What is the Beauty Industry?

Susan Grindstaff

The beauty industry encompasses sales of cosmetics, perfume, and products for skin and hair care. Beauty salons and spas are considered the service sector of the beauty industry. In addition, some economists include health clubs and cosmetic surgery in their definition of the market. Worldwide sales of beauty-related products and services are estimated to be in excess of $159 billion US dollars (USD) each year. Most research shows that sales to women account for a huge majority of the sum.

Perfumes and colognes are made by the beauty industry.
Perfumes and colognes are made by the beauty industry.

According to business analysts, the best-selling beauty products are products that clean and beautify hair. Hair care is estimated to bring in nearly $40 billion USD each year. Other leading products of the beauty industry are related to skin care and cosmetics. Skin care is estimated to generate sales of about $23 billion USD yearly, which includes purchases of moisturizers and anti-aging ointments. Cosmetics are estimated to bring in about $18 billion USD each year.

The best-selling beauty products are those used to clean and beautify hair.
The best-selling beauty products are those used to clean and beautify hair.

Cosmetic surgery was once considered rare, because the procedures were so expensive and very few consumers could afford them. In addition, in the early days of plastic surgery, there was a bit of social stigma attached to those who went under the knife, and many people who had procedures were very secretive about it. Cosmetic surgery is now fairly common and is a huge part of the beauty industry, with walk-in clinics available for a wide variety of procedures.

Female customers account for the vast majority of cosmetics and perfume sales.
Female customers account for the vast majority of cosmetics and perfume sales.

The beauty industry has very deep roots in history. Some of the earliest records of man include some type of body adornment. Throughout history, people have sought ways to make themselves more noticeable and more beautiful. The main thing that seems to constantly change is how different cultures define human beauty. The beauty industry has been a natural outgrowth of the human need to improve their looks, based on modern perceptions of beauty.

The beauty industry uses models to try and sell different products.
The beauty industry uses models to try and sell different products.

Achieving beauty is not just about vanity. Studies show that the more attractive a person is, the more likely he or she is to be successful. Good looks give people a head start in most areas of life, including business and relationships. Good-looking people usually have an easier time finding a job, and in many cases, beauty can play a role in earning potential. In most cultures, women are expected to be attractive, while men are often forgiven their looks, and this may be why women account for the huge majority of sales within the beauty industry.

Skin care products are part of the beauty industry.
Skin care products are part of the beauty industry.

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Discussion Comments


The beauty industry is not some crazed monster that makes women feel terrible about themselves to force them into buying their products. While the beauty industry's inherent (and false) implication is that you need something more to be beautiful, women are possibly equally responsible for the focus on beauty. They look in the mirror and find their own "imperfections" and wait for the "perfect" product to come. Does the beauty industry cause women to see imperfection? That may be part of the problem, but people have a general "standard" of beauty that is nearly universal (with some deviation, of course.) Studies have shown that people view composite faces (or the average of many faces) over a single face, implying that average is beautiful. When they see something in themselves that doesn't match up, like a blemish, a bigger-than-average nose, or thinner-than-average lips, they tend to see that as ugly and wish it were different. Like any other industry, the beauty industry creates a product the public wants.

The reason body image is seen as a bigger problem today than, say, 50 years ago is because more technology and better-developed technology provides more ways companies can advertise to reach a broader audience. Additionally, today's culture is much more image-oriented today, so images carry much more power to influence people.

The natural beauty movement is on the right track, but can have some consequences, too. Some people take "natural beauty" to mean that they should just disregard any concern for their appearance. Others confuse "beautiful" with "healthy" and think that to embrace natural beauty, they should simply embrace them as they are, even if they currently have unhealthy lifestyles. It's important to remember that more people struggle with obesity than eating disorders. I am not trying to downplay the seriousness of eating disorders here. I am simply trying to call attention to another problem that has affected more people.

What does this mean? People should not disregard any care for their appearance; a clean and healthy look aids dignity and self confidence. On the other hand, people should also not obsess over beauty because making your appearance your main focus paints an unrealistic picture of who you are and often causes you to focus much more on yourself than on others. So don't cling to either end of the spectrum, but find a healthy balance to take care of your appearance without obsessing over beauty.

So it's fine try that new moisturizing shampoo or that moisturizer that makes your skin soft. Make-up looks great too, as long as it enhances natural beauty rather than replaces natural beauty. Love the skin you're in, but don’t settle for an unhealthy lifestyle. Find the balance in beauty.


Do you think that being more attractive really helps women be more successful at finding a job? How much of an investment should we be making in our appearance if that is indeed the case?


@animegal - Women do indeed spend a lot on products marketed by the beauty industry. I believe that although they target things women do not feel secure about, they also provide a range of very useful products that can help someone feel more confident. I wouldn't want to give up my favorite shampoos and lotions, because I love feeling pampered.


I really believe that the beauty industry feeds off women's insecurities with their marketing of more and more products that nit pick at any and all perceived flaws of the fairer sex.

While it is good to look after yourself and take pride in your appearance, the beauty industry is constantly inventing new things for women to worry about.

The Colbert Report did a funny The Word segment on April 13, 2011 titled Buy and Cellulite. A new product from Unilever was featured. It promotes making your armpits more attractive... until that moment, I wasn't even aware that was a concern.

I wonder how much of what we do and worry about everyday was invented by a team of marketers.

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