views updated May 14 2018



NAICS: 32-5620 Toilet Preparation Manufacturing

SIC: 2844 Perfumes, Cosmetics, and Other Toilet Preparations Manufacturing

NAICS-Based Product Codes: 32-5620D111, 32-5620D121, 32-5620D141, 32-5620D241, 32-5620G111 through 32-5620G131, 32-5620G311 through 32-5620G331, 32-5620G351, and 32-5620G381 through 32-5620G3A1


Color cosmetics fall into five well-defined categories, depending on where they are used on the body—most often the female body: lips, eyes, face, nails, and cheeks. Because applying color cosmetics is part of what the French used to refer to as a woman's toilette, color cosmetics became known as toiletries. The French word toilette refers both to the room where the toilet is, and activities generally conducted in that room. As a result, the expression "to do one's toilette" emerged. This includes applying makeup, or applying color cosmetics.

The use of color cosmetics was historically associated with women of suspect morals. The advent of the cinema changed the perception of color cosmetics. Beautiful actresses appeared on the screen adorned with lush lips accentuated by red lipstick, color-shaded eyes, and thick black mascara. The emergence of the chain, or dime, store in the 1920s made color cosmetics available at the mass market level. After World War II, a number of cosmetic manufacturers emerged. For instance, Estée Lauder began operations in 1946 and with its Clinique brand became a pillar of prestige color cosmetics.

The major types of products associated with doing one's toilette are defined in a U.S. Census Bureau report titled "Toilet Preparation Manufacturing: 2002." The five major toilette product divisions, in order from largest to smallest based on 2002 market size, are:

  1. Cosmetics
  2. Hair preparations
  3. Creams, lotions, and oils
  4. Perfumes
  5. Shaving preparations

Figure 73 presents the size of each of these five major product divisions based on 2002 data. This essay focuses on a subset of the cosmetics division of the toilet preparation manufacturing industry.


The market for all toilet preparation products in the United States was valued at almost $28 billion in 2002 according to the Census Bureau. Cosmetics accounted for $9.2 billion or 33 percent of the industry. Cosmetics are the largest and most profitable single division of toiletries.

The color cosmetics discussed in this essay are a subset of all cosmetics as defined by the Census Bureau. The subset covers five well-defined product classes, according to where they are used on the body: lips, eyes, face, nails, and cheeks. Figure 74 lists the products in the color cosmetic categopry which had shipments in 2002 of $5.1 billion.


Manufacturers' shipments of lip cosmetics—the largest product class within color cosmetics—almost tripled in size during the five-year period between 1997 and 2002, exploding in value from $1.0 billion to $2.7 billion, a growth of 157 percent. Lip cosmetics are a growing product class. In 1997 lip cosmetics represented 27 percent of the value of color cosmetics shipments. By 2002 lip cosmetics represented more than half (53%) of the total $5.1 billion color cosmetics shipment value.

This triple-digit growth may be seen by some as evidence of the 2001 recession because of an alleged economic indicator known as the lipstick effect. During a recession, consumers supposedly tend to spend more money on small, comforting items such as lipstick rather than large luxury items such as cars.

The triple-digit growth in lipsticks may also be evidence of innovations in lip care product formulations that resulted in a multi-functional product. Because lip skin is vulnerable to damage from sun, wind, and aging, reformulated lipsticks have been made to function as both color cosmetics and lip protection. Lipstick, lip glosses, and lip liners do double- or even triple-duty, functioning as colorants, sunscreens, moisturizers, and even plumpers. Other functions besides coloring include benefits such as gloss, long-lasting wear, and transfer resistance.

L'Oréal Paris, for instance, offers nine different lip cosmetic formulations: sheer gloss, moisturizing, zero-transfer, zero-transfer gloss, 8-hour, 8-hour liquid, shimmering 8-hour, plumping, and volumizing. Zero-transfer refers to zero-transfer when kissing. Even that old standby Chap Stick has been reformulated to be a skin protector with SPF 15.


Manufacturers' shipments of face powder and foundation creams—the second largest product class within color cosmetics—were flat during the five-year period between 1997 and 2002, staying close to $925 million. This category combines two product classes: face powders and foundation creams. Face powders grew 22 percent in the five-year period between 1997 and 2002, from a total shipment value of $327 million to $400 million. Foundation creams dropped 12 percent in the same period, from a shipment value of $597 million down to $527 million. Even with the 12 percent drop in foundation creams, women still prefer cream foundation over face powder.

Overall, foundation's drop in shipments combined with powder's gain meant that face powder is becoming almost as popular as cream foundation. Face powder and foundation creams together remain a large and competitive color cosmetic product class. Makers tend to focus on face powder and foundation creams because for most women, face products remain a high loyalty category. America's Research Group reported that women have a penchant for buying brand name cosmetics; 35.2 percent reported that they were very loyal to a face cosmetic brand.

An article in Chain Drug Review summarized dollar sales of face powder and foundation creams for the year ending in January 2006 using data from Information Resources, Inc., for purchasing at drugstores, discounters, supercenters, supermarkets, warehouse clubs, and dollar stores. Such stores represent the mass market only, which is less than 50 percent of the total market and is commonly called masstige to characterize it as separate from the upscale prestige market. Prestige color cosmetic sales represent approximately 40 percent of the market. The top five face brands, with dollar sales and percent change over the prior 12-month period, were:

  • Revlon Age Defying foundation—$34.8 million, up 88.9 percent
  • Cover Girl Clean powder—$26.0 million, down 11 percent
  • Cover Girl Clean powder—$21.40 million, down 12 percent
  • L'Oréal True Match foundation—$19.6 million, down 13 percent
Figures are in thousands of dollars unless otherwise specified.
Product Class1997 ShipmentsPercent of Total2002 ShipmentsPercent of TotalPercentage Change 1997 to 2002
Lipsticks, Lip Glosses, and Lip Pencils1,047,77027.12,696,86552.8157.4
Face Powder and Foundation Creams924,32423.9926,80318.20.3
Eye Cosmetics962,87324.9869,32117.0−9.7
Nail Enamels, Polishes, and Polish Removers513,19213.3418,1398.2−18.5
  • Maybelline Dream Matte foundation—$18.6 million, up 53 percent


Manufacturers' shipments of eye cosmetics—the third largest product class within color cosmetics—declined 10 percent during the five-year period 1997 to 2002, from $963 million down to $869 million. Eye cosmetics generally consist of mascara, eye shadows, and eye liner. Part of the explanation behind the decline in eye makeup shipments is the more natural look that has been popular in Hollywood, with simple eyes and a focus on kissable lips.

Cosmetics manufacturers have not, however, lost interest in eye cosmetics. New products are regularly introduced, especially mascaras and eye liners. According to Chain Drug Review the following five masstige eye brands led U.S. sales in drugstores, discount stores, supercenters, supermarkets, warehouse clubs, and dollar stores for the year ending in January 2006. Those sales are listed as well as the percentage change over the prior 12-month period for all five leading products:

  • Maybelline Great Lash mascara—$48.5 million, up 5 percent
  • L'Oréal Voluminous mascara—$31.4 million, up 8 percent
  • Maybelline XXL mascara—$28.3 million, up 153 percent
  • Cover Girl Eye Enhancers mascara—$26.9 million, down 4 percent
  • Revlon ColorStay eye liner—$22.7 million, up 15 percent

Of interest is the fact that bestselling brands are often produced by the same company so that manufacturers compete against themselves within some categories. L'Oréal, for example, owns both Maybelline and L'Oréal, and both brands have best selling mascara.


Nail polishes, enamels, and polish removers are the fourth largest color cosmetics class. Shipments of nail cosmetics declined 13 percent in the United States between 1997 and 2002, from a total of $513 million to $417 million. The use of nail polish appears to be on the decline. Long, brightly colored nails have been eclipsed by a natural look. Perhaps working women are too busy to apply color to their nails.


Blushers, the smallest color cosmetics classes, declined 54 percent in the five-year period between 1997 and 2002, from a U.S. shipment value of $417 million down to $193 million. This decline is likely the result of the 22 percent increase in face powder products that can be used to provide contour to the face but are not categorized as blushers.

The color cosmetics subset of the toilet products manufacturing industry grew 32 percent between 1997 and 2002, from industry shipments of $3.9 billion to $5.1 billion. Lip products, the largest group of color cosmetic products, saw the greatest growth while other product groups like those for cheeks and nails declined. Most manufacturers of color cosmetics have a full line of products, including items from each of the product categories. The toilet products manufacturing industry as a whole grew 23 percent in the five-year period from 1997 to 2002, from $23 billion in 1997 to $28 billion in 2002.


Within the color cosmetics industry, some manufacturers have only top-drawer brands, and want to keep it that way. For instance, Chanel stays away from the masstige market fearing that association with the mass market will hurt, not help, sales. Other manufacturers such as L'Oréal have an impressive inventory of brands sold side-by-side at mass merchandisers such as Kmart and Target so that they have brands that compete with one another for sales.

A report by Citigroup Global Markets highlights the three top mass market color cosmetic makers who remained neck and neck over the period 2001 and 2004. In 2004 L'Oréal had a color cosmetic market share of 34 percent; Procter & Gamble (P&G) had a color cosmetic market share of 21 percent; and Revlon had a color cosmetic market share of 21 percent. Leading manufacturers are profiled in alphabetical order with note of popular brands.

Estée Lauder

The Estée Lauder portfolio consists of thousands of products across 26 brands, including Clinique. The Clinique franchise is a pillar of color cosmetics, so big it overshadows rival beauty brands. Lauder reported in August 2006 that Estée Lauder and Clinique are its fastest-growing prestige color cosmetic brands, as measured by same-store sales. Lauder also sells M-A-C and Bobbi Brown. It is committed to color cosmetics, where cream foundation tends to have the best margins. For most women, foundation is a high loyalty category. Once a person commits to Clinique or Bobbi Brown foundation, she or he rarely wants to change. Bobbi Brown planned to open 30 more U.S. doors in 2007. Lauder has 40,000 beauty consultants that helped make Clinique—and recently Bobbi Brown—pillars of color cosmetics. It renewed investment in training and educating its beauty consultants for one reason: consumers buy more under the auspices of a knowledgeable professional.


Headquartered on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan, L'Oréal is the most successful mass market color cosmetic maker in the United States. L'Oréal is the U.S. color cosmetics leader with 34 percent of the mass market share. Its two strongest color cosmetics brands are Mabelline NY (taking 19% of mass color cosmetics market share) and L'Oréal Paris (with 15% of mass color cosmetics market share). L'Oréal grew both organically with its existing brands and through acquisitions such as Maybelline New York in 1996. L'Oréal is in a unique position in the color cosmetics market, selling both high-end products at department stores and low-end products at drugs stores and chain stores. Its Lancombe product line is more prestigious than Clinique and a longstanding color cosmetics brand.

Procter & Gamble

Cincinnati-based Procter & Gamble has been a giant in a wide range of consumer goods since its establishment in 1837. It produces nearly 300 brands in five segments: personal & beauty, house & home, health & wellness, baby & family, and pet nutrition & care. ICIS Chemical Business Americas reported in December 2006 that P&G is the second largest color cosmetics maker with 20.5 percent of the mass color cosmetics market. Its two strongest masstige color cosmetics brands are Cover Girl (taking 18% of market) and Max Factor (taking 3% of the market).


According to ICIS Chemical Business Americas, Revlon moved up to capture 20.7 percent of the color cosmetics mass market in 2006 (with the Revlon brand taking 15% and the Almay brand taking 5%). Revlon was founded in 1932, by the Revson brothers and a chemist who contributed the "L" to the Revlon name. Starting with a single product—a nail enamel that used pigments instead of dyes—Revlon offered women a rich-looking, opaque nail enamel in a wide variety of shades. Revlon market has segments include cosmetics, skin care, fragrance, and personal care. Revlon's products are offered at affordable prices and it sponsors events that raise awareness and money for women's health issues. In the 1990s Revlon revitalized its color cosmetics business. It introduced the first transfer resistant lipcolor which led to a full ColorStay Collection of transfer-resistant color cosmetic products. Revlon's color cosmetic brands include Revlon, ColorStay, New Complexion, Revlon Age Defying, Super Lustrous, Almay, and Ultima II.

Other companies with important roles within the industry include Del Laboratories, Inc., Johnson & Johnson, Noxell Corporation, Shiseido Cosmetics Ltd., and Unilever. Avon and Mary Kay are two companies with a direct sales distribution model for color cosmetics.


The materials used by manufacturers in the production of color cosmetics consist of the ingredients necessary to produce the cosmetics as well as the materials needed to package them. Color cosmetics packaging plays an important part in marketing makeup products. Packaging provides color cosmetics with a means of product differentiation.

As a whole, the toiletries industry spent $8.0 billion in 2002 on the total cost of materials needed to make all kinds of toiletries, including color cosmetics. Of this, $5.6 billion was spent on packaging and other materials, and $2.4 billion was spent on ingredients. In other words, this industry spends 70 percent on packaging, and only 30 percent on buying ingredients that go into the cosmetics themselves. Industry-wide expenditures for plastic containers including jars, tubes, tubs, and bottles were $1.2 billion in 2002, more than on any other single ingredient class.

Setting the issue of plastics aside, this section examines that portion of the $2.4 billion industry-wide purchases of ingredients that end up on the lips, eyes, face, nails, and cheeks. The review is based on Census data for the entire toilet products industry because informa-tion about materials consumed is provided only at the industry-wide level, not at the individual product class level. The primary categories of ingredients needed to make toiletries of all kinds are, from largest to smallest in terms of industry-wide spending, as follows:

  • Perfume oil mixtures and blends, essential oils (natural), and perfume materials (synthetic organic)—representing 41 percent of ingredient spending
  • Synthetic organic chemicals—representing 30 percent of ingredient spending
  • Bulk surface active agents (surfactants)—representing 10 percent of ingredient spending

Perfumes are used in the production process to impart a pleasant aroma to both the product and the packaging. Together, perfume ingredients purchased for their pleasant aroma accounted for almost 40 percent—or $935 million—of total industry ingredient spending in 2002. When purchasing aromas, more than 50 percent of the $935 million—$522 million—went toward perfume oil mixtures and blends. The cost to purchase essential oils (natural) decreased 7 percent between 1997 and 2002, dipping from $174 million down to $161 million.

The cost for purchasing perfume materials (synthetic organic), however, almost quadrupled in the five-year period that ended in 2002, ballooning from $67 million to $252 million, an increase of 278 percent. Synthetic organic perfume materials are created primarily from chemical compounds obtained during petroleum distillation, a process which separates petroleum into fractions according to their boiling temperatures. The advantages of synthetics are substantial. The almost quadrupling of their use shows how rapidly they became pervasive as ingredients. For manufacturers, they make economic sense because they do not depend on plant material and plant harvest from year to year. The result is stable prices, consistent supply, and more than 2,000 odor profiles to chose from (instead of only 200 plant-derived profiles).

Synthetic organic chemicals represent 30 percent of the cost of the ingredients needed to make color cosmetics. They are the largest single class of ingredients consumed by the toiletries industry (not including the materials used to make the packaging). Synthetic organic chemicals are generally derived from petroleum products during its separation into fractions according to boiling ranges. In color cosmetics, organic chemicals are most important as preservatives integral to making products with a long shelf life. Consumers expect color cosmetics to last years. Examples are the parabens. Parabens include methyl, propyl, ethyl, and butyl. They provide broad spectrum anti-microbial protection to toiletries products. The U.S. toiletries industry almost tripled its use of synthetic organic chemicals between 1997 and 2002, mushrooming from purchases valued at $243 million to $721 million, an increase of 197 percent.

Surfactants are used to adjust the surface tension of a liquid or cream liquid to assist emulsifying in color cosmetics such as lip sticks and glosses, cream foundation, cream eye shadows, and cream blushes. Wetting agents that help products spread, surfactants are integral to making creamy color cosmetics that go on evenly and smoothly. The U.S. toiletries industry decreased spending on surfactants by 26 percent in the five-year period between 1997 and 2002, from $330 million to $243 billion.


Color cosmetic products exist side-by-side as both high-end products and low-end products. Product lines on either end of this spectrum are distributed through a distinct channel. Within the industry these channels co-exist because they serve different consumer segments. They are often referred to as the prestige channel and the masstige channel.

Prestige products are classified primarily based on price and are distributed via the department store channel. Masstige products are primarily lower-priced products distributed via a mass market distribution channel.

The department store distribution channel is a classic and large channel for prestige products. Prestige brand names were built through their exclusive availability in high-end department stores and this channel represents 40 percent of North American sales of cosmetics. This channel underwent a shakeup when Federated Department Stores acquired May Department Store Company. At the time the deal was finalized in August 2005, Federated owned 458 stores nationwide, mostly known as Bloomingdale's and Macy's, while May operated 491 department stores nationwide under the names Lord & Taylor and Marshall Field's, among others. In September 2006, the May Department Store nameplates were formally changed to Macy's. All prestige companies, or 40 percent of the color cosmetics industry, had to deal with department store consolidations. In effect, the Federated May consolidation was a merger of the two biggest distribution channels for prestige color cosmetics. An estimated 75 stores closed. Even with the department store distribution channel shake up, department stores account for 40 percent of sales within the color cosmetics industry.

The department store distribution channel for prestige products involves delivering the product via a company-trained beauty consultant. For instance, Estée Lauder has 40,000 beauty consultants that helped make Clinique—and later Bobbi Brown—a pillar of color cosmetics. Lauder renewed investment in training and educating its beauty consultants for one reason: consumers buy more under the auspices of a knowledgeable pro-fessional. Respondents to a recent Bobbi Brown survey indicated that a lesson with a makeup artist was one of the strongest influences on spending. It will remain so.

The department store channel offers makers a controlled environment, which they know generally equates to higher sales. Consumers also prefer the prestige channel since mistakes made in masstige product purchases can be cumulatively expensive. Many women may have a dozen or more products at home that were never used because colors were too bright, too gold, too orange, or all wrong. It is not uncommon for a woman to have a drawer that includes a Max Factor eye shadow (triple), a Revlon wet-dry shadow in lavender (single), and Oil of Olay midnight red lipstick—all used only once.

The mass market distribution channel is broadening in part because store loyalty is less prominent with masstige products than for prestige products. The mass market distribution channel grew to include a large variety of places to buy products. Lower-price products are sold through a throng of outlets: drugs stores such as CVS, Rite Aid, and Walgreens; food stores including Whole Foods and health food stores; mass merchandisers including KMart, Target, and Wal-Mart; and nontraditional Internet retailers. The broadened masstige channel includes warehouse club stores like Costco and Sam's Club. Popular Web sites that allow for online sales include and

In 2005 Lauder's internet operations contributed more than 30 percent to its U.S. sales surge. On that model, Lauder expanded e-commerce internationally by launching sites for Estée Lauder, Clinique, and M-A-C in the United Kingdom. Lauder has 17 single brand marketing sites, 11 with e-commerce capabilities. Because color cosmetics are fashion-trend focused, often just as a consumer finds a product color she prefers, it is discontinued and replaced with a trendier color. This has led to Web sites for discontinued color cosmetics. One example is The Urban Decay brand also has a website with one section for discontinued items called RIP. It explains that because its customers are cool and up on what is hip, it regularly introduces new colors and sells discontinued items on its Web site.

The mass market distribution channel is expanding. Cosmetics manufacturers actively courted a broader distribution channel using technologies including cable TV, cell phones, and podcasts. For instance, QVC, a direct sales cable network, is no longer perceived to be a sales channel for exclusively down market items. Philosophy—a prestige product sold at Macy's, Bloomingdale's, and Nordstrom—partnered with QVC eight years ago and is now the home shopping network's top beauty brand, edging out Bare Escentuals. QVC accounted for 48 percent of Philosophy's net wholesale volume of $120 to $150 million in 2006.

Bare Escentuals went to QVC in 1997. Bare Escentuals still relies on infomercials—not generally associated with the prestige air that matches its price points—to educate consumers about its crushed minerals, patents pending, and organic ingredients, making it easier for the consumer to part with $60 for 0.15 ounce of Rare Minerals Skin Revival Treatment, meant to be worn while sleeping for luminous skin. Even the pillar of prestige department store sales, Clinique, moved beyond TV and glossy magazines to health clubs, Weight Watchers magazine, and college campuses in order to reach a diverse audience.


Users of color cosmetics are predominantly women of all ages. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) helps identify key users of color cosmetics by referring to the generally accepted uses of cosmetics, including color. The FDA defines cosmetics as "articles other than soap that are applied to the human body for cleansing, beautifying, promoting attractiveness, or altering the appearance." From this classic definition, it can be assumed that the key user is primarily a female with an interest in beautifying herself and promoting attractiveness; thus, use of color cosmetics may increase during activities involving dating, a process which often involves attractions.

The products purchased are dependent upon the financial circumstances of the consumers who buy them. Products purchased are also dependent upon the talent of the consumers who buy them. Some women do not need to purchase prestige products in order to utilize the services of a trained beauty consultant because they inherently know what works. Women with large, well-spaced eyes quickly learn to use eyeliner to highlight and draw attention to them. Women with narrow, closely-spaced eyes tend to stay away from eyeliner in order to highlight something else, perhaps luscious lips. Women learn early what their best feature is: lips, face, eyes, cheeks, or nails, and purchase products that work best for them. Barbra Streisand, for example, is well known not only for her voice, but for her striking nose and long manicured nails. She uses color cosmetic products to draw attention to one and away from the other.


The apparel industry is a market that is strongly adjacent to color cosmetics. The use of color cosmetics is strongly influenced by fashion trends. Changes in fashion impact sales of color cosmetics. For the most part, shifts in fashion tend to increase the sales of one type of cosmetic, say darkly colored lip sticks, while dampening demand for another such as bright blue eye shadow. Since most cosmetics manufacturers produce an impressive inventory of color cosmetics, they tend to be prepared for fashion shifts. The cosmetics industry also directly affects fashion trends and is, therefore, well-suited to plan ahead in order to take full advantage of sales opportunities that grow out of shifting fashions.

Knowledge, too, can impact the use of color cosmetics and is therefore an adjacent market. Knowledge about skin care products in particular influences cosmetics usage since skin care products are closely adjacent to the cosmetics industry. Books, tapes, and DVDs are available for the consumer to learn skin care and color cosmetics beauty lessons in her own living room. Ostensibly, this knowledge will save money and time.

The consumer who has made purchasing mistakes that became cumulatively expensive might well benefit from such books and tapes. Recent examples include Laura Mercier: The Flawless Face, a VHS tape that demonstrates expert applications of makeup and shares insider tricks. Another is Your Makeup: Simple Steps to Amazing Looks, a DVD by celebrity makeup artists who reveal their secrets.

Bobbi Brown has four best selling books. Her first book, Bobbi Brown Beauty: The Ultimate Beauty Resource (HarperStyle 1997) was a beauty guide for women of all ages. Her next book Bobbi Brown Teenage Beauty (Cliff Street Books 2000) was a New York Times Best Seller. Bobbie Brown Beauty Evolution (Harper Resource 2002) was for women of every age. Bobbi Brown Living Beauty (Springboard Press 2007) redefines beauty for women over 40. The books are successful at creating increased interest in the entire Bobbi Brown franchise.


Color cosmetics are fashion-trend focused. Research and development activities must be ongoing because most products stay on the shelf less than four years. New products must be developed to meet the constant demand for a cycle of renewal. Color cosmetics R&D tends to focus on where the market growth is robust. In 2006 Lauder's research centered on developing advances in lip glosses, foundations, and mascaras. Not surprisingly, these segments correlate to robust product classes. Lip cosmetics, for example, grew at the rate of 157 percent in the five-year period between 1997 and 2002. The color cosmetics industry is competitive, and constantly changing due to scientific advancements in the ingredients used to make the products.

One such scientific advancement is related to pigments, which supply the color in color cosmetic products. R&D resulted in an innovation called borosilicate pigment technology that produces multi-dimensional pigments that make distinctive color-shifting effects available in color cosmetics. Borosilicate flakes are conducive to pearlescent pigment and can be fine-tuned for both transparency and sparkle. The flake pigment allows the unaided eye to discern colors particle-by-particle, which provides the multi-color effect. L'Oréal was among the first to introduce products utilizing this new innovation and signed Hollywood starlet Scarlett Johansson to promote its new line of color-changing cosmetics. The brand is known as HIP because it makes uses of special high intensity pigments. HIP was launched at U.S. chain, drug, and mass market outlets in February 2007. It is a comprehensive range of color cosmetics, including products for lips, face, cheeks, and eyes.


In 2000 L'Oréal established its Institute for Ethnic Hair & Skin Research in Chicago, Illinois—the first and supposedly only research facility operated by a beauty company to conduct basic scientific research on the unique properties of the skin of people of African descent. In 2006 Lauder reinvigorated Prescriptives, a line designed around the customized color cosmetics concept. The Prescriptives line is uniquely positioned to appeal to women of diverse ethnic backgrounds. These are indications of trends in color cosmetics. Makers are formulating products to meet the needs of minorities including African American women and women of Hispanic origin.

Another trend involves the ever-expanding mass market distribution channel. Recognizing the effects of consolidation of the department store industry, and the trend toward more women buying from mass merchandisers, Lauder subsidiary BeautyBank created three new color cosmetics and skin care brands in 2004 for Kohl's, a discount chain with 750 stores in the United States. Lauder will retain ownership of the three brands. This represented Lauder's first foray into the low-end or mass market. One brand called Grassroots rolled out in 2006. Another is American Beauty for which actress Ashley Judd is the spokesmodel. All are available on Kohl's Web site.


Cosmetics manufacturers target market segments that provide significant growth opportunities, such as lip cosmetics with its triple-digit growth or cream foundations with their highly loyal consumers. In color cosmetics, women over the age of 50 are a targeted segment along with ethnic groups with unique needs that have not been fully met.

Women over the age of 50 represent a market that has been traditionally underserved by the cosmetics industry, a fact that has been changing during the first years of the twenty-first century. ACNielsen estimates that female heads of households who are over age 45 account for nearly 70 percent of mass market color cosmetics purchases.

L'Oréal launched a cosmetics collection for women in their 50s and 60s with actress Diane Keaton as the spokes-model. Revlon kicked off its biggest launch in more than a decade—Vital Radiance. Vital Radiance is built on the premise that women who are 50 years old or older need to update their choice of color cosmetics as well as their application techniques to reflect the fact that their skin is changing—lines are appearing, color is diminishing, and lashes and eyebrows are becoming more sparse.

Ethnic and racial groups are also segments of the market that have been traditionally underserved by the cosmetics industry. These segments of the market are receiving increasing attention from cosmetics manufacturers. The fastest growing segments of the U.S. population by race and ethnicity are, in order of growth, Hispanics, Asian Americans, and African Americans. Together, these three segments of the population represented 24 percent of the population in 1990 and by 2005 they accounted for 31.5 percent of the population. This trend in demographics paints a picture of a population whose dominant skin tone is darkening. Color cosmetics for ethnic skin types are a product group designed for a growing market.

One problem that cosmetics manufacturers have encountered in their pursuit of new products for the ethnic market is the fact that chemists who are formulating new products often have little knowledge of the ethnic demographic. Upcoming formulations for black skin are predicted to include natural shea butters, plus cocoa and peanut oils because black skin is frequently dry and needs to be moisturized. Procter & Gamble's Cover Girl brand is targeting this market in glossy magazine advertisements and television commercials that feature beautiful African American singers Queen Latifah and Beyonce as spokes-models.

Mag Beauty Puig Fragrance and Personal Care Division NA maintains that paying attention to the buying preferences of Hispanic women helps them distribute Hispanic-oriented cosmetics under the Maja and Heno de Pravia brands, both strong sellers in many Latin American countries. Brand name recognition can drive sales that will open up the Hispanic market. Mag Beauty advertises its two brands heavily in Spanish language magazines.

The unmet needs of women over 50 and of ethnic minorities will drive future color cosmetics R&D. Successfully selling to these groups will contribute to the broadening of the distribution channel for color cosmetics.


Cosmetic, Toiletry and Fragrance Association,

The European Cosmetic Toiletry and Perfumery Association,

Research Institute for Fragrance Materials,

Synthetic Organic Chemicals Manufacturers Association,


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see also Cosmeceuticals, Sun Care Products


views updated May 18 2018


The term cosmetics comes from the Greek kosmos for order, referring in this case to the well-ordered face or appearance. Cosmetics are substances applied to the skin or hair to create a pleasing appearance. In the early-twenty-first century, they are alternately seen as the bane of modern women's existence (creating a time-consuming third shift [Wolf 1991] for women) and as a simple, popular tool for personal transformation. Some feminists deride the cosmetics industry as an ethically corrupt patriarchal institution that intentionally makes women feel that their natural faces are inadequate and exacerbates the identification of value with superficial appearance (Bordo 1995), whereas others cheer the liberating effects of bringing control over self-image and appearance within the grasp of every person. Ethical concerns raised in the history of the cosmetics industry remain and are exacerbated by technological innovations and the increasing consumer culture.

History of Cosmetics

The practice of painting and tattooing the body dates back to early-Neanderthal humans, when natural mud, ash, and natural dyes were used for not so much for enhancing beauty, but for camouflage, inspiring fear in others, and representation of animal gods in ritual ceremonies. In ancient Egypt, body painting focused on the eyes, with black antimony powder and green malachite lining used for protection from the sun as well as for decoration. Cosmetics and perfumes were used by both sexes in ancient Egypt and Rome. Later, in medieval Europe, strict religious norms identified cosmetics as the devil's work—a sign of vanity and deception. The Renaissance period brought cosmetics back in style, emphasizing the human ability to improve upon nature. In Elizabethan England, both sexes powdered their faces for a pale complexion, while women also used rouge and lip color, and covered the entire face with egg white for preservation. Men and women of the upper classes devoted significant amounts of money and time to maintaining an aristocratic appearance (Gunn 1973).

In Hope in a Jar (1998), social historian Kathy Peiss tells the story of the cosmetics industry in the United States. The American Revolution led to a rejection of the English tradition of wigs and facial powders as signs of aristocratic standing for men. Yet women's virtue continued to be linked with appearance. Women kept instructions for homemade cosmetics intermingled with potions for curing rashes and maintaining good health. Traditional family recipes (using household items such as oatmeal, lye, charcoal, and berries, among others) were commonly exchanged through social networks; for advice, one went to a friend or family member, not a pharmacist or physician. But more efficient and less risky substances were often available at the pharmacy, and soon women began buying special ingredients for their beauty concoctions. Pharmacists recognized an opportunity for packaging recipes of their own and selling them as finished products. Advertising created brand recognition and motivated women to seek the lifestyles they saw in print. Thus by the early 1930s, most women in the United States reported that putting on a face was a daily activity involving commercial beauty products (Peiss 1998).

Despite this increasing popularity for commercial cosmetics, early critics voiced concerns. Some questioned the monetary and time costs invested for such temporary results. Others expressed moral contempt for a practice that was viewed as an enemy of authenticity, a way to fake one's way into beauty. Early associations between cosmetics and women of low status (e.g., prostitutes and vaudeville showgirls) contributed to this distrust. Yet in a society that historically undervalued women's intellectual capacities and overemphasized their aesthetic value, the cosmetics industry flourished. Looking good was a ticket to increased social status. Even women who initially rejected cosmetics as an inappropriate solution to problems of inequality felt social pressure to use them. Similar pressures have more recently led to increased use of cosmetic surgery for women, the expansion of the cosmetics market to men's products, and biotech research into more effective and individualized cosmetics products.

As the cosmetics industry has become more dependent on science and technology, significant ethical issues have been highlighted, and termed cosmethics. The issues range from gender equity to safety concerns and animal testing. Codes of ethics have been formulated by the cosmetics industry to begin to address these issues as they arise in development, manufacturing, distribution, and advertising (ICMAD). In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require cosmetics safety testing prior to public sales because cosmetics are not considered drugs. However the FDA publishes guidelines for good manufacturing, and all cosmetics manufacturers must comply with the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and the Fair Packaging and Labeling Act; products without substantiated safety must bear the warning, "The safety of this product has not been determined."

Equity Issues

The contemporary cosmetics industry was largely founded by women (e.g., Elizabeth Arden, Madam C. J. Walker), who recognized the opportunity to make use of recalcitrant appearance norms for their benefit (elevating women's status by turning men's weaknesses against them) and built on the tradition of women's home-beauty networks. Women who were overworked, under-appreciated, lacked self-esteem, or simply desired attention for themselves were offered a medium through which to connect with other women, pamper each other, and share concerns. Furthermore women could experiment with new identities for themselves through the use of cosmetics. Such benefits continue to be heralded in the early-twenty-first century. Of course, for convenience, most women settle on a standard routine that best fits their sense of themselves. Thus, in order to maintain a normal appearance, they come to rely on regular purchases of the associated products. Consumer purchases are required simply to be oneself. How ironic that the product heralded as an opportunity for self-creation, self-care, and shared intimacy among women turns into a requirement of time, energy, and financial investment. In a society highly attuned to appearance, serious consequences ride on conforming to the norm: preservation of jobs, relationships, and self-esteem. Indeed the pernicious dynamic of commercialization and biased norms of appearance has resulted in studies showing that many contemporary women spend significant time each day applying cosmetics, find them essential to wear in a wide variety of circumstances, and believe that their attractiveness depends on cosmetics (Cash and Wunderlee 1987, Kelson et al. 1990).

This situation is problematic for several reasons. First, although emphasis on men's grooming is increasing (Bordo 2000), the value placed on appearance is still decidedly greater for women than men. For women, the use of cosmetics is tied to social status and credibility in the workplace (Dellinger and Williams 1997). Second the image of beauty proclaimed by the industry is decidedly narrow, favoring a white, Western ideal, even when models are from different racial or ethnic groups (Perlmutter 2000, Bordo 1995). This imposition of one version of beauty on all reinforces the historically unjust social status of many women of color. The Western beauty bias can also be seen in scholarship on racialized uses of cosmetic surgery (Kaw 1993).

Safety and Animal Testing

To ensure that cosmetics are safe for human use, animal testing has been employed to determine toxicity and likely reactions to chemicals in the products. The LD-50 test (lethal toxicity for 50% of the animals tested) started in 1927 (Singer 1999) and was developed to determine the strength of various drugs for medical purposes. The testing quickly spread to other applications, including ingestion of lipstick and other cosmetics. It was an industry standard until the early 1980s, when animals rights groups pressured the industries to rethink both the efficacy and ethics of the test. Given species differences and drastic disparities in the amount and time frame for ingestion, the applicability of the test for human usage was unclear at best, and half the experimental animal populations had to die to complete the test. As one activist wrote, "The test defies common sense. Does one really need to know how many bars of pure Ivory soap kill a dog?" (Singer 1999, p. 10). Following public pressure, in 1985 the cosmetics industry moved to a limited test that feeds a smaller amount of the product to a smaller group of animals, and discontinues the study if no harmful effects are found. Similarly, since the 1940s, the Draize eye test has used conscious but immobilized rabbits to ascertain effects such as redness, blistering, and blindness that might result from direct contact of a cosmetic product with the eye. Rabbits' eyes are dabbed with the product, and observed over time to record eye damage and discomfort. Pressure from animal rights activists for alternative models to ensure safety convinced the industry to contribute its own funds to research aimed at refinement, reduction, and replacement of animal use. Animal-free testing now has marketing appeal as well as ethical grounding. In 2002 the European Parliament banned the sales of animal-tested cosmetics produced throughout the European Union, a ban that will, in the future, apply to animal-tested cosmetics produced in other areas of the world.

Although contemporary cosmetics has advanced significantly from the heyday of animal testing and the previous dangers of unregulated and untested products (e.g., in the Elizabethan period the use of ceruse, or white lead, for complexion whitening led to toxic reactions, sometimes with deadly consequences), the risks of cosmetic use have not been eradicated. Advances in science and technology have brought the advent of cosmeceuticals or beauty products designed to make use of medical and pharmaceutical advances for nonmedical purposes. These include Retin A-enriched facial cream to diminish wrinkles, baldness treatments, and other cosmetic products with biologically active agents. In the United States, this rapidly growing industry (Lamas 2003) is not subject to regulation and testing by the FDA because cosmeceuticals are not considered drugs (which affect the body's structure and function). Yet this claim is difficult to confirm without the very testing that has been waived due to the categorization scheme. Cosmeceuticals are often sold in the offices of dermatologists and other physicians, and may be easily mistaken for tested medical treatments by patient-consumers. Even overlooking the likely ethical conflict of interests, one wonders whether such new and improved cosmetic treatments really advance human options or instead quietly increase burdens, as people try to keep up appearances.


SEE ALSO Affluence;Body;Consumerism.


Bordo, Susan. (1995). Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Bordo, Susan. (2000). "Beauty (Re)Discovers the Male Body." In Beauty Matters, ed. Peg Brand. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Wide-ranging, accessible coverage of issues related to gender and the body.

Cash, Thomas, and James Wunderlee Jr. (1987). "Self-Monitoring and Cosmetics Use among College Women." Journal of Social Behavior and Personality 2(4): 563–566.

Dellinger, Kirsten, and Christine Williams. (1997). "Makeup at Work: Negotiating Appearance Rules in the Workplace." Gender & Society 11(2): 151–177.

Gunn, Fenja. (1973). The Artificial Face: A History of Cosmetics. New York: Hippocrene Books. Coverage of the world history of cosmetics from Neanderthal times through the twentieth century.

Kaw, Eugenia. (1993). "Medicalization of Racial Features: Asian American Women and Cosmetic Surgery." Medical Anthropology Quarterly 7(1): 74–89.

Kelson, Tamar; Ann Kearney-Cooke; and Leonard Lansky. (1990). "Body-Image and Body-Beautification among Female College Students." Perceptual and Motor Skills 71: 281–289.

Lamas, Daniela. (2003). "The Business of Beauty." Miami Herald, September 23, p. 11E.

Peiss, Kathy Lee. (1998). Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture. New York: Metropolitan Books.

Perlmutter, Dawn. (2000). "Miss America: Whose Ideal?" In Beauty Matters, ed. Peg Brand. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Singer, Peter. (1999). "Henry Spira's Search for Common Ground on Animal Testing." Cambridge Quarterly of Healthcare Ethics 8: 9–22. Interesting discussion of one individual's contributions to the animal rights movement.

Wolf, Naomi. (1991). The Beauty Myth: How Images of Beauty are Used against Women. New York: Bantam/Doubleday. Popular work on beauty and the pressures to achieve it.


Independent Cosmetics Manufacturer and Distributors, Inc. (ICMAD). Code of ethics available from


views updated May 23 2018


In Ancient Times

Cosmetics, for the care and adornment of the body, were widely used by both men and women in the ancient Near East. The use of cosmetics was widespread among the poor as well as the wealthy classes; in the same way that they used to wash the body, so they used to take care of it with substances that softened the skin and they would anoint (from the root swkh) the body with oils and ointments (eg., Ezek. 16:9), as is shown by the discovery of a great deal of pertinent archaeological material, dating from the third millennium b.c.e. Since the expensive cosmetic materials were used in small quantities, special containers were produced for them, and many bottles and small flasks made of porphyry, stone, bone, ivory, and glass have been found. Commonly discovered also are flat slate slabs with depressions in the center, which were used for grinding and mixing ingredients; small mortars, usually made of stone; and long thin metal, wood, bone, or ivory spatulas used for mixing or applying the cosmetics. Good examples of these implements, often lovely and in many diverse styles, were found in Gezer, Tel Beit Mirsim, Megiddo, and Hazor.

In the ancient Near East the use of cosmetics by men was mainly restricted to the rubbing of oil into the body and the spreading of the oil over the hair of the head and the beard (Ps. 133:2), but occasionally a facial cream or lotion was used to protect the skin against the heat of the sun. Women used preparations to beautify the hair, to color eyelids, face, and lips, to anoint exposed skin and the whole body (Esth. 2:12), and to care for the nails. Cosmetics were also used medically and were sometimes connected with cultic worship and witchcraft. They were made by expert craftsmen who imported the raw ingredients, especially from Arabia and India, and adapted them for local use. The very common creams for treating the skin, particularly important in the hot climate of the east, were compounded of oils and fragrances. Sometimes the oil in these creams was extracted from olives, almonds, gourds, sesame, or other trees and plants, but animal and fish fats, which were less expensive, were more widely used. There may even have been a certain amount of wine or alcohol added to these fats to thin them and make them evaporate. Other thick base materials for cosmetics were wood ash, beeswax, and mixed oils and fats. The fragrant ingredients were usually of vegetable origin: plant leaves, fruits, buds, stalks, roots, seeds, and flowers, especially cinnamon, jasmine, rose, mint, and balsam. The fragrant components were produced by squeezing the raw materials, by cooking and afterward compressing them, or by distillation. Several early Egyptian drawings show the ingredients being placed in strong cloth sacks which could be compressed by shrinking or twisting.

Women commonly put color around their eyes (Isa. 3:16; Jer. 4:30). In addition to beautification, this seems to have had some medicinal value, for covering the sensitive skin of the lids with color prevented dryness and consequent skin diseases. For the description of eye-painting the following terms are used: kaḥal (Akk. guḥlu), e.g., "painted your eyes and decked yourself with ornament" (Ezek. 23:40); pukh (ii Kings 9:30, Jer. 4:30). Egyptian women colored the upper lid black, the lower one green, and painted the space between the upper lid and the eyebrow grey or blue. Mesopotamian women favored yellows and reds. These colors were usually mineral-based: black often being made from lead sulfate, greens and blues from colored stones (i Chron. 29:2) or from antimony stone (Heb. pukh), a precious blue stone which was ground and was used along with a mixture of oil base for the application of paint on the eyes, greens from copper oxide and reds from iron oxide. Such materials were generally powdered and mixed into a preservative oil base, possibly in combination with some fragrance. They were applied either with the fingers or with a stylized spatula. Red ocher or *henna may have been used on the face, and henna was also used for dyeing the hair, which was held in place with beeswax. Lips were colored with a cream made from oil combined with red ocher, and nails were painted with pigments mixed in ash or bees-wax. Cosmetic colors were also produced from burned woods, ivories, and bitumen, mixed with strong fragrant compounds to eliminate their unpleasant odors.

[Ze'ev Yeivin]

A wealth of archaeological material has been found bearing testimony to the importance of beauty treatment in Roman and Byzantine Palestine. In every archaeological museum numerous tools and receptacles used to contain and apply makeup are to be found, such as metal and bone eyebrow pencils, containers for powders and creams in the form of small cylindrical pyxes, spoons and spatulae for applying make-up, small perfume bottles, mirrors (sometimes in pairs that fitted into one another, enabling one to see the back of one's head), tweezers, pins, brooches (fibulae), etc.

[Daniel Sperber (2nd ed.)

In the Talmud

The talmudic attitude toward the use of cosmetics is basically favorable, but it is combined with warnings against its utilization for immoral purposes. This applies to ointments, perfumes, paint, and powder. Olive oil was widely used as an ointment base. It was also used as a depilatory, when mixed with such substances as myrrh, flour, and chalk. The best-known ointment was the precious *balsam which was a highly praised product of the Jericho plain (Shab. 26a). Wanton women used to put it into their shoes together with myrrh, so that its scent would arouse passion in young men (Shab. 62b). This rare and costly commodity was subject to cheap imitations. There is a difference of opinion whether the biblical ẓori is to be identified with balsam (Ker. 6a) or whether it is a different substance (see Rashi and Naḥmanides to Ex. 30:34). However, its main use was medicinal rather than cosmetic. Besides these ointments, *rose oil, spikenard, foliatium, *laudanum, henna, most of which are already mentioned in the Bible, and others, were also utilized. Perfumes (besamim) were obtained in part by an admixture of dry aromatic substances to those already mentioned. The substances were both grown in Israel and imported from as far as Arabia and even India (See *Incense and Perfume). These perfumes were also utilized to sweeten the air in the home after meals (Ber. 6:6; Shab. 18a); or at weddings (Tosef. Shab. 7:16); and to perfume clothing (Ber. 53a). In the Talmud mention is made of such dyes as rouge (sarak), purple-violet (pikas, φύκες; cf. the term pirkus), white for the face, hair and finger- and toenails, and blue-black (Kaḥal) for the eyes. It was a wife's duty to beautify herself so as to appear pleasing to her husband (Tosef. Ned. 7:1, cf. mk 1:7 ibid., 9b; Shab. 64b), and an enactment is attributed to Ezra that perfume peddlers should be allowed to circulate freely for this purpose (bk 82ab). The use of cosmetics during mourning (mk 20b; Ket. 4b) was forbidden. Prostitutes, of course, made a special art of painting themselves (Shab. 34a; tjibid. 8:3, 11b). For a scholar it was considered unbecoming to appear perfumed in public (Ber. 43b). An interpretation of Deut. 22:5 forbade men depilatories (Shab. 94b; Naz. 59a), which was understandable in a pagan world rife with pederasty. Against halitosis (which was a reason for divorce, Ket. 75a), women chewed peppercorns, ginger, cinnamon, and gum (Shab. 65a).

Talmudic literature contains a wealth of information on the manufacture and the marketing of cosmetic preparations. The *Avtinas family, who made the sacred incense for the Temple, took special care in its production and refused to share this art since it feared that unworthy persons would utilize its secrets for profane purposes (Yoma 38a). The Talmud also related that the women of Bet Avtinas never perfumed themselves lest people suspect that they were using sacred incense. The substances first had to be boiled in oil or seethed in water. After a time was allowed for absorption, they were poured into sealed containers, small tubes or boxes, with those for the more valuable substances made of alabaster (cf. Gen. R. 39:2). The perfume dealers had their shops in the market – Street of the Perfumers – where to this day there exists in the Old City of Jerusalem an ancient street still called by this name (Shuk ha-Besamim). Often such shops could be found in the "Market [street] of the Prostitutes," where the demand for perfumes was great (Ex. R. 43:7). The moral reputation of this trade was therefore not high, though it was considered indispensable and preferable to that of the tanner, who had to work with evil odors (Kid. 82a). The Mishnah decreed that a husband must give his wife ten dinars for her cosmetic needs. Rabban Gamaliel, however, said that the amount depended upon local customs (Ket. 66b). The Talmud states that Miriam, the daughter of Nakdimon b. Gorion, who lived at the time of the destruction of the Second Temple, used cosmetics to such an extravagant extent that the sages permitted her an allowance of 400 golden coins for her "perfume basket" (Kuppah shel besamim). The hair, both of men and women, was the subject of special care. In addition to its cosmetic aspect, there was also the hygienic consideration of keeping it free of vermin. It therefore was washed, anointed, combed, and sometimes dyed. It was cut (and thinned) regularly, and the higher the person was on the social scale the more frequently he went to the barber (Sanh. 22b). Hair was worn long, and arranged in various styles; even the special style of the high priest found ostentatious imitators (Ned. 51a). The stories of Joseph and Absalom gave the rabbis occasion to comment on the moral dangers of vanity in hairstyle (Gen. R. 84:7; Sot. 1:8). It was a religious custom to have one's hair cut before the Sabbath and festivals (cf. Shab. 1:2; mk 14a). A mourner (and someone put under the minor ban) was forbidden to cut his hair and beard for at least 30 days (mk 14aff.). Certain hairstyles, like the belorit, probably a kind of pigtail hanging down from the crown of the head while the rest of the hair was shorn short, and the one called komei (κόμη), a kind of tonsure, were forbidden to Jews "as *Amorite [pagan] custom" (Tos. Shab. 6:1), but a dispensation was made for the patriarchal family on account of its official contacts with the Roman authorities (tj Shab. 6:1, 7d, Av. Zar. 2:2, 41a).

Beards received the same care as hair and were occasionally dyed (bm 60b; Naz. 39a). On the other hand, what was considered beautiful for men was deemed the opposite for women (tj Ket. 7:9, 31c). Women, while not cutting their hair, would apply much care to it by arranging it skillfully in plaits and "building" it up, sometimes with the help of wigs (pe'ah nokhrit), using bands and nets, and adding *jewelry as well. So elaborate were these creations that it was forbidden to undo a woman's hairdo on the Sabbath because it involved transgressing the prohibitions of "building" and "demolishing" (Shab. 94b–95a). (For the requirement that married women cover their hair, see *Covering of Head.) Brides would wear their hair long on their wedding day (Ket. 2:10), as a sign of their virginity. Talmudic and midrashic sources contain much information about barbers and hairdressers, their lowly standing, and their implements and accessories. They also traded in perfumes and practiced manicure and pedicure, apart from carrying out certain medical functions such as bloodletting.


R.J. Forbes, Studies in Ancient Technology, 3 (1955), 1ff. (incl. bibl.); C. Singer et al. (eds.), A History of Technology, 1 (1955), 285ff.; A. Lucas and J.R. Harris, Ancient Egyptian Materials and Industries (19624), 80ff.; C. Boreux, Musיe National du Louvre, Departement des Antiquites Egyptiennes, Guide-Catalogue Sommaire, 1 (1932), 195–6, pl. xxiv; Pritchard, Pictures, pl. 93. in thetalmud: Krauss, Tal Arch, 233ff.; J. Preuss, Biblisch-talmudische Medizin (19212), 414ff. add. bibliography: A.S. Herzberg, "Yofyah ve-ha-Tipu'aḥ shel ha-Ishah bi-Zeman ha-Talmud," in: He-Atid, 4 (1923), 1–53, and S. Krauss, ibid., 53–56; Antonio of Ambrosia, Women and Beauty in Pompeii, tr. G. Kelly (2001).


views updated Jun 11 2018


Cosmetics are generally defined as products applied externally to improve appearance. The purposeenhancing beautydefines cosmetic use, as opposed to painting the body for religious, ritual, or medicinal purposes. With the exception of "permanent cosmetics," a late twentieth-century innovation, cosmetics' temporary nature separates them from permanent body alterations such as tattoos, piercings, or scarification.

Virtually all cultures have used cosmetics. Nail lacquer (gum arabic, egg whites, gelatin, and beeswax) originated in China at least 3000 years b.ce. Ancient Egyptian women lined and shadowed their eyes with green (malachite) and black (kohl). Henna was used on fingernails in the Middle East. In Britain, Gilbertus Angelicus's Compendium Medicinae (1240) contains recipes for beauty aids; by the 1400s women were using ceruse, a mixture of vinegar and powdered lead, to whiten their faces and bosoms.

In Western culture makeup originated as theatrical paint. While late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth-century actresses like Lillie Langtrey, Sarah Bernhardt, and Theda Bara pioneered the use of cosmetics off-stage and -screen, most American women did not consider makeup an "everyday" ritual until the early twentieth century, when entrepreneurs such as Max Factor, Elizabeth Arden, and Helena Rubenstein introduced products that looked more natural and were easier to use. And for childrenaside from the ritual of face-painting at county fairs, dressing up for Halloween, and the occasional opportunity to play "dress up" with mom's makeup kitcosmetics were largely off-limits.

Because cosmetics are designed to enhance beauty and increase sexual appeal, cosmetic use has always been a rite of passage. In the 1920s flappers battled their parents not only for the right to smoke and dance in public but for the right to wear makeup. In the film Rebel Without a Cause (1955), Judy's (Natalie Wood) father forces her to wipe off her red lipstick, which he considers too "grown up." In the 1950s, however, cosmetic manufacturers saw gold in the burgeoning baby-boom youth market, and the race was on.

Throughout the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s, cosmetic manufacturers targeted the seemingly endless teenage market. In the United States, Bonne Bell targeted teenagers, while in Britain Mary Quant launched her own "Youthquake." Until the end of the twentieth century, however, children largely remained off limits. Tinkerbell, for example, launched the children's market in the 1950s, but it steadfastly refused to sell eyeshadow and rouge, which it considered improper for girls so young, and targeted its advertising to parents, rather than directly to children. In the 1980s and 1990s, however, in America and in Europe, cosmetics were designed for and marketed to "tweens" (girls between childhood and teen years) and then to children as young as three. Japan, which saw its first "toy" makeup introduced in 1993, was not far behind.

The practice of encouraging young children to learn to apply makeup is not without controversy. Some critics are concerned about product safety (cosmetic ingredients other than color were unregulated in the United States in the 2000s) while others question whether such products encourage children to grow up too fast, or undermine their self-esteem. But at $10 billion a year in the United States alone by the beginning of the twenty-first century, the market for children's cosmetics wasn't going away anytime soon.

See also: Fashion; Girlhood; Youth Culture .


Brumberg, Joan Jacobs. 1998. The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. New York: Vintage Press.

Fass, Paula. 1977. The Damned and the Beautiful: American Youth in the 1920s. New York: Oxford University Press.

Palladino, Grace. 1996. Teenagers: An American History. New York: Basic Books.

Peiss, Kathy. 1999. Hope in a Jar: The Making of America's Beauty Culture. New York: Owl Press.

Elizabeth Haiken


views updated May 29 2018

cos·met·ic / käzˈmetik/ • adj. involving or relating to treatment intended to restore or improve a person's appearance: cosmetic surgery. ∎  designed or serving to improve the appearance of the body, esp. the face. ∎  affecting only the appearance of something rather than its substance: the reform package was merely a cosmetic exercise.• n. (usu. cosmetics) a product applied to the body, esp. the face, to improve its appearance.DERIVATIVES: cos·met·i·cal·ly / -(ə)lē/ adv.


views updated May 11 2018

cosmetic adj. and sb. XVII. — F. cosmétique — Gr. kosmētikós, f. kosmeîn adorn. f. kósmos; see next and -IC.