WASHINGTON -- In retracing the U.S. beauty business over the last 100 years, it appears a series of seemingly random events somehow led to the development of a $20 billion industry.
Could anyone have predicted in 1904, when Max Factor left his post as a theatrical face painter and wig maker in the court of Russia, that he would build a U.S. fortune in cosmetics that would be fought over and then sold to Procter & Gamble?
It seems far-fetched to think that Avon, with sales of $4 billion and a door-to-door operation in 100 countries, got its start in 1886 when founder David McConnell thought he could peddle more books if he offered a bonus gift of perfume.
Consider the inauspicious beginnings of Vaseline, a "miracle jelly" that Robert Augustus Chesebrough developed in 1859 after hearing stories about a petroleum residue with curative powers for burns and abrasions. He first sold the salve from the back of a wagon in Brooklyn. Now, the product is a staple of Chesebrough-Pond's.
One can't overlook Graham Gordon Wulff, a South African chemist who invented Oil of Olay, which was initially used during World War II as a skin treatment to prevent dehydration of burn wounds on British Royal Air Force pilots.
And where would Revlon be today if Charles and Joseph Revson didn't make the daring move of putting colors into dull Depression-era nail enamel? In fact, Charles Revson could arguably be given credit for the first at-the-counter demonstration. He came up with the concept of coordinating lip and nail color, or "matching lips and fingertips."
It seems the U.S. cosmetic industry was spawned by a disparate group of pioneers, but once it got a foothold in medicine cabinets and vanities, the business of beautifying ballooned.
By 1900, the number of companies making perfume and toiletries had grown to 262, from 67 in 1880. The expansion continued steadily until the early 1970s, when a modern-day boom occurred.
According to Susan Babinsky, vice president of consumer products at Kline & Co., Fairfield, N.J., fragrances had a volume of $3 billion in the U.S. last year, up from $600 million in 1973. During the same period hair care product sales increased to $4.5 billion, up from $700 million; color cosmetic sales increased to $3.5 billion from $500 million, and skin care to $3.5 billion from $550 million.Shadowing almost every successful industry is an association, and at an early age the beauty industry realized it needed to have a unified voice, particularly when taking on government.
Since the turn of the century, lawmakers have sized up beauty as a likely source of tax revenues. In response, the Manufacturing Perfumers' Association -- the predecessor to the Cosmetics Toiletry and Fragrance Association -- was formed in 1894.
Bowles Colgate II, president of Colgate & Company, whose family company was by then already 88 years old, became the trade group's first president.
The association had an impact in its first 10 years, taking credit for removal of a 20-percent tax on pomade, increasing tariffs on imported perfume and decreasing the War Revenue Stamp Tax to 2.5 cents per dollar of retail value from 4 cents, according to CTFA archives.
By then, the industry was picking up steam. Women were hooked on the idea of glamour, thanks in large part to the budding Hollywood film industry.
One of the first to pick up on the trend was Elizabeth Arden. She was working as a bookkeeper for Squibb Pharmaceutical Company in 1910 when she launched her first facial treatment salon on Fifth Avenue. Her empire helped to set the groundwork for today's prestige retail cosmetics business.
Six years later, Max Factor launched an eyeshadow and eyebrow pencil for commercial use. That proved so successful that the next year, he introduced his "Make-Up Blender," to be applied to the neck, shoulders and arms, a cosmetic intended to achieve that era's natural look. This was also the first time makeup purportedly was used as a noun.
In 1915, T.L. Williams got the idea from his oldest sister, Mabel, to make a product to darken eyelashes, which he launched in 1917 with the brand name Maybelline. An eyebrow pencil, copied from markers used by doctors to outline where to make surgical incisions, followed.
Maybelline's real boost came in 1932 when its affordable cosmetics were sold in variety stores -- the first attempt at mass-marketing beauty.
As the industry was making strides in these early years, Congress finally found a way to hit beauty's pocketbook. With the onset of World War I, lawmakers imposed a 20 percent tariff on 90 percent of the raw materials used in perfumes and toiletries.The Manufacturing Perfumers' Association, which by then had been renamed the American Manufacturers of Toilet Articles, experienced its first real legislative loss.
Nevertheless, the war brought unprecedented prosperity to the cosmetics industry, as European fashion swept across the Atlantic. Following WWII, even greater demand for quality cosmetics with a European touch hit the fashion-conscious U.S. Tapping into that market were Joseph and EstÄe Lauder, who launched their cosmetic line in 1946 with four skin care products.
As the industry has grown through the years, so has the plethora of state and federal regulations, starting in 1934 when Congressional hearings focused on claims by a young woman who said she was blinded by an eyelash dye called "Lash Lure.
In 1936, Congress passed the Food, Drug & Cosmetic Act prohibiting misbranded and adulterated cosmetics. The law has been augmented through the years, further defining the legal characteristics of cosmetics.
Since the Sixties, the industry, Congress, the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have squared off numerous times. Every issue in question has been tracked by the CTFA, which was given its current name in 1971 and now has 240 active members and 260 associate members.
One of the more notable FDA vs. cosmetics industry battles occurred in the mid-Eighties when the agency forced several companies to change packaging and advertising it viewed as making drug-type claims for anti-aging products.
The CTFA is sure to be in the thick of things through this decade, as well.
The annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic in Pacific Palisades this weekend drew Kate Hudson, Tracee Ellis Ross, Laura Dern and more. See pictures of the star-studded event on WWD.com. (📷: @chelsealaurenla) #wwdeye
In his new book “Hollywood Royale,” Andy Warhol’s Protégé Matthew Rolston celebrates the Eighties revival of Hollywood glamour. Featuring more than 100 portraits taken by Rolston from 1977 to 1993, the book contains photos of icons like Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, and @drewbarrymore, pictured here in 1991. “Hollywood Royale,” out today, will be accompanied by an exhibition opening at Los Angeles’ Fahey/Klein Gallery on March 1. #wwdeye
"Nowadays when life is not so happy with everything going on in the world, I think people come to me for a little bit of whimsy and color and fun." - Designer Rebecca De Ravenel on her cult-favorite jewelry line. (📸 : @vsteves) #wwd40
“Everyone is talking about how the retail industry is struggling, but I think it’s an incredible time because brands who are doing something different and innovative are setting themselves up for the future,” said @adamgoldston, who founded the luxury athletic brand @apl with his brother @ryangoldsten. The Goldston’s are part of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables. See the rest of the list on WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
@eyeswoon blogger Athena Calderone debuted her first-ever cookbook, “Cook Beautiful,” which is heavily centered on the presentation and visual expression of food. Pictured here are her miso glazed carrots from the book. Get the recipe on WWD.com. (📷: @johnny_miller_) #wwdeye
“It’s passion that helps get anybody to a certain point and it’s what’s propelled me,” said Kith founder @ronniefieg, one of WWD’s 40 under 40: a group of industry notables who are changing the face of retail, fashion and beauty. Fieg, who opened a Manhattan flagship on October 7, began his career at age 13 as a stock boy and salesman for footwear chain David Z. “I think staying true to [my] beliefs, hard work and passion have gotten me to where [Kith] is today.” See the rest of the 40 at WWD.com. (📷: @vsteves) #wwd40
25-year-old @samweaving is about to break out this fall, starring in Netflix’s horror film “The Babysitter,” fittingly out today on Friday the 13th. That’s not the only place you’ll be seeing her, though — Weaving’s got a role Showtime’s “SMILF” and another alongside Frances McDormand and Woody Harrelson in “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.” Though she’s got a full plate at the moment, there’s one role she’s got her eye on: Marilyn Monroe. “I’m a little too young at the moment, but it’s on my bucket list,” the actress told WWD (📷: @dandoperalski) #wwdeye
BFF's Poppy Jamie and Suki Waterhouse celebrated the launch of their bag line Pop x Suki at Nordstrom last night. "The line is really about our friendship, and how we are so different but complement each other," said Waterhouse. 👯 (📷: Katie Jones) #wwdeye
After designing the new @louisvuitton and @bulgariofficial flagships and a @chanelofficial boutique opening in Japan, @petermarinoarchitect has another project on his plate: The Lobster Club. Located in the Seagram Building, it’s the famed architect’s first restaurant project in New York, serving up modern Japanese brasserie-style cuisine. Bronze hues, bespoke material detailing, blush and chartreuse tones and a heavy emphasis on Picasso can be seen throughout. Mark your calendars for Nov. 1 for the much-anticipated opening. (📷: @clint_spaulding) #wwdeye