Beauty is a powerful force

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Beauty is a powerful force.

In almost every category, we consumers know when we're overpaying or being duped by extravagant claims. Yet, when it comes to beauty products, we are seemingly prepared to turn a blind eye, especially if a product promises to make us look more attractive.

I did wonder as I lathered up my $38 shampoo: was it really any better than the $6 supermarket stuff? It felt nice, it smelled nice and promises to do wonderful things to my hair. I'm sure I am a victim of advertising and I am certainly not alone. 

The global beauty business is powerful and growing; current trends seem to underwrite a golden future for the beauty industry.

Of the threats I assumed were looming large for the beauty business — the move towards clear labelling and honest claims, growth of supermarket sales versus high-end department stores, and consumer price-consciousness — few have gained any traction.

We are spending more on beauty. Our spending is not decreasing with age — it seems anti-ageing treatments are just as popular pre- and post-ageing — and we are starting to spend on beauty products at an ever younger age.

It's not just vain women; men are big spenders and because they are often habitual in their grooming regimes, once hooked they can be loyal and significant customers.

My industry research unearthed some interesting gems: the average woman spends US$15,000 on beauty products during her lifetime, with US$3,770 of that going on mascara alone.

I was initially dubious that women spend $US1,780 on lipstick during their lifetime; after all, lipsticks are relatively inexpensive items. But when I learned the average woman replenishes her make-up bag five times a year, I could believe the expenditure.

An obscure statistic was British women spending £200 (NZ$455) on average every year on their ... wait for it ... eyebrows! Who would have thought that tinting, shaping, threading, plucking and filling their eyebrows would be such a big business?

Closer to home, Australians aged 18-64 spend more than A$100 billion a year (NZ$107bn) on their looks (or A$594 per person per month) with Victorians being the biggest spenders at A$707 a month and Queenslanders caring relatively less, spending just A$353 per month. Australian men outspent the women by 74 per cent on skincare products (A$125 compared to A$72) and the quarter of Aussie men who admitted to buying make-up shelled out 50 per cent more on average than women.

The other interesting trend is our attitudes to beauty are changing as our culture changes. It used to be that beauty brands chose youthful ambassadors because beauty was synonymous with youth. However the industry has embraced the ageing population and recognised older people still care about their appearance.

Now older beauty ambassadors like Helen Mirren, 69, and Jane Fonda, 76, are used extensively to cater to the over-50s market which has now overtaken the younger age group to become the biggest buyer segment.

A fashion blogger once wrote: "Beauty is unevenly distributed, difficult to maintain and ever shifting in its standards, particularly in an image-conscious culture such as ours."

Beauty is indeed a powerful force. It is perfectly logical for us to try to enhance our God-given attributes; how we present ourselves in public reflects our personal identity.

No wonder the beauty business continues to grow from strength to strength.


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