Research Proposal: Make Up

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¶ … Status of the Global Cosmetics Industry

Throughout history, men and women have sought to improve their appearance through the use of various lotions, creams and other preparations that typically fall under the umbrella terms make-up and cosmetics today. Beginning around the mid-19th century, the cosmetics industry gained momentum and has since become a multi-billion dollar global enterprise. The early use of make-up, though, was restricted to various natural ingredients that were used to enhance and highlight the appearance of both men and women, but that has changed in substantive ways today and an enormous variety of ingredients, some of which are not particularly healthy or safe for use, go in to the manufacture of cosmetics. Nevertheless, the use of make-up remains a virtually universal practice in many cultures, including the United States, and it is reasonable to suggest that this industry will continue to grow in the future. To determine how, where and why the use of make-up has assumed the popular levels it enjoys today, this paper provides a review of the relevant peer-reviewed, scholarly and popular literature concerning the history of make-up, what types of make-up are commonly used, and some guidelines and tips from make-up experts. A discussion of some safety procedures that should be taken into account when using make-up is followed by a summary of the research and salient findings in the conclusion.

Review and Discussion

Since antiquity, humans have used a variety of lotions, creams, and other preparations to enhance the appearance of their face and bodies in an effort to conform to the prevailing aesthetic standards of their day and confirm their respective social positions. Very early uses of cosmetics, though, were more forthright in their purpose. For example, Persaud (2005) notes that, "Men are instinctively drawn to attractive, feminine women because they really are more fertile. No wonder a multibillion pound global cosmetics industry has developed, by either mimicking or exaggerating these desirable characteristics. The first cosmetic, after all, was a smear of red clay across a Stone Age woman's cheek, simulating the flush of ovulation that marks a woman's peak of fertility" (p. 49). As Cavendish points out, though, not everyone approved of the use of make-up during ancient times. According to Cavendish, "Cosmetic preparations are common in man parts of the world for ornamental and also for magical and religious reasons. The Old Testament writers generally disapproved of cosmetics and the elaborate beauty aids of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome were condemned as pagan and immoral by the early Christians" (p. 623).

Notwithstanding these religious imprecations to the contrary, make-up remained popular in many cultures around the world and gained additional impetus in the Middle Ages when European actors realized they needed some help to overcome nature's limitations in portraying their characters, especially when theatrical productions were presented indoors. In this regard, Buckridge advises, "In the earliest days of the theatre and down through the Elizabethan Age, make-up of the sort we have today was practically unknown. Playing as they did in the light hours of the day, actors had no need for more than an occasional wig or false moustache. But when the theatre moved indoors and performances were illuminated by the sickly light of candles, it became a necessity" (p. 375). The need for make-up was related to the nature of the poor quality of the lighting available which adversely affected the natural color of human skin and caused it to appear sallow and wan; moreover, this primitive lighting caused actors' eyes to appear smaller and their faces to become paler than they were in reality and did not provide them with the definition they felt was needed for an effective performance (Buckridge). Make-up, then, was just what the doctor ordered and its use become increasingly popular among the theatrical crowd. As Buckridge points out, "To combat this light and to project their features to their audiences, they began to use paint and powder" (p. 375). The modern cosmetics industry, though, can trace is origins to the mid-nineteenth century Europe and the U.S. from which time advertising aimed at women became prominent (Black, 2004). In this regard, Berger and Huntington (2003) note that, "Modern cosmetics were first developed in Europe and the cosmetics market there is already crowded with super brand names like Lancome, Chanel, and Clarins" (p. 78). Likewise, Pointer (2006) advises that, "Don't think for one minute that beauty products are new. Roman women had face packs involving 10 eggs and 12 narcissus bulbs. In the Middle Ages, white face paint made by putting pure wheat in water for 15 days, then grinding, blending, straining it, letting it crystallize and evaporate was popular. Liniments of vinegar, something called stavesacre, honey, sulphur and oil, would destroy mice in your wig in the 18th Century" (p. 16). Indeed, women (and to a lesser extent, men) all over the world have sought to beautify themselves from prehistory to the dawn of the multi-billion-dollar global cosmetics industry today (Pointer).

The emergence of a new business model that was based upon the marketing of beauty products, and the treatment of customers has been influenced by a number of social trends since the 19th century, though. The marketing of cosmetics received further impetus during the early 20th century from the growing motion picture industry, due in large part to the fact that many Western women wanted to emulate the appearance of their favorite movie stars. In this regard, Otnes and Pleck (2003) point out that, "The impact of Hollywood stars and studio publicity photographs changed women's attitudes toward makeup. Once only prostitutes and actresses used rouge and colored their lips" (p. 37).

By the 1920s, the use of cosmetics in the form of mascara, lipstick, rouge, and nail polish, among others, became an increasingly popular way for women to express their individuality and to improve their appearance; however, during this early period, such use was still regarded in some circles as being a fairly rebellious act from a social perspective (Otnes & Pleck). Even this prevailing perception, though, changed over time and women enthusiastically sought out what would be termed the beauty "makeover," a complete overhaul-type of process that is described by Otnes and Pleck as being ". . . A project of magical transformation of both the face and the body -- a woman could change her self-concept and even her personality. In other words, she could reinvent herself" (p. 40).

Not surprisingly, marketing efforts that have been designed to promote cosmetics also became more prominent during this period and a growing number of advertisements for cosmetics such as Helena Rubenstein and Max Factor were developed in order to convince customers that their products would enhance their true selves rather than simply concealing it from others (Otnes & Pleck). For example, following this period there was a clear development of a formalized training process which begins to treat the beauty worker as a professional with recourse to formal qualifications and a code of professional standards and ethics. "Despite these developments, the beauty and cosmetics industry did not become a fully recognizable, commercialized, mass industry until the 1920s and 1930s. Perhaps only after the Second World War does the industry actually consolidate itself into the cosmetics industry that is commonly perceived today" (Black, 2004, p. 37). This point is also made by Hutchings (2000), who reports that it was during World War II that the definition and portrayal modern femininity experienced some fundamental shifts. According to Hutchins, during the war, "Women's duty was now seen as patriotic and thus beauty and sexuality were submerged somewhat beneath boiler suits, head scarfs, trousers, and Victory suits made out of flour bags. Practicality was the keynote, yet women were still encouraged to be beautiful in order to keep up the morale of the fighting men" (p. 44).

Following the end of World War II, though, practicality was replaced by a new sense of style and flair and the cosmetics industry took off in major ways due in large part to the "New Look of Dior" in 1947 (Hutchings). This shift was not entirely attributable to the aggressive marketing that was taking place during the mid-20th century, but it apparent that the cosmetics marketers were successful at creating a need rather than just satisfying one. For example, Hutchings adds that, "In 1950s and 1960s advertising, beauty and youthfulness were more than ever before the two catchwords most used in the evocation of modern femininity. Although beauty is not a new component of femininity, advertising has played an instrumental role in redefining its meaning. Thus the notion of beauty as a natural given was dispelled by advertising's promise that beauty could be achieved by any woman with the use of the right product" (p. 44).

From the perspective of Hutchings, many American women were actually shamed into using make-up in order to appear "adequate" and "acceptable" in terms of the prevailing views of what constituted femininity by marketers who were desperate to sell a bewildering… [END OF PREVIEW]

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Cite This Research Proposal:

APA Format

Make Up.  (2009, May 25).  Retrieved December 5, 2019, from

MLA Format

"Make Up."  25 May 2009.  Web.  5 December 2019. <>.

Chicago Format

"Make Up."  May 25, 2009.  Accessed December 5, 2019.