Essntls of skincare - Episode 3.
by Herb Essntls
A month ago
Skincare isn’t a new invention by any means. We know that skincare routines date back at least 6000 years, but that’s a story for another day. Today, we’ll look at how it developed from sporadic local household remedies to a natural part of everyday life of many people.
Cosmetics and skincare products became available to women of all classes during the 20th century. Mass production and the dawn of advertising turned it into a flourishing industry that became the first industry to view women as a powerful group of consumers outside the elite class.
It all started late in the 19th century with Harriet Hubbard Ayer. She was one of the first to promote a commercial face cream and she did it through celebrity endorsement from actress Lillie Langtry.
Harriet was a pioneer in that she saw all women as potential customers. Her insight was groundbreaking across all industries and she did it well before Henry Ford identified the working class as a consumer force to be reckoned with. Today women make around 80% of all purchase decisions in North America. Harriet Hubbard Ayer changed the world.
The 1920s brought an increased fascination with staying young.. Cosmetic companies were quick to deliver innovative sales pitches that guaranteed a youthful look. The invention of electricity turned the beauty industry into an “industry of science” with countless machines that through vibrations and electromagnetic pulses promised “youth” in different shapes and forms.
The iconic Elizabeth Arden, for example, produced a thin paper face mask with tin-foil that generated low energy microwaves. The “beauty science” remained popular well into the 1940s.
50s and 60s
In the 50s the “peaches and cream” complexion became the norm. To survive in the skincare and beauty market your products had to create a soft, feminine look. This went on until the 60’s, when the skincare industry rapidly grew (and grew up) to resemble what it looks like today. Multi-step skincare systems with moisturizers, cleansers, and toners arrived as our bathroom cabinets grew in size. The Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream was launched and is to this day one of the most famous skincare products there is.
Organic and natural ingredients started making their entry as early as the 1970’s, while collagen based products and anti-aging creams didn’t surface until the late 80’s when the fascination with youth came back with force (and hasn’t left since).
Science kicked in for real (as opposed to the 1930’s pseudo-science) in the 80’s and 90’s when natural ingredients like Vitamin- A C E and group B were discovered to have strong anti-aging properties.
After the shift of the millennia, science has taken leaps into very complex solutions. But in some ways it also has simplified a lot of things.
Manufacturers started making hyaluronic acid moisturizers, antioxidants, sunscreens and a plethora of “skin energizing” and “skin illuminating” technologies that invaded the market (which reminds us a little bit of the pseudo-science products and language of the 30’s...).
On the other side of things, the biggest change has come in the switch from using animal and synthetic derived ingredients, to using partly or all natural ingredients as the active agents. Hormones and steroids have been replaced with botanical extracts and beeswax.
Today "clean beauty" is trending with influential players in the skincare retail space starting to demand manufacturers adhere to specific "hot-lists" of prohibited ingredients.
The revolution of the internet has paved way for niche brands that actually dominate the e-commerce market already. And, for the first time ever, men are making a solid dent in the skincare industry with products designed specifically for men, or unisex brands (like Herb Essntls).
The 2020’s will change everything again - and we intend to be here to lead the way.