NWR - Beauty on the Brain

I know I know, another NWR post - but it's educating! And that makes it least in my eyes - if not, post and let me know and I'll keep it strictly WR!  :)

I am shamelessly sharing this information from the fab 'faking good breeding' blog. I'm somewhat of a fashion/makeup junkie and loved this post so I wanted to share. The blog isn't active anymore but it has some great posts and I got lost in it for an hour. Thanks Meg for sharing your insight!

Beauty Industry: Who Owns What?

Aside from recognizing that they're all beauty brands, you probably don't often link Kiehl's, Maybelline and La Roche-Posay. Or Olay, Covergirl and SK-II. Or La Mer, MAC and Clinique. Each of these brands has a very clear, unique identity that is defined by what kind of products they make, where they're sold, how they're priced, what kind of person buys them, how they're packaged, and a number of other factors.

But that's only because the marketers behind these major brands have been so successful in conditioning consumers to think about the brand in these terms. What we're encouraged to ignore is that each of these brand groupings is owned by the same corporation. Kiehl's, Maybelline and La Roche-Posay couldn't be more different brands, but they're all owned and produced by L'Oreal. Same goes for Olay, Covergirl and SK-II, all Proctor & Gamble brands. And if you thought that Estee Lauder was only a department store makeup brand, you might be surprised to learn that the company owns 27 beauty brands, including La Mer, MAC and Clinique.

The beauty industry is dominated by a few key players, all multi-billion dollar corporations with ownership over multiple major brands. Here's how it breaks down:

L'Oreal: 2005 revenues of $19.78 billion U.S. dollars. Only owns cosmetics, haircare and fragrance brands (29 in total).

Brands: Kérastase, L'Oréal Professionnel, L'Oréal Technique, Matrix, Mizani, Redken, L'Oréal Paris, Garnier, Maybelline New York, SoftSheen-Carson, Biotherm, The Body Shop, Cacharel, Diesel Perfumes, Giorgio Armani Parfums and Cosmetics, Guy Laroche, Helena Rubinstein, Kiehl's, Lancôme, Paloma Picasso, Ralph Lauren, Shu Uemura, Victor et Rolf parfum, Dermablend, La Roche-Posay, SkinCeuticals, Vichy Laboratoires, Innéov, Ombrelle.

Proctor & Gamble: 2006 revenues of $68.222 billion U.S. dollars (this includes all brands). Beauty sales alone equaled $21.1 billion. P&G sells many different kinds of consumer products (their brands range from Tide to Gillette to Pampers to Iams to Tampax and many, many more). You can read the entire list here

Beauty brands: Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Olay, Pantene, Wella, Aussie, Clairol, CoverGirl, Herbal Essences, Infusium 23, Ivory Soap, Max Factor, Natural Instincts, Nice'n Easy, Noxzema, Secret, SK-II, Vidal Sassoon.

Estee Lauder: 2006 revenues of $6.746 billion U.S. dollars. Only sells cosmetics, haircare and fragrance products.

Brands: American Beauty, Aramis, Aveda, Bobbi Brown, Bumble and bumble, Clinique, Daisy Fuentes, Darphin, Donald Trump The Fragrance, Donna Karan, Estée Lauder, Flirt!, Good Skin, Grassroots, Jo Malone, Lab Series, La Mer, Kiton, MAC Cosmetics, Michael Kors, MISSONI, Origins, Prescriptives, Rodan and Fields, Sean John, Tommy Hilfiger, Coach Fragrances.

Unilever: 2006 revenus of $53.97 billion U.S. dollars. Sells food, beverage, cleaning and personal care consumer products.

Beauty brands: Caress, Degree, Dove, Lever 2000, Pond's, Suave, Sunsilk, Vaseline.

Johnson & Johnson: 2006 revenues of $53 billion U.S. dollars. Manufactures consumer packaged goods, pharmaceuticals and medical devices.

Beauty brands: Aveeno, Clean and Clear, Neutrogena.

Avon: 2006 revenues of $8.1 billion U.S. dollars. Sells cosmetics, fragrances and some clothing and jewelry.

Beauty brands: Avon Color, Anew and Solutions, Skin So Soft and Naturals, Avon Fragrances, mark.

Certainly there are other important corporations that stand alone, such as Revlon (2006 revenues of $1.33 billion). But when you consider just how many brands are controlled by a few companies, it's pretty mindboggling.

So what good is this information and how does it useful to you as a consumer?

I've always argued that the more you know about beauty products and the beauty industry, the smarter your purchases will be. When you consider that the huge team of people doing research and development for L'Oreal are developing formulas that can be used in Garnier shampoo ($3.99) and Kerastase shampoo ($29.99), you realize that it's a good idea to start comparing products at different price points. Often two products from two different brands will have the same patent number (Pantene and Herbal Essence conditioners, for example). The difference is in the non-active ingredients, which give it a unique texture, scent, color, etc.

To double check on this, I e-mailed my two favorite cosmetics scientists, The Beauty Brains. They said that major companies (like the ones I've listed above) often save money by using the same formulas in multiple brands, which allows them to get price breaks on raw materials. Sometimes companies will use more expensive or better active ingredients in their luxury brands (the fact that they're active ingredients is key... they can spend all the money they want on fancy extracts and organic ingredients, but they won't make a difference in how the product works), but the truth is that more expensive formulas do not cost companies much more to create.

The price comes from the fact that you expect to pay a high price for a luxury brand. Don't you often automatically assume that a gorgeous bottle of $60 eye cream sold at a Saks counter is going to work better than the $1.99 tube on the clearance rack at CVS? It's all psychological.

So before you go and splurge on an expensive product, take the time to compare it to a similar product from one of their sister brands. Usually an online store (like will list the ingredients. You can then check out a site like The Beauty Brains or cosmetics cop Paula's Begoun, who has an ingredient dictionary and reviews of products. Makeup Alley is also a great resource, as you can read tons of reviews or ask questions to the extremely knowledgeable message board posters.
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