Fragrance, eyeliner, toothpaste—the beauty business has permeated our lives like few other industries. But surprisingly little is known about its history, which over time has been shrouded in competitive secrecy. HBS history professor Geoffrey Jones offers one of the first authoritative accounts in Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty Industry.
As I researched this story, I realized both the huge size and the importance of this industry and the remarkable paucity of authoritative literature about it. Or more precisely, while there are numerous books on various aspects of the beauty industry, from glossy coffee-table publications on cherished brands of perfume to feminist denunciations of the industry as demeaning to women, there were few studies that treated beauty seriously, as a business. So I saw both a challenge and an opportunity to research the story of how this industry grew from modest origins, making products that were often deemed an affront to public morality, to the $330 billion global industry of today.