History of the Beauty Business
  • Cosmetics have been used since ancient times. Often they were used in religious ceremonies - as seen in ancient Egypt - or as cultural identification. Egypt's influence impacted the practices and uses of cosmetics throughout the rest of the ancient world.
  • The spread of Christianity with its denunciations of pride and vanity coupled with a changing ideal of modesty also impacted the standards of beauty. While cosmetics did not totally fall out of favor, their use seems to have been greatly reduced and their use largely restricted to courtesans, actresses, the wealthy, and assorted "loose" women.
  • During the Renaissance high born women including Queen Elizabeth, used them to whiten their faces into an ideal of pale perfection.

Over time, cosmetics moved a little closer to more common usage.



History of the Beauty Business - Business of Beauty: A Resource Guide - Research Guides at Library of Congress


It wasn't until the late 19th and early 20th centuries, despite the strictures of Victorian morality, that cosmetics and other beauty aids became more generally accepted.

The Roaring Twenties and glamorous movie stars of the 1930s finally brought cosmetics into the mass merchandise market, where they were sold in department stores and other venues. It was about this time that some of the best-known brand names - many of which are still sold today - entered the picture, and the modern cosmetics industry was born.



  • The comapany Estée Lauder was founded in 1946 by husband and wife Joseph and Estée Lauder. Estée Lauder cosmetics were sold primarily at department stores.
  • Charles Revson is known as a founder of Revlon. In March of 1932 he, along with his brother Joseph and a man named Charles Lachman, started Revlon.
  • Elizabeth Arden became interested in the work of a biochemist who worked on cream for skin blemishes. She eventually developed her own products and opened the first store in 1910.
  • Avon was founded by David McConnell as the California Perfume Company in 1886. Originally the company only sold perfumes, but in 1928 the company introduced the Avon line of cosmetics and toiletries, and eventually the Avon name became so popular that in 1939, McConnell's son and successor changed the company name to Avon.



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