Summary: MERIT is a minimalist beauty brand with vegan, Leaping Bunny-certified, clean formulas that are designed for minimalists looking to enhance (not transform!) their features. After testing the Five Minute Morning Core Collection for a month, I enthusiastically recommend their makeup for anyone looking for high-performing, luxury products that leave you looking and feeling like your best self (and take almost no time to apply!). 


  • The Signature bag truly is as cool as it looks online. It’s easy to wash, and it’s so cute I’ve even used it as a clutch on date night. 
  • User-friendly product packaging makes this even more effortless for the hardcore minimalists (me!) who like to skip a toolbelt for beauty. Almost everything can be applied directly to your face and blended with your fingers, making it ideal for travel or on-the-go application.
  • They call the makeup foolproof and I agree! It’s very intuitive to apply and blend and it wears beautifully throughout the day. 
  • Everything is completely fragrance-free, vegan, and formulated without harmful chemicals or skin irritants.


  • The complexion stick works best when used after the Great Skin Instant Glow Serum; on it’s own, it’s best as a spot-concealer instead of a foundation.
  • The packaging of the brow pomade is inverted, and I always pulled out the wrong side (never got used to it!).
  • The gold accents show alllll your fingerprints. 

If you are remotely online, you’ve seen the videos: A bare-faced woman in early morning light applies one or two swipes of makeup from sleek, gold-accented tubes. In mere minutes she has a full, fresh look and is ready for her day. A mellow but cheerful French tune plays as she drops the five or so products into a russet corduroy bag that she ties into a simple knot.

A mustard yellow fabric pouch with a knot, resting on a white decorative plate, next to pink flowers.
The MERIT Signature Bag is double-lined, washable, and so cute you’ll want to use it as a clutch.

The makeup doesn’t transform her so much as enhances her natural appearance: her skin looks like skin, but just with a bit of a glow; her brows and lashes are slightly more articulated; her lips are slicked with subtle color, as if she’s just finished a popsicle.

The whole vibe is effortless and elevated, a beauty routine for women who want to celebrate the way they look and don’t need to spend hours doing it. 

“It’s MERIT, the clean, vegan, minimalist luxury makeup that comes with a Signature Bag so cute you may want to use it as a purse.”

The vids are from one of beauty’s coolest brands: It’s MERIT, the clean, vegan, minimalist luxury makeup that comes with a Signature Bag so cute you may want to use it as a purse. And that would be aligned with the brand’s ethos, which is all about doing more with less.

MERIT is the capsule wardrobe of beauty, designing fewer products with higher quality. When I say fewer products, I mean that the brand sells just ten makeup items: A lipstick, a lip oil, a skin serum, a complexion stick, a cheek balm, a highlighter, a bronzer, an eyeshadow, a brow pomade, and a mascara.

Each product comes in a limited number of hues (except the mascara, which comes in only a classic black), and is packaged thoughtfully for the true low-effort girlies out there who would like to use as few tools as possible. 🙋🏻‍♀️

In fact, MERIT only sells two tools: A face brush and an eyeshadow brush, as if to say, “If you insist.” *cue Gallic shrug.*  It’s generally cool, French girl vibes around here.


Launched in 2021, MERIT is helmed by Katherine Power, who is also the CEO and Founder of Versed Skincare and Who What Wear. Power grew up gravitating toward the more natural looks amid the luxury and prestige beauty brands introduced to her by her mother. She wanted cleaner formulas and fewer choices.

While pregnant in 2017, Power felt compelled to create a brand for consumers like her, who didn’t want the overwhelming, over-the-top makeup products made with skin-irritating, questionable ingredients saturating the market. So she started MERIT, which she calls “the antidote” to the current beauty landscape. Power wanted a brand that would do more, with less: “It’s built around the concept of minimalist beauty and the fact that we just want to look like ourselves, but better.”

“It’s built around the concept of minimalist beauty and the fact that we just want to look like ourselves, but better.”

– Katherine Power, MERIT Founder and CEO

In addition to being vegan, certified cruelty-free by Leaping Bunny, EU-compliant, and Clean at Sephora, the brand works with Biba de Sousa to eliminate an additional 73 ingredients that are generally classified as “clean” but can be acne-triggering (like coconut oil). They clarify that “clean” does not mean “all natural” on their FAQ page, explaining that while they use both lab-created and natural ingredients, their focus is on safety. Their products are free of soy, parabens, sulfates, and over 1300 other harmful ingredients (you can request the full list by emailing [email protected]).

MERIT calls themselves “Responsible Luxury,” which they define as “creating products that are safe for body, skin and planet.” They aim to eliminate virgin material from their packaging and components, and promise to continue to evolve as more post-consumer recycled plastic options are developed and made available.

Their mailer box is made from post-consumer waste and is fully recyclable. All orders after the first come packed in Green Cell Foam, a cornstarch derivative that dissolves in water. First orders, of course, come with their Signature Bag, which is double-lined, machine-washable, and free from hardware. (They only ship this once because they say it’s the only one you’ll ever need!) The brand is based in LA, and is available online and in Sephora.

In a lucky twist, the brand accidentally forgot a few items in my original shipment, so I actually got to experience the dissolvable eco-friendly packaging firsthand.

“Is this makeup as high-quality and chic as its packaging? Does it actually take five minutes?”

The stuff almost instantly dissolved! My daughter was delighted, and honestly so was I.

So what’s the deal? Is this makeup as high-quality and chic as its packaging? Does it actually take five minutes? Can the Signature Bag double as a clutch? I was sent the Five Minute Morning Core Collection and the Great Skin Instant Glow Serum so I could do the hard-nosed investigating required. The people must know the truth. 🧐

My review of MERIT’s Five Minute Morning Core Collection

Here’s the deal with my skin: I have rosacea on my cheeks, and sebaceous filaments on my nose, chin, and T-zone (aka, pore city baby!). I was acne-prone all through my teens and college years, and my skin is just generally kind of uneven in both tone and texture. I have dry-ish skin, some fine lines, and I’m prone to redness with neutral-to-cool undertones. TL;DR: My bare skin is never smooth or even.

“I am essentially exactly who MERIT has in mind for their Five Minute Morning Core Collection.”

It’s fine. I’m a person, made of person stuff, not a doll made of plastic. I’m not in my “fight with how I look” era. Luckily, MERIT is on the same page: “All of our products are designed to be buildable, easy to use, and impossible to mess up, so you can look like you but better,” they say on their website. “We also curate our collections to give you only the products and shades you need, making it easy for you to get ready in five minutes or less.”

My general goal is to look natural and like myself, but slightly more polished. I despise complicated makeup tutorials. My patience for a daily beauty routine maxes out at seven minutes, tops. So I am exactly who MERIT has in mind for their Five Minute Morning Core Collection.

Great Skin Instant Glow Serum | $38

This serum is a true gamechanger. More skin care than makeup, you just shake it up and apply it to clean skin before moisturizing. The website says it “instantly hydrates and plumps skin for a healthy glow” and… no mincing words there. That is exactly what it does. The formula has four (!!!) types of hyaluronic acids, which means that the first time I used it my skin felt so great I actually forgot to even apply my moisturizer.

With other key ingredients like niacinamide, cacao seed extract, and Japanese goldthread root, this serum is a powerhouse of skin nourishment. It is, like all the MERIT products, cruelty and fragrance free, carefully formulated with only non-comedogenic ingredients so that it won’t trigger breakouts.

It fits easily into my own small regimen of skincare for its own sake, but my satisfaction with the product ramped up significantly once I used it as a companion with the complexion stick (more below!). 10/10

The Minimalist | $38
Color: Silk, Linen

The Minimalist is hands-down the closest I’ve ever come to the ideal stick color-correcting product. It is, sorry for this, moist. I don’t know what else to call it! It’s like if an oil pastel was not made of art materials but something slick and nourishing. It feels lovely as it glides on the skin, and stays blendable long enough to say, get distracted by your dogs and walk away for a minute or two before remembering you are in the middle of something. It is completely scent-free, which is important to me. 

I am a foundation person because I like to just hand-slather something that will make my skin look like a nice, even blank canvas. But though MERIT says this product isn’t a concealer or a foundation exactly, they do say you can use it as both. I had more success personally when I used it on my red zones or sun spots rather than as an all-over color, however. I have never really spot-corrected like this before, because I am always worried that my skin is too uneven and it’s easier to just well, smear one thing over my whole face. But I was pleased to note that if I just applied it around my nostrils and on the red areas of my cheeks, it blended in with the rest of my face fairly well. My skin just looked like skin, but less red.

When I used it all over by itself, it did make my skin’s textures stand out a bit, but I suspect this may be because I got a slightly lighter color than I needed. I used the shade finder, which is pretty comprehensive: Silk is the shade recommended when I plugged in my Ilia foundation shade, but I got a different answer when I put in my Jones Road foundation info. Let’s be honest, it’s always a bit of a crapshoot when you buy online without trying it first. I gambled!

And then I received my second shipment, which included the Great Skin serum and the other shade I matched with, Linen. And everything changed.

First, Linen was clearly a better match for my skin tone. But the application on top of the skin serum was strikingly distinct: while blending the product out with my fingers on bare skin was easy enough, the skin serum base and the blending brush made me feel like a magician. It took seconds to apply all-over foundation-like coverage that perfectly matching my skin tone and made my texture appear even. I actually gasped. So now, I use a tool: the Brush No. 1 blending brush ($32). It’s actually better than my fingers (*gasp*) and the only brush I have ever loved. It’s soft, easy, and has thousands of five star reviews.

For those keeping score: my 8/10 for the wrong product shade applied without the serum bumped to an enthusiastic 10/10 for the right shade combined with the serum base.

Flush Balm | $30 
Color: Cheeky

I love, love, LOVE this balm. It comes in the cutest little package, and it feels like the silkiest butter that just glides across your skin. The color I chose, “Cheeky,” is a beautiful, cool, and muted mauve-y pink. I put it on my cheeks, my lips, and my eyelids.

It blends like a dream despite appearing very rich in pigment when you swatch it. It does exactly what the copy promises which is to make your skin appear “lit from within.”

I started using it wherever I wanted a touch of color, because I found that the way it melts into your skin can make the first application almost more of a moisturizer than a flush. But it’s buildable and extremely easy to use. And again, fragrance-free! 10/10

Shade Slick Tinted Lip Oil | $24
Colors: Pink Beet (The Classics) & Maraschino (The Gelées)

These lip oils are gorgeous and rich. They were the first thing I put on, and I knew I would keep at least one with me at all times for the coming months. 

The classic oil is an opaque but glossy color that I got in Pink Beet, a cool pink that’s kin to the Flush Balm color I picked. It is a very sophisticated color that makes me feel instantly dressed up. If it’s still a thing to do a smokey eye with a nude lip, this would be my pick. (Are we still doing this look??)

I picked the color Maraschino for the gelée lip oil, which is a bright, totally sheer red. It is exactly the color I think of when I remember eating cherry popsicles or lollipops as a kid and pretending it was lipstick. It leaves your lips glossy but tinted just a touch brighter than their usual hue. It’s the perfect anytime, anywhere, just-a-little-something lip. 

Both oils last for a few hours, and I will absolutely be buying these when I’m out. 10/10

Day Glow | $32
Color: Cava

I must confess: I am not 100% confident I know why or how to best use a highlighter. If it wasn’t offered to me I probably wouldn’t have chosen one. (Tell me you had an oily face as a teenager without telling me you had an oily face as a teenager…)

I do not contour. Nothing interests me less than having a makeup look that says “I spent hours on this” (well, other than actually spending the hours themselves). What I’m saying is, when I was looking at the product list and I got to this one, I basically closed my eyes and pointed at whatever shade and thought, Sure! That’ll do!

(But do what, exactly? I would soon find out.)

Reader, call me a convert. I still have no idea if I’m using it right, but I love this buttery, silky, creamy highlighting stick. It makes my skin look dewy and ethereal. I generally used it on my cheek and brow bones, on the tip of my nose, and on the spot my cupid’s bow would be if I had one of those. It made me feel *fancy* in a subtle, understated way, which is exactly the level I most enjoy.

The color I oh-so-carefully chose is a very sheer champagne, (called Cava) and that’s what it kind of looks like on my skin. As if I somehow put the lightest filter of actual sparkling wine over my face. But I wouldn’t call it “sparkly” at all! Nor is it shimmery or glittery, but more pearlescent. It made me feel like an angel.

It did make me interested in darker colors, possibly even a bronzer, especially for the summer when I tend to go a little too hard on the sun protection and look vampiric next to my sunkissed friends and family. I am going to knock it one point just because I don’t feel completely convinced that a highlighter is *necessary* for an everyday minimalist makeup routine, but I did really love using it. 9/10 

Brow 1980 Volumizing Pomade | $24
Color: Brown

In 2001, I got my first pair of tweezers and removed the lower half centimeter of my eyebrows. And I have been in recovery ever since. 

Being an art school kid has benefitted me on the eyebrow front: I can draw in some convincing brows using almost anything from eyeshadow to eyeliner, but this takes time. I tried brow gels but kept feeling like I didn’t have enough actual eyebrow hair for the product to work properly. And then MERIT’s volumizing pomade came into my life. 

This is my favorite product of a whole new bag of favorite products. I love everything about it, from the texture and the quality of the pigment to the user-friendly wand and the ease with which mistakes could be brushed out and corrected. What I need is something that both somehow fills in my eyebrows and also makes them appear to be shaped, giving the impression of having actual physical hairs and not just accurately painted-on trompe l’oeils. And that’s exactly what this magic pomade does. 

The brown is a tint, so it isn’t opaque or sheer but a nice, translucent color that is buildable. It stays wet long enough to wipe off, smudge, or brush over to get the coloring placement exactly right. The brush is a short conical spoolie that is easy to maneuver so that you can shape along your brow and draw at the same time without going outside the lines.

The only thing I didn’t love about it was that the wand is on the long side of the tube and the product is on the short one, which is the opposite of mascara packaging. It’s like when a sink handle is screwed on backward and you have to push it away to turn on the water — everything still works, but it’s weird.

It’s possible that it actually made the application easier, because I was able to hold the wand like a pencil instead of pinching the short handle, so I am not docking points for it. 10/10, will definitely buy again.

Clean Lash Lengthening Mascara | $26
Color: Black

A curious thing that’s happened to me in the last several years is that I’ve become a little squirrely about mascara. I have, as you can see, large eyes, and since they are also very light, a heavy hand with mascara can sometimes make me look… let’s just say intense. Or, maybe my tastes have just changed as I’ve spent years working from home and gotten much more used to (and more fond of!) my bare face. So mascara tends to be something I only use if I’m trying to go full glam.

But occasionally, I long for a mascara that could coax my light, straight lashes out into the sunlight without necessarily making a statement. Something that would maybe suggest that my lashes might just *naturally* look that way. I found a few contenders, but they tended to crumble as the day wore on. I would have to learn how to apply mascara with a lighter hand, or just accept my tiny lil lashes just as they are.

It should come as no surprise at this point in the review, that MERIT cracked the code. Please see the below image on the left, where you can see their Clean Lash Lengthening Mascara on the left eye only for comparison. This was probably about three swipes.

It’s perfect. It glides on easily with zero clumps, and it does not require multiple applications to get a subtle, natural-looking articulation of eyelashes. They even feel soft after the mascara dries! And nothing smudges, crumbles, or melts around my eyes as the day wears on. I did a simple double cleanse with my usual routine and it was gone, nary a telltale smear on my towel.

So, at the risk of sounding redundant, this judge gives it a… why yes, another 10/10.

MERIT, just take my money. I’m all in.

Is MERIT for you?

After my Jones Road review, I realized how deeply personal makeup is. What works for me won’t necessarily work for you, and photos only tell you so much. So it’s important to take any reviewer’s comments with a grain of salt, and to understand that their skin needs might be distinct from your own. 

Woman puckering her lips for a playful selfie.
While I loved the MERIT Five Minute Morning Core Collection, be sure to read my notes about goals and skin type. What works for me won’t be for everyone!

I am a fairly easygoing consumer — I want the product to work, and I am generally skilled enough with something like makeup (thank you art school) to adapt it to my needs, abilities, and preferences. I am happy to layer and mix products to get a better texture or color, or use a richer moisturizer for one type of concealer but skip the moisturizer before putting on a particularly thick foundation. The only time a product will languish in my vanity is if it irritates my skin or requires me to watch a YouTube tutorial to use it. 

“This is makeup that isn’t trying to transform, alter, or hide your face. This is makeup that celebrates your face, so that you look like you, but better.”

All this to say: If you are a self-identified minimalist who wants a five minute makeup routine, this is a great set. If you are looking for clean, vegan, and cruelty-free ingredients that don’t irritate your skin, these fragrance-free products fit the bill. And if all of that sounds great but the biggest thing is that you want a makeup look that highlights and complements your features, then I can wholeheartedly recommend MERIT for you. This is makeup that isn’t trying to transform, alter, or hide your face. This is makeup that celebrates your face, so that you look like you, but better. 

Personally, that’s all I’m asking for. I will definitely be purchasing these when I run out, and there isn’t really a more ringing endorsement than that.

Stephanie H. Fallon is a writer originally from Houston, Texas. She has an MFA from the Jackson Center of Creative Writing at Hollins University. She lives with her family in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, where she writes about motherhood, artmaking, and work culture. You can find her on Instagram or learn more on her website.