Once upon a time, a celebrity at the apex of their popularity would perhaps parlay their great adulation into a little extra cash by partnering with a beauty brand. It happened even as far back as the 1920s, when the silent film star Rudolph Valentino worked with Mineralava beauty products.
By and large, though, they generally stuck to whatever they did that made them famous and every now and then their rapacious fans might be treated to a tidbit about which lotion or potion they used. Grace Kelly, for example, divulged a fondness for Lancaster sun products. Philip Kingsley’s cult Elasticizer was invented for and then heartily endorsed by Audrey Hepburn. And we all know about Marilyn going to bed wearing zilch but her beloved Chanel No 5.
Today, things couldn’t be more starkly different; you’d be hard pressed to find a celebrity who hadn’t partnered with one (or many) brands, and, increasingly, it’s next to impossible to find one who doesn’t have their very own budding beauty empire. Statista noted that 13 celebrity brands emerged in 2022, joining an already saturated space - with Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty the biggest earner.
That said, despite new ones popping up at a prodigious rate, it seems nobody really wants more celebrity beauty brands, with the volume of negative sentiment in online conversations related to celebrity cosmetics brand more than tripling towards the end of 2021 according to a study by Synthesio. Around the same time, the New York Times published a piece with the headline “Dear Celebrities: Please Stop Churning Out Beauty Brands”. Only they didn’t listen, and, well, here we are in 2023, shop shelves crammed with products by this or that person you may or may not be a fan of.
In an effort to separate the great from the mediocre to help you navigate the piles of the stuff on offer, I’ve tested a whole lot of products. I’ve canvassed fellow beauty journalists, begging them to tell me which ones they rely on. I’ve even spoken to make-up artists and asked what’s made it into their kits (my favourite response came from Sonia Deveney, who said: “I’ve been a bit wary of brands launched by celebrities because, you know, they’re likely to be crap aren’t they? But I’ve been pleasantly surprised by some!”).
Without any further ado, here are the brands which emerged on top, what I’d recommend buying from them, and which brands didn’t cut it.
Rhode Skin by Hailey Bieber
While I don’t quite understand why Hailey Bieber is so famous, I can fully understand why people would covet her glassy skin. Hailey clearly understands this too, so has cleverly created a brand centred around the pursuit of that sheeny, shiny, healthy thing, with some lip balms if you want to extend the gloss to them.
Must have: Rhode Glazing Fluid, £29, rhodeskin.com. This, by the way, was heavily endorsed by many of the beauty journalists in the group, especially Tori Crowther and Shannon Lawlor, who told me she loves to mix it with foundation, which is how I like to use it, too - though you can just apply a layer to clean skin.
Rose Inc by Rosie Huntington-Whiteley
This brand fuses skincare with colour cosmetics - but rather than compromise on either, delivers solidly across the range which is, as we beauty mavens all know, a rarity.
Must have: Cream Blush Refillable Cheek & Lip Colour, £25, spacenk.com. First, the colour pay off is excellent. Second, it really does successfully double as a lip and cheek colour. Third, it adds an optical blur which makes cheeks and lips look more pillowy, which is very Rosie H-W indeed.
Keys Soulcare by Alicia Keys
These products feel entirely in keeping with Alicia Keys’ desire to redefine her relationship with beauty after years of being in the limelight and realising that she wanted to do something that had meaning to her - hence the fusion of beauty and wellness.
Must have: Keys Soulcare Melting Body Balm with Shea Butter, £30, keyssoulcare.com. The body products had the beauty editors raving about their ability to hydrate properly while also feeling like a treat. I tested them out and was bowled over by this one, which smoothed on beautifully and left a little sheen on my legs.
Rare Beauty by Selena Gomez
I really expected this range to be a bit meh - but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Every product is executed really well, the pigments impressive, the designs thought out. I would 100% invest heavily.
Must have: All of it. But if I had to choose just one thing, it would be the Enlighten Liquid Luminizer, £24, spacenk.com, which manages to confer incredible lustre but also not look obviously like make-up.
JVN Hair by Jonathan van Ness
JVN of Queen Eye fame has leaned into everyone’s desire to have hair as silky and shiny as his with this comprehensive range of hair products containing patented sugarcane-derived hemisqualane to reduce damage, smooth frizz, and strengthen and protect.
Must have: The Complete Instant Recovery Serum, £25, cultbeauty.co.uk, is a nourishing treatment that never fails to make my bleach-weakened hair a little more shiny, a little less inclined to turn into a ball of frizz. Keeks Reid also told me that this is her favourite for smoothing and adding moisture.
KORA Organics by Miranda Kerr
After deciding she’d yet to use any products that she considered both efficacious and organic, Kerr dreamed up KORA Organics in 2009, working alongside chemists to meld the two.
Must have: The Berry Bright Vitamin C Eye Cream, £51, cultbeauty.co.uk, has been a staple on my shelf since I first tried it - it’s really velvety and cushioning, but thanks to the vitamin C content helps to brighten and firm a little, both things I have enjoyed the benefits of enormously.
Fenty Beauty by Rihanna
Rihanna famously launched her brand in 2017 with a then quite noteworthy 40 shades, and has now expanded to 50. The colour ranges across the board as inclusive, with all of them designed to be as impactful on all skin tones.
Must have: Ava Welsing-Kitcher insisted that the Poutiscle Hydrating Lip Stains, £19, fentybeauty.com, are exceptional and, having tried them, I can confirm the they pack a punch, stay put, and come in colours I actually want to wear (Zesty Bestie made it into my handbag).
Victoria Beckham Beauty by Victoria Beckham
Everyone expected VB’s make-up efforts to look stylish - but nobody thought the quality of the products would be quite so high. From the highlighter to the super soft long-wearing eyeliners to the ultra shimmery eyeshadows, it’s all very very very good and every make-up artist I spoke to mentioned it in their examples of celebrity make-up ranges that were worth the spend.
Must have: I’ve used the Reflect Highlighter Stick in Pearl since it launched and couldn’t be without it - but if I had to point you in one direction, it would be towards the Kajal Satin Eyeliners, £26, victoriabeckhambeauty.com, which are outstanding for their colour pay off, softness, and extremely easy-to-blend formula.
Florence by Mills by Milly Bobby Brown
Milly Bobby Brown has over the past four years added consistently to her range, making it one of the more substantial celebrity offerings covering everything from
Must have: The True to Hue pH Adjusting Lip and Cheek Balm, £16, beautybay.com, is foolproof: great texture, develops into a gentle wash of pink (on me, at least - results may of course vary because of the pH), and confers a lovely glow.
And the brands to swerve...
Haus Labs by Lady Gaga
While none of the products in Lady Gaga’s brand were complete duds, none of them excited me. The best product of the lot is by far the foundation, but even that didn’t seem worth launching a range for, when other foundations just as good or better already exist.
Le Domaine by Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt’s products aren’t a disaster. They’re fine. I wouldn’t balk if I had to put them on my face. The problem I have is the insane price (the serum, for example, comes in at £220) which the ingredients just don’t justify.