentrate, which is suitable for all skin types. From there, you choose up to two targeted complexes based on your skin concerns, whether you want to target aging and wrinkles, dullness and flat skin, large pores, or anything else. You can then mix up your skincare cocktail at home and use the concentrate as a serum. It's a powerful serum—they only recommend applying two or three drops at a time—so you'll be sure to see visible results sooner rather than later.
To buy: $95; kiehls.com.
You're probably familiar with Vitruvi because of their oil diffusers, but it also carries face oils as well. Face oils are categorized by base oil (carrier oils like avocado, grapeseed, and jojoba), complex oil (oils that target certain concerns like blueberry seed or rosehip), and essential oils, which add fragrance and a holistic approach to the concoction. You take a quick quiz detailing your skin type and concerns and the system suggests which base, complex, and essential oils you can pick between. Once it arrives at your home, you can mix all three together for your own customized formulation. (P.S.: The brand does the same with essential oils for its diffusers if you're in the mood to customize your home fragrance as well.)
To buy: $55+; vitruvi.com.
8. The Buff
Whether you want a face oil, body oil, or both, The Buff can help you customize the perfect oil cocktail for your skin type. Like other customizable brands, you take a quiz on its site to determine which blend of oils will best work for you. They ask questions like what your concerns are, how your skin feels at the end of the day, how sensitive your skin is, and more to create a formula that works all over your body. And if you like the idea of customization but don't know where to start, you can take a look at the existing oils in its collection to get a feel for how your skin reacts to the products.
To buy: $42; itsthebuff.com.