Importance of Beauty Industry and Ethical Issues

Table of contents

Cosmetic improvements can make people feel better about themselves but can also make others that cannot afford or obtain such services feel worse. However, the debate as been raging as to whether or not the billion dollar beauty industry is worthwhile in the modern society. The beauty industry is very diverse and has multiple players.

Players involved in this diverse industry include the dealers in the beauty products, the cosmetics, services for improving appearance like exercise machines, nutritional beauty products and above all the end users of all these products (Simms, 1998).

Considering the rate at which the beauty industry has been growing, it would be important to analyze whether it impacts the current society positive or not. My analysis will examine the importance of the industry to the players and the society in general. In addition I will look at the various ethical concerns presented by the beauty industry and how possibly they should be solved in order to have the industry continue benefiting the society. The highest number of consumers of the beauty products in the current world and in deed over the centuries is undoubtedly women.

Women generally adopt the idea of self-grooming at a very tender age (Gillespie, 1996). Unlike men, women have a natural interest in their looks and physical presentation and in most cultures; they believe that good looks and physical attraction is expected of them. Women therefore find it hard to escape such sociocultural norms and as they grow up they internalized the norms such that they simply become unaware of their motivations to seek beauty (Black, 2004). Nevertheless, the modern man has been quite conscious of his looks and physical appearance (Sullivan, 2001).

The motivation behind men’s growing interest in physical attraction is a debate for another day; however, the importance of beauty products and services to these users is clear. The users of beauty products and services always want to experience body empowerment, pleasure as well as freedom from appearance (Haiken, 1997). Society associates good looks and great physical attraction to power and therefore those who possess such qualities would avert competition in marriage and other social spheres of life. The pleasure of having a good body elevates one’s esteem.

The beauty industry therefore provides an opportunity for those who feel bad about their physical looks to transform it according to one’s own societal ‘standard’ (Morgan, 1992). Apart from the freedom it offers the users to improve their looks; the aesthetic industry is currently a multibillion dollar industry. From the manufacturers of various beauty products, to millions of users across the globe, the beauty industry is considered one of the top revenue earners in various economies around the world and therefore justifies its existence in toady modern world (Hiscock & Lovett, 2004).

Despite the importance of the beauty industry to the various players and economies, the industry has been receiving criticism for its unethical practices (Brumberg, 1997). There has been a growing public outcry with regards to the industry’s unsustainable business practices especially with respect to the environment. Manufacturers of beauty products have always faced criticism for testing their products on animals, unsustainable sourcing for raw materials as well as for causing chemical pollution.

But due to consistent pressure from the media, the consumers and the retailers, aesthetic industry especially the cosmetic companies are shaping up to be counted as good corporate citizens. Many corporate bodies in the aesthetic industry are investing a lot in CSR programs as well as in other sustainability initiatives. For example, the Body Shop has been embarking on ethical sourcing while others like Yves Rocher have been focusing on preservation of biodiversity (Organic Monitor, 2010).

A number of beauty companies have opted to take holistic approach to the issue of ethics and sustainable business practices. These companies are now reducing the environmental effects of their products by opting to greener formulations, decreasing packaging of most of their products and also reducing greenhouse gas emissions as well as water and energy consumption. In addition, they are also considering the social dimension of their businesses and operations. These include ethical supply from their supplies and social responsibilities through corporate philanthropy.

In its recent strategic report, Organic Monitor (2010) found that most companies are investing in greener formulations and sustainable packaging in order to reduce the environmental footprint caused by the various cosmetic products. The report suggests that packaging is getting high interest because most companies in the aesthetic industry have realized the high environmental impact most of their cosmetic products have had on the environment. As a result companies are now looking for biodegradable plastics, recyclable materials as well as other innovative ways to lower environmental degradation (Brandweek, n. d).


The beauty industry has more to offer to the modern society in terms of monetary value and desired body image. Although, some may not be able to access or afford the most expensive cosmetic products like plastic surgery, the benefits far outweighs the concerns of the minority who would have to contend with their natural looks. But even as the industry remains relevant and beneficial to the current society, it has to treat the ethical issues raised as a matter of urgency.

A sustainable business practice would not only benefit the consumers and the society but also ensure a continued operation by the cosmetic companies within a sustainable environment. Although, a few companies have seen this importance of this, more need to be done.


Black, P. (2004). The Beauty Industry: Gender, Culture, Pleasure, Routledge: New York. Brandweek, (n. d). Study: Natural Beauty Products Flooding the Market. Retrieved on August 21, 2010, from http://www. Brumberg, J. (1997).

The Body Project: An Intimate History of American Girls. Random House: New York. Gillespie, R. (1996).

Women, the Body Brand Extension in Medicine: Cosmetic Surgery and the Paradox of Choice. Women and Health Vol. 24. Haiken, E. (1997).

Venus Envy: A History of Cosmetic Surgery. Johns Hopkins University Press: Baltimore. Hiscock, J. & Lovett, F. (2004).

Beauty Therapy, 2nd Heinemann: London Organic Monitor, (2010, May 19).

CSR & Sustainability: How the Beauty Industry Is Cleaning Up. Retrieved on August 21, 2010, from com/anm/anmviewer.asp%3Fa%3D27277%26z%3D2+Beauty+Industry+Ethics&cd=7&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=ke&client=firefox-a Morgan, K. (1992).

Women and the Knife: Cosmetic Surgery and the Colonization of Women’s Bodies. Hypatia Vol. 6: 25-53. Simms, J. (1998).

A Practical Guide to Beauty Therapy for Nvq Level 2, 2nd edition, Nelson Thomes: New York. Sullivan, D. (2001).


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