Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty Business by Geoffrey Jones - review by Lindy Woodhead

Lindy Woodhead

In the Eye of the Shareholder

Beauty Imagined: A History of the Global Beauty Business


Oxford University Press 416pp £25

Geoffrey Jones teaches at Harvard Business School, where he holds the title of Isidor Straus Professor of Business History. He has previously written about Unilever and his new book, Beauty Imagined, is being promoted as the ‘first authoritative history of the global beauty industry from the nineteenth century to the present day’.

In what will no doubt be essential reading for the students at HBS – a training ground for prospective management of the corporate giants who produce most of the world’s beauty products – Jones explains that many of the ideas in Beauty Imagined were ‘tested and honed in the school’s classrooms’, citing case studies on Shiseido, Natura, L’Oréal and Coty amongst others. He offers his readers swathes of impressive statistics, including several hugely detailed charts showing the ‘who’s who’ in cosmetics today – the top four being Procter & Gamble, L’Oréal, Unilever and Colgate-Palmolive.

I must declare an interest: I am the author of a book about the beauty business called War Paint: Miss Elizabeth Arden and Madame Helena Rubinstein: Their Lives, Their Times, Their Rivalry. As Rubinstein and Arden between them arguably created the luxury beauty industry in the first half

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