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The Most Innovative Digital and Social Media Beauty Brands of 2016

These three brands take top prizes for innovative messaging on all social media platforms including Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube.

Beauty Inc. celebrates the year’s hottest innovations and most directional marketers. See the winners here.

Digital Innovator of the Year


PRESTIGE: Huda Kattan of Huda Beauty

Huda Kattan.
Huda Kattan Sim Chi Yin

Only in the borderless age of social media could an Oklahoma-born, Tennessee-raised, University of Michigan finance major-turned Hollywood-trained makeup artist make it big globally in Dubai. And that’s just what Huda Kattan has done, amassing 15.5 million followers on Instagram and 1.5 million subscribers on YouTube. Multiple brands have sought out Kattan due to her social-media savvy, and she’s used it to catapult her own brand. Huda Beauty made its debut with faux lashes at Sephora Dubai three years ago, and has expanded to Harrods and Sephora, with products for lips and eyes. “I created my products based on what I felt my followers would love rather than the opposite,” said Kattan. “That’s [given] me a competitive edge.”

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It may be one of beauty’s best digital brands, and NYX was all about capitalizing on that savvy in its brick-and-mortar stores in 2016. The L’Oréal-owned brand doubled its global store count and opened its first freestanding locations on the East Coast. The buzzy NYX Beauty Bars attracted long lines of eager enthusiasts, drawn by the brand’s knack for infusing social media into a traditional retail format. For example, no need to pull out a smartphone to shop reviews and how-tos. Instead, shoppers can easily watch social media gurus use the product in question or scan a product’s bar code for full details on the item and how other customers have used it, based on the product’s Instagram hashtag. The use of digital tools gives NYX’s shoppers a reason to get excited in a saturated color market. As senior vice president of marketing Nathalie Kristo said, “The world isn’t looking for just another makeup store.”


SPECIALTY: Tarte Cosmetics


Look into Tarte Cosmetics’ social media glossary, and you’ll see customers are Tartelettes, vacation-time is #trippinwithtarte and launches are #worksoftarte. If you’re not familiar with this lexicon, you’re clearly not as hip to Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube as the surging brand. Don’t worry, few are. Tribe Dynamics reported Tarte’s earned media value soared 221 percent in August to $44 million. Tarte’s success was driven by collaborations with key influencers, and the expansion of its #trippinwithtarte excursions, which enabled consumers to buy products immediately as the influencers were touting them during a jealousy-inducing Bora Bora expedition. “We think socially,” said chief marketing officer Candace Craig Bulishak. “We never want to copy other brands. We are always looking ahead.”