Status of the Global Cosmetics essay

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In this regard, Hutchings adds that, "In order to sell an increasingly vast array of perfumes, skin lotions, lipsticks, foundation, mascara, deodorants, talcum powder, shampoo, breath fresheners, soap and hair sprays, advertisers attempted to create a powerful sense of female inadequacy and shame over natural body processes, functions and odors" (p. 44). Certainly, social conscious people in general and women in particular during this period in American history wanted to avoid even the perception of being less than feminine and would seek to avoid this perception based on the potential social backfire that might otherwise result. For instance, Hutchings emphasizes that, "Bodily consciousness and disdain of natural functions had been around since at least the 1920s, but it seemed to reach new peaks of hysteria in the post-war period. Having body hair, bad breath, wrinkled skin, lackluster hair, or perspiration odor apparently could have dire social consequences" (p. 44). Today, the marketing of cosmetics builds upon these early initiatives and perceptions as well as taking advantage of the opportunities available through online and other telecommunications media to promote the message that their products are superior to the others available in the market.

Furthermore, the types of make-up that are available today are staggering in their variety and purpose. Indeed, as Lewis (1996) emphasizes, "Cosmetics run the gamut from eye shadow to deodorant sprays. And consumers' concerns and questions are just as varied as the products themselves" (p. 6). For the theatrical market, make-up is generally categorized as either being "straight" or "character" in nature. In this regard, Gassner and Barber (1941) advise that, "By straight we mean the simplest type applied to correct the actor's own skin tone and to make him or her more attractive. Character make-up refers to all other types in which the object is to change completely the actor's appearance. For the straight, comparatively simple make-up materials are needed; but for character he may use not only all materials manufactured specifically for the purpose, but anything else that his imagination can put to use" (p. 376). In addition, Gassner and Barber provide a useful overview of the different types of make-up that are commonly used in both the theatrical industry as well as by women (and increasingly, men) around the world and these different types of make-up and the uses are described further in Table 1 below.

Table 1

A Few Different Types of Make-Up

Make-Up Type


Cold cream

This cream, along with mineral oil, olive oil, and vaseline, are used to cleanse the skin before the make-up is put on, to protect it, and to aid in the removal of the make-up. Any quality of oil may be used as long as it is capable of doing the job.


This make-up product comes in two forms, moist and dry. Of the two, the moist is the more useful and gives the more natural effect; however, the dry is useful for retouching once the make-up has been powdered.

Eyebrow pencils

Sometimes called dermatographs, eyebrow pencils come in red, brown, black, and blue. They are medium-hard grease paints in pencil form and are used on the eyes and eyebrows.

Eye shadow

This make-up product is applied to the eyelids and beneath eyebrows to make the user's eyes more distinctive and attractive in appearance.

Face powders

These come in a range of shades designed to match the colors of foundation paints. They differ from ordinary face powders in that they are based on rice-powder, which is more absorbent and clings better.

Liquid make-up

This is used in coloring the arms, shoulders, legs, etc. In cases where those parts are exposed and there is a noticeable difference in tone. It is essentially made from a combination of powder, glycerine, and water.


This make-up used to lengthen, alter the color, and thicken eyelashes. Mascara is available in a number of colors such as black and brown; however it is also marketed in brighter colors including varying shades of blue, pink, and purple.

Source: Gassner & Barber, pp. 376-377; Read, S.I. (2007, May 14).

Today, it would seem that many women have accepted the use of make-up as being part and parcel of their daily routine. For instance, Barbieri (2007) reports that, "A woman's handbag is, quite rightly, a mystery. But within the folds of fluff and amid the wraps of paper that register phone numbers of unimaginable importance, there is something of such value that it could be described as the beating heart of the handbag: the make-up bag" (p. 52). The reasons for this widespread acceptance are varied, of course, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that many women use make-up for reasons other than to improve their appearance, but there are in fact some other reasons involved as well that directly relate to how women feel about themselves. According to Barbieri, "In terms of status in among the cosmetics, the lipstick is queen. Lipsticks have had entire books dedicated to them. Next is mascara. These are the two items most women say they cannot live without. It's nonsense on one level, of course, but the power of lipstick, and how it makes a woman feel, must never be trivialized. From the silly everyday occurrence -- the woman having to 'put her lippy on' before a relatively difficult exchange -- to the enormous impact make-up and lipstick can have on a woman's psyche, there's more going on than just coloring in one's face" (p. 52).

A survey of four women conducted by Baden provides some insights into what compels some women to use more make-up than others. A recapitulation of this survey is provided in Table 2 below.

Table 2

Essential Cosmetics and the Reasons for Their Use

Survey Respondent/Age

Summary/Key Points

Millie Kendall, 28 years

It's not that I always wear make-up but I'm an avid collector. In the same way that people get into collecting furniture or jewellery, I need to have the whole range of any new brand on the market, even if I probably won't wear any of it. I like having loads of it and admiring the colors. My huge collection gives me the opportunity to express myself in any way I want. I was into punk rock when I first started wearing make-up - I put a bit of black stuff around my eyes to be rebellious. It wasn't until I was older that I realized how make-up can actually make you look better. I focus on different parts of my face at different times. Four years ago, I was really into blusher; now it's all lip balms. . . . I've got so much I use the third bedroom as a make-up room. It's got a full-length mirror, an armchair and two wooden tables stacked with make-up. It's organized like a shop. I find it hard to get my friends out of my make-up room because they love to hang out there.

Claire Gallaphant, 27 years

I always wear make-up when I go out, even if it's just to the local shops. But if I'm having a really lazy day at home, I often don't bother. My boyfriend reckons I look pretty much the same with or without it. I started messing around with my older sister's make-up when I was about 15. I used to wear really cheap, tacky foundation and I was really into eyeshadow and mascara. I remember wearing a horrible pink lipstick with a blue sheen during the New Romantic days in the early Eighties. We weren't allowed to wear make-up at school but we used to see what we could get away with. I'd insist that I wasn't wearing lipstick although my mouth was usually bright pink. . . . I always have lip gloss on. I have at least one beauty night every week and I love painting my nails and toenails.

Sarah Cooke, 28 years

Buying make-up is great therapy. If it's raining or I'm feeling down in the dumps, I buy myself a new lipstick or mascara and it cheers me up. I get a kick out of something new: when the sales assistant gets it out of the box and shows it to me, it feels like a real treat. Whenever I walk into a department store, I can't resist taking a look at the beauty counters to see what's new. I always keep things which I used to wear and really liked at the time for sentimental reasons even if I'll never wear them again. Like perfume, make-up can bring back memories. . . . Within reason, make-up is an affordable luxury. Even if you're on a low salary, you can feel special by treating yourself to something really nice instead of blowing your budget on a new outfit. I remember going to a party wearing a new lip gloss and it felt as if I'd changed my look.

Charlie Miller, 28 years

I never go out without make-up. I even wear waterproof mascara…[continue]

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