Dusting for Cracks in the Beauty Industry

The Vanity Industry, also known as the Beauty Industry, is at its most popular and profitable level in history. But is this need real, or manufactured by big business for big profits?

We know sex sells … but does insecurity?

By: Luis Fernando Arce, Senior Co-online Editor


Though for Christians (and I suppose for other religions too), vanity is one of the seven deadliest sins, most of us willingly give in to it on a daily basis; and we do it without being despicable sinners headed straight to the deepest pits of hell (at least not in regards to our vanity). We take great pride in our appearance – some more than others – and our fashion is always kept up-to-date with the latest trends, lest we be forgotten in the world of the antiquated.

And really, we all are ‘guilty’ of this, if you can actually be guilty of such a thing.

In the morning, as I groom myself in front of the bathroom mirror, I scrutinize my reflection, making sure there are no stray hairs poking up or dry and crusted tears around my eyes. I shave the patches of facial hair on my otherwise smooth face, and I put on a heavenly-smelling after-shave; then I walk to my room and slather on some cologne, making sure to get a little on my neck and my shirt, so as to make my dollars count. I then walk back and look in the mirror again, make sure I am up to “my” satisfaction, and I walk out ….

Ironically, as I drive to my job (or to school or whatever the case may be), I continue insisting that I am not vain.

Most of us do this on a daily basis, and whether we want to admit it or not we are all tapping into an all-too-human trait called vanity. And in our society, vanity has become such a common trait that people have found a way to capitalize on our fabricated need to look good.


The Vanity Industry, also known as the Beauty Industry, is perhaps at its most popular and profitable level since ‘capitalism’, ‘industry’ and ‘profits’ entered our vernacular. And I don’t really have to research that fact, or give you figures to convince you of that. At this day and age, it seems almost like a self-evident truth; something that no one would try to prove wrong given the current global social conditions.

I mean, comparing our day to say, the Medieval Ages, or even the Renaissance, it is probably much easier for a modern-day tourist strolling the streets of any major metropolitan city in the world to find hair and beauty salons, health-spas and other such places than it is for him/her to find a free-clinic; whereas, in the Medieval Ages, I presume a health-clinic (or the closest thing to it – perhaps a hut with a practising veterinarian, if that) was way easier to find, as opposed to a place where the women could get their nails polished, trimmed and painted.

Today, the importance of looking good in a modern, First World city is practically tantamount to the other basic needs of the human. In any home, you are bound to find food, clothes, medicine, sometimes enlightening reading material, and a milieu of creams, powders and, in the most extreme cases, even syringes and chemicals all aimed at helping its user look and feel younger and, therefore, better. Once again, I think this is a self-evident truth.

In Canada alone, reports estimate that individuals spend around the same yearly amount on cosmetics and other ‘beautifying’ products as they do on home appliances. In Japan and France, the same article nearly doubles the figure.

Darren Praznik, president and CEO of the Canadian Cosmetics, Toiletry and Fragrance Association (CCTFA), an organization that works with government regulators to “ensure the development and effective representation of industry positions on all regulatory matters”, told me that the beauty industry is roughly a $7.8 to $8 billion industry.

This figure accounts for about four to five percent of the retail and wholesale industry in Canada, which itself accounts for 13% of our GDP. With approximately 3,700 cosmetics companies in Canada, there are over 20,000 kinds of cosmetic products available for sale. Further, the number of beauty parlours in the country is around the 1.5 million mark, plenty of places to cool off and exfoliate!

An article, appropriately titled “Pampering doesn’t take a break during Economic Downturns” by Candy Williams, cites London-based Economist Magazine when it states that globally the beauty industry rakes in an estimated $160 billion a year in profits. Moreover, Goldman Sachs analysts estimate that “world-wide, skin care brings in $24 billion; makeup, $18 billion; hair care, $38 billion; and perfume, $15 billion” a year, representing almost a 7% annual growth.

This fortune also seems to be oozing from beautifying services, such as health-spas and Botox clinics, a trend rapidly gaining in popularity. An article analyzing some of the beauty industry’s trends found that “medical spa services performed by a licensed physician, physician’s assistant or registered nurse will increase through 2010 as baby boomers age and demand for such procedures increases [particularly] in younger women.” Moreover, the article estimates that by 2018 the “demand for hairstylists and cosmetologists will increase by 20%; skin care specialists by 38%”.

Praznik, moreover, asserts that it is a “very competitive industry” given the large selection of companies and products available, and as result the industry is generally fairly steady. He also agrees that there seems to be a kind of phenomenon, where even during bad times, be them economic like the financial crisis or social, like the 9/11 events, people “will buy personal care products to make themselves feel better.”

In times of financial crises, budgets may tighten and there may be a “shift” in regards to the products people buy, but generally speaking, he continues, the industry is fairly steady, and as the economy turns it will certainly see a “healthy growth”.

Of course the ‘self-pampering’ phenomenon may also be perpetuated by the fact that, especially during hard economic times, “companies … devote a fair amount of effort to get their brands in front of the consumer,” he told me.

In any event, the 8 or so billion dollars a year that the industry contributes to the Canadian GDP is only in sales. In addition to that, it must be considered, Praznik told me, that there are “probably several thousands of jobs associated with the manufacturing of products in Canada, and often those products are exported … to North America if not internationally”, creating yet more jobs in the exporting world.

And as with fashion, new trends constantly emerge in this area; and the Free Market has found a way to very successfully tap into the profits to be made.

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