Back at the start of the summer, Victoria Hoff, Byrdie.com’s L.A.–based news editor, emailed Lisa Patulny, Byrdie.com.au’s editor in Sydney and me a feature idea: “Send us some of your favourite local beauty products—ideally ones that aren’t widely available in the U.S.—and we’ll return the favour. Then we’ll all report back!” Needless to say Lisa and I jumped at the chance, because who isn’t intrigued by cult beauty buys from other countries that are tantalisingly out of reach? I’ve been diligently testing out all the products and have made some real discoveries. Here are the products you can get your hands on in the UK, plus the versions we have that are just as good. Keep scrolling for your passport to American and Australian beauty…
At first glance, it was clear that Australian beauty is all about natural and organic ingredients. From the product selection I was pulling from the box, I could clearly see that women in Australia love to fake a glow, while creams and oils that hydrate and repair sun-parched skin and hair are a must. This wasn’t a massive surprise, since their weather is just so good that it’s little wonder they want their bodies to look glowing and gorgeous.
There were some real standout products like the Bali Body Oils (from £15), which smelled just like holiday and left skin with a pretty sheen. You can buy these here, and while I would never recommend a tanning oil with no SPF (!), they do leave skin silky smooth.
Atom Ghassoul Clay Mask (£20) is a dry clay powder that you mix with water, slather onto skin and leave to dry. Once I had rinsed it off, my skin was left looking seriously clean, smooth and surprisingly pore-free, so it’s ideally used before a night out. The pot looks great in my bathroom and Atom ships to the UK, but duties and taxes may be added. If you want to try a clay mask, I’d recommend Aztec Secret Indian Healing Facial Clay (£8). Okay, it doesn’t look as good, but the end result is pretty much the same.
A lot of the Australian makeup is vegan or animal-friendly, but the brands don’t really shout about it, and the quality, colour payoff and textures aren’t at all compromised. Case in point is Shanghai Suzy’s Whipped Matte Lipsticks, which come in some pretty daring, fashion-forward shades (think grey and green). I fell for the more wearable Miss Trish Rose Terracotta (£9) shade, a pretty rust colour that looked uber matte, but was totally comfortable and non-drying. If you have pals in Australia, get them to send these to you, as the brand doesn’t ship here.
The Red Earth Earth Colour Eyeshadow Palette in 01 Warm Glow (£23) is the perfect combination of 10 eye shadows that are all wearable, with a good mix of matte and shimmering textures. You can create a ton of soft and smoky eye looks for day and night. Needless to say, this is safely ensconced in my makeup bag now. You can’t get it shipped here, but it really reminded me of the custom Bobbi Brown eye shadow palettes you can get here.
Mecca Cosmetics doesn’t offer international shipping, so I won’t dwell on these (it makes me too sad). But the Illuminating Primer and Makeup Perfecting Mist ensured my makeup stayed put all day and night, plus they just made my face look better.
On a happier note, Hello Hair Hydrating Masks (£11) are crammed with nourishing, hydrating ingredients like coconut and olive oil, that leave hair looking and feeling healthier but not weighed down. And the brand ships to the UK (hurrah!). You can read more about Hello Hair and more Australian brands that ship to the UK here.
Ultimately Australian brands do natural, organic and vegan beauty really, really well. The formulations are elegant, while the packaging, for the most part, is fun and totally Instagrammable.
I was expecting seriously strong ingredients from the U.S. lineup. For a long time, America has been the place to stock up on skincare with high percentages of active ingredients and teeth-whitening kits with enough peroxide that they actually do what they promise (unlike our watered-down UK offerings). What I wasn’t expecting was so many natural products that looked like they should be in a science lab. Case in point: Odacite Serum Concentrates (£24) that looked medical but on closer inspection were all plant concentrates and essential oils (the brand is stocked at Cult Beauty, FYI). That was a real similarity between U.S. and Australian beauty: These women love oils for their faces, bodies and hair.
In fact, the U.S. box contained not one but two face oils, an oil-based cleanser and a hair oil (Verb Ghost Oil, £11, that quickly tamed frizz in day old tresses). While I like an oil for my body, when it comes to my spot-prone face, I am religiously oil-free.
The American box was full of some cult brands I’ve been wanting to try for a while: Make, Milk Makeup, Honest Beauty and Glossier, none of which ship here. So are we really missing out?
The Honest Everything Primer (£21) was lovely and provided a great base for makeup, but it was the Magic Balm (£14) that has earned a place in my makeup bag, purely because it leaves my lips smooth and the packaging looks great. The Milk Makeup Blush Oil (£20) left my cheeks rosy and healthy-looking (you can get it shipped via Sephora), but you’ll achieve a similar effect with Daniel Sandler Watercolour Blush (£16). It was the Make Beauty Moonlight Primer (£42) that was seriously exciting though, as it claims to protect the skin from the high-energy visible light emitted from our devices that can be ageing. This I need in my life on the regular, so if the Make Beauty team is reading this, please make shipping to the UK happen ASAP (thank you!).
Lastly, the Glossier Jelly Cleanser (£14) removed all my makeup in one go, the packaging and texture was great but the scent didn’t rock my world, while the Boy Brow (£12) tamed and shaped my brows with ease, but you can achieve a similar effect with Benefit Gimme Brow (£19). I'm holding out for more Glossie products to launch here, as I'm obsessed with Balm Dotcom.
The real standout for me from the U.S. box was the Rita Hazan Ultimate Shine Gloss (£20), an at-home gloss that smells fresh, is incredibly quick to use (you simply douse hair between your shampoo and conditioner, leave on for a minute and rinse) and reduced frizz, while ramping-up shine. You can get it shipped here from Sephora.
I also loved the Stacked Skincare TCA Multi Acid Face Peel (£113), and it ships to the UK! It comes with a brush that you use to apply it. The peel stings in that reassuring “it’s working” way, but this quickly subsided. It’s packed with retinol and vitamin C and is how I want all my skincare to be—serious and effective. My skin looked so much better afterward, just smoother and brighter; a little goes a long way, so while it’s pricey, it will last you months. The Shani Darden (Rosie Huntington-Whiteley’s skin guru) product called Resurface (£72) is incredible and is shipped internationally—it’s a potent retinol product and well worth investing in.
Finally, the Pursoma Resurrection Bath (£28), with its double pouch of clay and salts, left me feeling half a stone lighter and less bloated. I was so impressed with its detoxifying powers that I was madly Googling how to buy it in the UK (until I realised it was 1 a.m. and I had work the next day). Sadly, you can’t get it here, so make friends with an American quick sharp and get them to ship one over. Next morning, I slathered on Kopari’s Coconut Balm (£28) that smells kind of like pecan pie. You can buy it online at Free People, but I would recommend the Kopari Coconut Body Glow (£38), a shimmering body oil, instead.
This was a great, if not at times frustrating, beauty experiment. Australia does the whole natural beauty thing brilliantly—they have cracked the art of producing efficacious products that are natural, animal-friendly and Instagrammable, and that’s a winning formula right there. The U.S. had more natural formulas than I was expecting, but it didn’t disappoint with scientifically-advanced products and brands like Make Beauty and Stacked Skincare.
Finding out new favourites can’t be shipped here is really sad. But with more and more brands available in the UK via e-tailers like Free People, Net-a-Porter, Amazon, Cult Beauty and Space NK, we could soon see the likes of Make Beauty and Pursoma sold here. In the meantime, shop the U.S. and AU brands that are stocked or shipped here, and remember while the grass is sometimes greener, that’s not always the case.
Note: All prices converted were to pounds.