Painting the World

By Melissa Meisel, Associate Editor | September 4, 2013

The past 50 years of cosmetics has been colorful, to say the least, according to industry insiders.

“Revlon discovered it first. 1,000,000 women discovered it next. Now makeup will never be the same. Neither will you,” said an advertisement for Blush-On by Revlon in 1964—the year Happi debuted (as Detergent Age). Touted as “instant health,” this SKU was just one of many innovations in the history of the color cosmetics category.

“Revlon created and named the category, ‘Blush-On.’   Women took to it immediately because it provided a natural, glowing look. It was easy to apply and hard to make a mistake,” said its co-creator and former Revlon product manager, Suzanne Grayson (née Bomse), who, along with her husband Bob, co-founded Grayson Associates a consulting firm that’s based in San Juan Capistrano. CA.

Immediately upon its initial success, Revlon launched a portable Blush-On, a compact containing a rectangular, flat cake, with a smaller squirrel brush, recalled Grayson. The industry followed with other blush launches, and a new category exploded. And this is just for the face; not to mention what else was in development for eyes and lips!

According to Carrie Mellage, vice president of consumer products at Kline & Company, dominant trends change each decade and so do the brands that lead these cosmetic innovations (see chart on p. 52). For example, in the 1960s, there was an increase in the number of working women and women wearing makeup, and Avon and Revlon were leaders in this era; in the 1970s, the days of disco, heavy makeup and shiny lips were prevalent, with Maybelline Great Lash leading the way in the eye category.

Color cosmetics trends may have varied over the past five decades, but the growth trend has not—sales have risen from $200 million (manufacturers’ dollars) in 1963 to $8 billion in 2012 (see chart on p. 52 as well).

Heavy Hitters
One of the largest players in color cosmetics, Mary Kay, is also celebrating its golden anniversary this year. According to Sara Friedman, vice president US marketing, Mary Kay, Dallas, TX, “For 50 years, Mary Kay has offered innovative and irresistible products, while making a positive impact on the community and enriching women’s lives. Mary Kay has colored the world with cosmetics women love. Mary Kay works with trend houses and monitors catwalks across the globe to predict the best new trends in beauty and fashion— and it shows—with the latest innovative color products.”

Friedman told Happi that in the past 50 years, one of the biggest innovations in color cosmetics has been with mascara, specifically brushes. 

“What started out as cake mascaras and twisted wire brushes has now become molded brushes that function like a mascara comb, allowing for flexible, even application and a highly defined look,” she explained. “In fact, Mary Kay introduced Lash Love Mascara, which allows the consumer to achieve incredibly defined lashes that were not previously possible with the use of traditional twisted wire brushes. Mary Kay also introduced refillable compacts to the world, offering women the ability to personalize and customize their color selections.”

Fellow industry leaders Avon and Maybelline have also continued to amp up innovations in mascara, as seen with recent rollouts at both brands, like Volum’ Express Falsies Big Eyes Washable Mascara and Avon Mega Effects Mascara. But some industry insiders feel that there has been a gap in the span of advancement.

“There hasn’t been true innovation in mascara since the 1950s. We realized there was a need for an improved application process and Avon is changing history by introducing a breakthrough with ergonomics in mind that will change the mascara application experience,” noted Lisa Lamberty, Avon executive director of color research and development, Suffern, NY.

The Eyes…And Lips Have It!
If we go back in time, exactly 50 years ago, Elizabeth Taylor was redefining the meaning of “cat eye” in the lavish 1963 production of “Cleopatra,” noted Craig Ryan French, artistic beauty director and global makeup artist at Paul & Joe, citing eyeliner as a key element in cosmetic advancements over the years.

“It is difficult to narrow down the greatest color cosmetic developments of the last 50 years—because there has been so many improvements and innovations in all aspects of cosmetics from the initial ingredients to the final results,” he told Happi.

According to French, eyeliners have come a long way since 1914, when a young chemist named T.L Williams watched his sister Maybel, apply a mixture of coal dust and Vaseline to enhance her eyes and lashes. He adapted the mixture and developed a product called Maybelline (Maybel + Vaseline) and the first commercial cake eyeliner/mascara was invented.

Today, eyeliner is available in many forms:  liquid, cake, gel, glitter, waterproof and even adhesive transfers.

“But with all the many options available, many women are still intimidated by the act of applying a liquid eyeliner for fear it will smear and smudge everywhere,” noted French, suggesting his company’s new liquid eyeliners in True Black and Sepia as user-friendly options.

Jenine Pizza, Beauty Addicts brand manager at DePasquale Lifestyle Brands, Fair Lawn, NJ, contends that lipstick is the biggest innovation in color cosmetics in the past 50 years. She said, “There is a myriad of color products that we all can’t live without! But I think the product that has been a huge force and will continue to be is the red lipstick. The red lipstick is the unaccompanied product that can be defined as classic, retro, couture or just absolutely glamorous.”

Developments and offshoots of the classic red lip over the years span from makeup artist Bobbi Brown’s iconic lipstick launch, a pinky-brown blend created by a chemist she met along the way; to line expansions like Bare Minerals “Upper Class Red,” a liquid lipstick created in collaboration with Virgin Airlines.

“Products like MAC Lipglass really transformed the category, bringing lipgloss from a ‘bubblegum’ standpoint for teens in mass into the prestige marketplace for consumers of all ages,” noted Karen Grant, vice president and global beauty industry analyst, The NPD Group.

Priming the Canvas
A flawless face, complete with concealer, powder, blush and even highlighter, is in style no matter what year it is. Beauty tastemakers agree that the synthesis of skin care and color cosmetics was a game changer in the past 50 years.

“Mineral makeup was a huge development in color cosmetics,” noted Jamie Kern Lima, the co-founder and CEO of IT Cosmetics, Jersey City, NJ. “The role makeup artists play in product development and consumers’ lives is another.”

Brands such as Kern-Lima’s IT Cosmetics, which is billed as having “good for you” ingredients and has garnered a following on QVC (see online feature, Tell Your Story, on Happi.com for more on this brand), have been key players; as well as the aforementioned Bare Minerals and other natural cosmetic brands like Tarte, Josie Maran, The Body Shop, Dr. Hauschka and Jane Iredale.

“Much of the advancement in technology has been focused in how long can these products can stay on the skin without the need to touch up,” observed Elias Elgueta, global educator for Jane Iredale, Great Barrington, MA. “A noble idea, but in many cases products have compromised many things in order to achieve this long-wearing benefit. Lips are dry and flakey. Skin shows signs of irritation like breakouts and dryness. Swollen eyes itch. But Jane Iredale products, in particular, are able to provide us with the best of both worlds: technologically-advanced products that are great for the skin.”

Jerrod Blandino, creative director and founder of Too Faced Cosmetics, Long Beach, CA, agreed.

“The fusion of skin care and makeup allows for a natural looking, authentic, second skin,” he told Happi. “It’s makeup that actually helps to improve the health and texture of your skin. And of course glitter eyeshadow—it changed the world!”

Too Faced’s holiday palettes with artful packaging have carved out a niche in the ready-to-gift prestige category…complete with sparkling eye colors, of course.

Lip plumpers, primers, bronzers, shade-matching makeup and the infusion of sun protection into color cosmetics (especially in BB and CC creams) are also noteworthy in the past 50 years.

Bigger and Better
So, what’s ahead for the next 50 years of color and beyond?

Powders are a category to look out for in the future. According to Friedman at Mary Kay, during the past few years, technology has advanced, allowing for cutting-edge powder products.

“We are now able to achieve textures, impressive color pay-offs and designs that were considered impossible just a few short years ago,” she told Happi. “Definitely look for more to come in powders during the next few years.”

Overall, the trends are cyclical, noted Grant of The NPD Group: “Fifty years ago, the look was very polished. Then there was a time where it was ‘in’ to be totally natural. Now, we’re back to being polished again … but as time goes on, we become more efficient and more polished, elevating the game.”

And then there are the components that make the products themselves, as seen in the pages of Happi.

“What really strikes me is how much innovation there has been in the overall technology behind and raw ingredients in color cosmetic formulas, even in the past 10 years!” noted Laura Geller, founder of Laura Geller Beauty, New York. “Things we can create today, we never would have thought possible just a few years ago. It makes me very excited for what’s ahead.”