By: Isabelle Yang
Although we believe women should be celebrated everyday, it is officially Women’s History Month, which gives us the perfect opportunity to recognize some of the most influential women in the beauty industry. Specifically, we celebrate the women who not only changed the face of beauty but have also empowered other women around the world.
1. Madam C.J. Walker
Madam C.J. Walker, born Sarah Breedlove onDecember 23, 1867, grew up with parents who had been enslaved. After experiencing hair loss and a scalp disorder in the 1890s, Walker created the “Walker System” of hair care. This hair care system involved scalp preparation, lotions, and iron combs. Her custom pomade was extremely popular, and her treatment completely revolutionized the Black hair care industry. In addition to creating such impactful beauty products, Walker was able to effectively sell her hair treatments and grow her business. Eventually her products, including Wonderful Hair Grower, Glossine, and Vegetable Shampoo, caused the Madam C.J. Walker Company to gain a large following. Walker also opened a beauty school and factory in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania called Leila College. Today, we remember Walker as a powerful entrepreneur, philanthropist, and activist who went from living poor in the South to becoming the first female African American millionaire in the United States. Walker used her success to advocate for African Americans and protested against lynching. Today she not only inspires black-owned businesses but all female business owners around the world.
2. Elizabeth Arden
Born Florence Nightingale Graham on December 31, 1884, in Woodbridge, Ontario, Canada, Elizabeth Arden grew up with a farming family struggling to make ends meet. To help her family, Arden worked many jobs and eventually studied nursing, which is when she became extremely interested in the lotions used in burn treatments. Eventually, Arden left Canada and settled in New York City, where she worked as an assistant to a beautician. After such an experience, Arden partnered with Elizabeth Hubbard to create a salon. This partnership dissolved, but Arden remained in the beauty business. With the name, Elizabeth Arden, Arden started her own business. She was specifically interested in developing a face cream and lotion for her first beauty line.
Arden’s true impact lies in her marketing campaigns for makeup. In the past, makeup was associated with prostitution; however, Arden’s campaign made sure to establish makeup as products used by respectable women. She played a huge role in making makeup socially acceptable and empowering women.
3. Estée Lauder
Estée Lauder was an American beautician and business executive. She launched a beauty company with a skin cream developed by her uncle who was a chemist. She didn’t officially form Estée Lauder Cosmetics Inc. until 1946 after selling products independently for years. In 1953, Lauder created the Youth Dew beauty oil, which was a bath oil that doubled as a perfume. This product became extremely popular and effectively boosted business. A few years later, Lauder’s company expanded overseas and launched the men’s product line, Aramis, and the Clinique brand. Overall, through both her innovative marketing strategies and cosmetic products, Lauder became one of the richest self-made women in the world.
4. Huda Kattan
Iraqi-American makeup artist, blogger, entrepreneur, and founder of Huda Beauty, Huda Kattan, was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Kattan later moved to Tennessee then Massachusetts and eventually attended the University of Michigan-Dearborn as a finance major. In 2006, Kattan moved to Dubai with her father but moved to Los Angeles, California a few years later to study makeup. As a talented makeup Artist, Kattan gained many famous clients like Eva Longoria and Nicole Richie. Soon, Kattan moved back to Dubai where she was employed by Revlon as a makeup artist. In 2010, Kattan started a famous beauty blog, which she decided to name “Huda Beauty.” Three years later, Kattan founded her cosmetics line, “Huda Beauty,” based out of Dubai. Her first popular products were a series of false eyelashes, which were famously worn by Kim Kardashian. These false eyelashes gained immense popularity, and Huda’s company slowly offered more and more beauty products:eye shadow palettes, liquid lipsticks, lip liners, highlighter palettes, foundations, concealers, baking powders and liquid eyeshadows.
What makes Kattan so influential is the extent of her digital reach and all that has resulted from it. She gained a very detailed understanding of the internet and gained the ability to understand what people actually wanted from the beauty industry. With this ability, Kattan found a gap in the market for premium false eyelashes and voiced the needs of her followers. And although her main focus is on her cosmetics line, Kattan still continues to post Youtube content. Today, Kattan has a following of over 47 million, and an estimated net worth of $610 million, making her one of the richest beauty entrepreneurs in the world.
5. Charlotte Cho
Charlotte Cho, co-founder of the breakout skincare company, Soko Glam, grew up in Southern California. Growing up, she did not know anything about skincare. After living in Korea for a few years, she learned about the Korean skincare philosophy and saw her skin transform from being dull to being bright and glowing. This experience inspired her to get her esthetician license and begin her business: Soko Glam, an e-commerce company that sells more than 60 South Korean skincare brands. Despite Korean brands like Faceshop and Missha entering the U.S. market before Soko Glam, there were limited resources to provide Americans with a proper understanding of Korean skincare. As a Korean-American who experienced the best of both worlds, Cho aimed to bridge this gap. Through her company, Cho was able to make Korean beauty mainstream in the U.S.
Cho recognized that Americans are equally as interested in learning about skincare and routines as they are interested in buying cosmetic products, if not more. Korean beauty introduced American consumers to numerous products like stick cleansers, sheet masks, new ingredients, customizable beauty products tailored to specific skin types, and more. With the great success of Soko Glam, people recognize Charlotte Cho as the “queen of k-beauty.”
6. Emily Weiss
Emily Weiss, born in Wilton, Connecticut, grew up with an executive father and a stay-at-home mom. In high school, Weiss interned at Ralph Lauren and started her modeling career. In college, Weiss interned for Teen Vogue and appeared on the television show,The Hills. Weiss graduated from New York University in 2007 with a degree in studio art and became a fashion assistant atW Magazine and an on-set styling assistant for Elissa Santisi atVogue.
Weiss noticed a gap in the market for accessible and affordable products that felt luxurious. In 2010, she started her notable blog,Into the Gloss, which featured predominantly interviews with women. While she worked on her blog, she still worked hard at her Vogue day job. After 4 years of meaningful experience growing her website, Weiss learned about the gaps that needed to be filled. After gaining $2 million in venture capital funding to grow a team, Weiss was able to develop a cosmetics line and launched her company, Glossier. Her initial launch featured four products but expanded to includeskin serums, masks, shower gel, body lotion, fragrance, lip balms and several other beauty and skincare related items. Emily Weiss turned her direct-to-consumer brand into a new kind of digital retail experience in which she combines beauty conversations with a platform to buy beauty products and learn about routines. Today, Glossier is a billion dollar beauty brand and sets the standard for e-commerce beauty brands around the world.
If we could name everyone women who has made a positive impact on the beauty industry, this blog would never end. For instance, in the past, women only had access to popular name brand items, but in today’s world, women have access to thousands of smaller indie brands, which are becoming increasingly popular. The future of beauty is most definitely female, and we are excited to see even more indie brands and female entrepreneurs gain recognition for their contributions. For Women’s History Month, we urge you to recognize every important woman in your life and all they are capable of.
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