These global corporations may have started as small, often family-run soap-making businesses, but they now own most of the brands we use today and thus control the beauty business. They’re unified not only by their size but also their focus and investment in research.
PROCTER & GAMBLE
One of the biggest names in the business, Procter & Gamble was founded in 1837 by Alexander Norris and his sons-in-law. Its beginnings came from the most humble yet necessary of products: soap. Luck in the lab helped with some of its earliest successes: A mistake when developing a soap mixture led to the invention of the floating Ivory soap in 1879 (the name alludes to a biblical reference, but also cleverly played to a Western desire for fair as well as clean skin). Another happy (and lucrative) accident while experimenting with formulas was the invention of Crisco, the cooking fat. In 1924, P&G set up a market research department one of the first to be created gathering masses of information about the habits of their interviewees. This would prove to be key to the company’s growth and dominance. Over the years, it’s bought a huge number of fragrance, beauty, and hair and skin companies, including Max Factor in 1991.