Cosmetic History Worldwide and the Growth of the Cosmetic Industry

Cosmetic history worldwide has gone through a sea of change over the past few centuries. Today the cosmetic industry is worth over $50 billion, but this was not always the case. Before we study more about the history of cosmetics, we need to search the origin of cosmetics. Cosmetics was not a business during its nascent stage and it was solely used to enhance the look of the facial skin. It all started during the 4th century BC when cosmetics and business were words from two different worlds.

If we look into the history of cosmetics then we find that the Egyptians were the precursors of cosmetic use. Here the women of the upper class used animal fat, scented oils and eye color to give a real ‘facelift’ to their faces. During its initial years, cosmetics were restricted to the confines of a room where they were prepared from natural ingredients. Cosmetics had not yet found any commercial use though it was exchanged among women.

The western world also embraced it (though a little late) much to the dissatisfaction of the Church and Queen Victoria. The use of cosmetics here was more among the lower class women and this is what slowly gave rise to cosmetics being manufactured for sale among the common masses. The French were the first to manufacture cosmetics on a large scale with the use of new and improved methods. They replaced the dangerous ingredients like copper and lead with Zinc oxide and other harmless chemicals. This soon resulted in wide sales of cosmetics and women from the elite as well as lower classes started to use it for their facial beautification.

The history of cosmetics changed with the end of World War II and the industrial growth during the 1940’s, when cosmetics found acceptance among women from all corners of the world. With the advent of the electronic media like Television and Radio, things looked really sunny for the cosmetic industry as actresses wore cosmetic makeup that attracted the general masses – a huge boost to the sales figures. Soon more and more women turned it into a habit to wear cosmetic makeup for almost all occasions.

People, mostly associated with the cosmetic industry, wanted to manufacture healthier and better products because they did not treat this as a business but something that even had use in their homes. Technological advancements made it easier for the companies to try out different ingredients for their cosmetics and this has also provided a plethora of options in front of modern consumers. Cosmetic history worldwide is all about providing the right kinds of cosmetics to satiate the obsession to look beautiful and remain young..

Nowadays, the cosmetic industry is not only concentrating on cosmetics for women, but even providing the metro-sexual males a chance to improve their facial looks. Today, the world’s cosmetic industry faces a huge demand and a real challenge in producing good quality cosmetic products. It is still a highly lucrative business for new entrants, but the challenge now comes from clinical studies that show the existence of toxic ingredients that are currently used in the manufacture of cosmetic products. These ingredients, used over long periods of time, are now being considered harmful to one’s health. Therefore, the history of cosmetics today wills evolve into where the industry will go in the future with this new information that indicates the continuous use of these toxic ingredients could be harmful to one’s health.

Little did the Egyptians know then, when they were short of options and they sat in front of the mirror to use their cosmetics, what challenges would exist today.

Cosmetic History – Milestones of the Last Century

The discovery of the art of photography and of films, particularly, provided the impetus to a sudden growth in cosmetics. As watchers saw images of famous people with perfect complexion and strong sexual appeal, the standards of a woman’s beauty started to change. Cosmetics have become a means to beautify one’s physical appearance.

During the 1920s, cosmetic history increased quickly. Between the year 1927 and 1930, advertising expenses on the radio increased from $300,000 to $3.2 million. At first, a lot of feminine magazines declined advertisements on cosmetics. However, near the end of the 1920s, cosmetics had progressed and cosmetic advertising in magazines became one of the magazine industries’ largest revenue producing resources.

Here is a brief chronological overview of cosmetics from 1900 to 2010:

1900: Annie Turnbo, a black entrepreneur, starts selling hair conditioners, hair treatments as well as harmless hair straightening products, and hair growers door-to-door.

1904: From Lodz, Poland, Max Factors moves to the United States, and 4 years later to the state of Los Angeles, where he puts make-ups up for sale to movie celebrities that does not crack or cake.

1909: Eugene Schueller, a French chemist, creates the very first harmless commercial hair dye. In the year 1910, his company was named L’Oreal.

1905: Sarah McWilliams starts to sell hair growers from door to door. After being wed to Charles J. Walker, she became recognized as Madame C.J. Walker and integrated her business in Indianapolis in the year 1911.

1909: Cosmetologist Elizabeth Hubbard and Florence Graham open a shop on 5th Avenue in New York City. After some time, Florence Graham renames their shop Elizabeth Arden.

1914: Maybelline has been discovered by T.J. Williams. The cosmetics company of Maybelline specializes in mascaras.

1922: The bobby pin has been invented in order to control or deal with short or bobbed hair.

1932: Charles Lackman, a supplier for nail polish, and Joseph and Charles Revson, distributors for nail polish, discovered Revlon. Revlon is a cosmetics business that sells nail polish in a broad range of colors.

1932: A New York chemist named Lawrence Gelb brings home a hair dye product that goes through the hair shaft. He also starts a business named Clairol. In the year 1950, he commences Miss Clairol Hair Color bath, a one step hair coloring product.

1933: A fresh, new technique for enduring waves, making use of chemicals, which does not need machinery or electricity, is introduced.

1935: Pancake make up, initially developed in order to appear natural on dye film, was made by the famous Max Factor

1941: Aerosols are actually untested, paving the way for the hairspray.

1944: Benjamin Green, a pharmacist of Miami Beach, develops the sunscreen in order to shield soldiers’ skins in the South Pacific.

1958: Mascara wands come out, doing away with the need to apply mascara using a brush.

1961: Cover Girl cosmetics, one of the 1st brand names put up in grocery stores for sale and aimed to teens is started by Noxema.

1963: For the first time in the cosmetic history, Revlon offers its very first powdered blush-on.

The next four decades of cosmetic history can be summed up as follows:

The 1970’s: a softer look became fashionable with painted eyeliners and eyelashes taking a downturn in sales. White highlighters and soft eye shadows were popular.

The 1980’s: anti-aging, skin care, and beauty treatments (therapy) were the fashion trends that evolved and there was an emphasis on tanning and the link to cancer.

The 1990’s: Touch© by Yves St. Laurent was launched and became the item to have as part of one’s cosmetic regimen.

2000 to 2010: History will make this the decade for certified organic and/or natural cosmetics. A period in which safe, toxic-free products will be launched by many companies around the world, but the US will be left behind.

Regulations will develop globally to certify cosmetic products as being organic and/or natural, but through strong lobbyists in Washington, DC, the US Cosmetic Industry will fight legislation to remove toxic ingredients in cosmetics, claiming their products are perfectly safe. Ultimately, when cosmetic history is studied sometime in the future, it will show that the industry placed revenue and profits before the health benefits of consumers.

Certifying organizations, mostly in other countries, will emerge, and although they will each use different criteria, in the end, they will have provided the consumer with safe, toxic-free cosmetic products. The hope is that the $50 billion US Cosmetic Industry will be somehow encouraged to do the same.