Look of the Irish: The homegrown beauty products achieving cult status

On fleek: Ariana Grande wears eye liner from Irish brand Carter Beauty to get her iconic wing

Of the countless beauty products on the market, very few will earn the coveted title of ‘cult’ product. But Irish cosmetics company Pestle and Mortar looks to be heading that way: their Pure Hyaluronic Serum, which costs €42, has sold out five times in the past year, each time resulting in a waiting list of up to 35,000 people.

Product reviews left by customers are routinely glowing – is it possible for so many people to love a product so much? In this case, it would seem so. Word-of-mouth marketing by loyal fans is usually what elevates a product from being simply popular to being revered.

But the serum is not the only homegrown brand in the headlines. A bit of celebrity fairy dust can always be relied on to make a product an instant sell-out, and businesswoman Melissa Carter would know all about that, given that her fake-tan range Cocoa Brown has been endorsed by beauty guru Kylie Jenner, whilst this week Kourtney Kardashian is sporting a foundation from her Carter Beauty brand in the promotional images for the latest season of the family’s reality show.

If that wasn’t enough star power, singer Ariana Grande – whose sharp winged eyeliner has become a signature look -wore the brand’s gel eyeliner for the video of her hit song ‘Break Up with Your Girlfriend, I’m Bored’, which currently has 160 million views on Youtube. Makeup artist Rokael Lizama is the man behind both of these high profile endorsements, and is clearly a fan of Carter Beauty.

Both brands now look poised to join the elite crop of products that have achieved cult status in an increasingly crowded market. Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream, Yves Saint Laurent Touche Eclat concealer, MAC Ruby Woo red lipstick and NARS Orgasm blush are oft-cited as products most women can’t live without. They are touted as the hero products, the must-haves, the classics that stand the test of time. So, what exactly does it take for a product to join this esteemed coterie? And more importantly, what does it take to stay there?

There is a combination of volume, longevity and accessibility that underscores each success story. They are all best-sellers: MAC claims to sell four Ruby Woo lipsticks every minute globally, whilst it is said NARS sells 135 Orgasm units every hour. And the products have been consistently rated by professionals and ‘regular’ women as the best lipstick and blush around since they both launched in 1999.

Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum22
Pestle & Mortar Pure Hyaluronic Serum

And while none of these would be considered budget cosmetics, they are certainly not out of most women’s reach, all selling for €35 or less. Pestle and Mortar’s serum uses Hyaluronic Acid, a naturally-occurring property within the body. Serums like these have recently gained traction for their apparent ability to reintroduce this buzz ingredient back into the skin, therefore reducing the appearance of fine lines. This anti-aging ingredient often comes with an eyewatering price tag, but Pestle and Mortar’s serum is competitively priced. Likewise, Carter Beauty products are a steal – the gel eyeliner sported by Grande costs a mere €4.95.

But perhaps the most coveted asset of these iconic products is the legions of loyal fans they have. Social media has completely changed the landscape for the beauty industry, making superstars out of teenagers who film beauty tutorials from their bedrooms.

An endorsement, paid or otherwise, from one of these beauty vloggers is enough to make a product instantly sell out, although it has to be said that all the aforementioned cult products have been flourishing for decades without the help of a hashtag.

Of course, clever marketing strategies don’t go astray, either. Elizabeth Arden asserts that the name of their iconic product came about when a client used the miracle balm to soothe her child’s skinned knee which miraculously healed, you guessed it, in eight hours.

It doesn’t really matter how corny this story may be, Eight Hour Cream has been around long enough to become a stalwart in most women’s handbags – and their mothers and grannies. So Elizabeth Arden gets to trade on that intangible yet highly effective selling point – nostalgia. There are probably more effective products that soothe and treat sunburn than Eight Hour Cream, but there are few other products that are able to conjure such potent olfactory recall for so many women, just by unscrewing a lid.

With incredibly high-profile fans, Carter Beauty has the potential to become the go-to brand for celebrity makeup artists everywhere. Meanwhile, Pestle and Mortar’s serum has become indispensable for everyday women and could very well be in our bathroom cabinets for years to come. However, the beauty industry is ever-changing, and just like the aging process it is supposed to reverse, only time will tell.

Five Irish beauty brands on their way to earning cult status

Cocoa Brown Tan

Yes, even the humble fake tan has the potential to become iconic. Cocoa Brown’s 1 Hour Tan, created by businesswoman Marissa Carter, is the product that launched a thousand golden complexions – even in the dead of winter. The range has since expanded with a full line of bronzing products and has won legions of followers around the globe, with endorsements from Kylie Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian.


In the 1980s, Patrick Mulrooney, a marine scientist based in the West of Ireland, was on a quest to find a cure for his daughter’s eczema, and turned to the sea. Harnessing the nutrients of seaweed and other sea botanicals he founded Seavite, an organic skincare company now run by daughters Katherine and Jane. The Toning Sea Spray has been a particular hit – it won Best Body Product in the 2017 Image magazine beauty awards.

The Burren Perfumery

Tucked away in one of the most picturesque corners of Ireland is The Burren Perfumery, a family-owned business that creates organic perfume and skincare by hand. The company was founded in 1972 and was taken over by Sadie Chowen in 2011. Since then, the business has steadily grown thanks to its loyal customer base around the world.


You may not count yourself as a customer, but there’s a good chance you’ve used one of VOYA’s award-winning products in a spa, hotel or even on a plane. Another brand to utilise the therapeutic properties of seaweed, their range of seaweed-infused body oils have proven a hit.


Kinvara skincare launched with just four products, and has grown steadily since. The runaway success of the range, however, has to be the 24 Hour Rosehip Serum. Rosehip oil may be the hero ingredient of the moment, thanks to high profile fans like Cara Delevingne, but founder Joanne Reilly has long been a champion of natural ingredients thanks to her degree in tropical ecology. She applies her experience working with exotic flora in far flung locations to the natural resources at hand back home.

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