Globalizing the Beauty Business Before 1980

by Geoffrey G. Jones

Overview — Even six-month-old infants may understand what makes faces "attractive," regardless of ethnicity, but adults vary considerably in how they present themselves through clothes, hairstyles, and physical appearance. Studying the period from 1945 to 1980, this paper examines the drivers of the globalization of beauty; the strategies that firms employed to overcome challenges to globalization; and the outcomes, including the level to which globalization has brought about a homogenization of beauty ideals and practices. Key concepts include:

  • Barriers were surprisingly strong between the U.S. and European consumer markets in the beauty industry.
  • Large corporations struggled to succeed in the fashion-conscious hair care and cosmetics markets.
  • By 1980, the globalization of beauty products was much more extensive in toiletries than in cosmetics.
  • Globalization did not result in a pervading Americanization of global beauty.

Author Abstract

This working paper examines the globalization of the beauty industry before 1980. This industry, which had emerged in its modern form in the United States during the late nineteenth century, grew quickly worldwide over the following century. Firms employed marketing and marketing strategies to diffuse products and brands internationally despite business, economic, and cultural obstacles to globalization. The process was difficult and complex. The globalization of toiletries proceeded faster than cosmetics, skin and hair care. By 1980 there remained strong differences between consumer markets. Although American influence was strong, it was already evident that globalization had not resulted in the creation of a stereotyped American blond and blue-eyed beauty female ideal as the world standard, although it had significantly narrowed the range of variation in beauty and hygiene ideals.

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