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Are We Obsessed With The Way We Look? - Facts & Infographic

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Mirror, Mirror on The Wall

"A thing of beauty is a joy forever: its loveliness increases; it will never pass into nothingness" - John Keats

Does beauty really bring joy? A comparison of the countries that spend most on beauty and their Satisfaction with Life (SWL) Index, by Adrian G. White from the University of Leicester has a different picture to reveal. The countries that spend most on beauty products, treatments and cosmetics are not among the most satisfied with life.

Spending Rank


SWL Index Ranks


























The Netherlands






According to the World Happiness Report, USA the top ranking nation by beauty spends ranks 11th in the Happiness Index, UK ranks 18th, China ranks 112th, the Netherlands rank 4th and Sweden ranks 7th. The World Happiness Report was commissioned for the United Nations Conference on Happiness and published in April 2012 by the Earth Institute, Columbia University. Among the top ten, the least spending countries rank highest in both – the SWL Index and the World Happiness Rankings. A similar look at the countries with most cosmetic surgeries does not show a positive correlation with the SWL Index ranks.



% of worldwide cosmetic procedures















South Korea







Spending on Beauty

Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping” ? Oscar Wilde

Most of the premium beauty brands have a global presence. Market experts predict that in the next few years, beauty brands are expected to increase their sales by about 13%. The sales of premium beauty brands were estimated to be $93 billion in 2011 and by 2016 this is set to rise to $105 billion worldwide. The top regions that registered highest sales of beauty products are – Asia Pacific, Western Europe, Latin America, and North America. The top growing markets in 2011 were Argentina which grew by about 33%, China which grew 22%, Mexico showed 15% growth and France which registered 3% growth.

Top Brands By Market Value (2011)



Value in Billions USD (2011)


Procter & Gamble






Procter & Gamble









Johnson & Johnson








Estee Lauder

Estee Lauder






Among the popular beauty products worldwide, nail paint, lacquer, and nail treatment products saw the highest sales growth in 2011 and in early 2012, growing over 68%, lip color, gloss and other lip products came next with a growth of about 8%. Face beauty products grew by about 7% and the sales of eye makeup grew about 5%. Over 138% new nail polish shades were introduced in 2011 in the US (627 shades in 2011 from 263 shades in 2010). Also, nail salons in the US claim that nail polish was the best-selling retail product in 2011.


American Beauty

"Beauty is unbearable, drives us to despair, offering us for a minute the glimpse of an eternity that we should like to stretch out over the whole of time" - Albert Camus

The costs of maintaining beauty and the expenditure on beauty products and treatments in the US is a staggering $59 billion. According to a 2011 survey, an average American woman spends about $40 each month on her beauty. With age, this amount increases. A majority of the women in the US, over 87%, agree that if they had more money, they would have spent quite a bit more on beauty treatments and products. It is estimated that about 8.4 million American women have undergone plastic surgeries to enhance their beauty or features in 2011. These women account for almost 91% of all plastic surgical procedures performed in the country and men account for the other 9%. About a third of the women undergoing cosmetic surgeries are between the ages 40-54, and 46% are either in their 30s or over 55 years of age. Among these women, 75% undertake a liposuction to look slimmer; 61% undergo breast augmentation; and 32% undergo abdominoplasty or tummy tuck. Hair transplantation, rhinoplasty, and Botox are among the other leading cosmetic procedures. The survey also reveals that 30% women over 50 are concerned about skin protection; about 25% want to look younger. Among the beauty products that sell most in the US, 24% women invest in hair care products, 23% in skincare products, 19% use cosmetics, and 5% use sun blocks and nail care products.


Beauty Pageants

All little girls should be told they are pretty, even if they aren't” - Marilyn Monroe

The first modern beauty American pageant was held in 1854 by P. T. Barnum. The contest was shut down due to a massive public protest. Barnum had previously held baby, dog, and bird beauty contests. Later in 1880, the Rehoboth Beach, Delaware held the first “Bathing Beauty Pageant" as an event in the summer festival held to promote tourism and attract people. A number of beauty pageants in recent years have been highlighting the contestants as the perfect blend of beauty and brains. The Miss Universe and Miss World pageants are aired each year with a huge following across the world.

In recent years, children’s beauty pageants are being held in many parts of the world. The trend has sparked off a heated debate about the harm the practice causes the children in psychological terms. Among these Toddlers and Tiaras, the American reality television series beauty show which debuted in 2009 and subsequently was broadcast in the UK, has attracted the most brickbats.

Putting your four year old child through hours of hair-dying, waxing, extreme dieting, tanning, and who knows what else is so she can look like Cindy Crawford is child neglect. Why this is even legal is beyond me. I don't see a difference between repeatedly ripping your kid's hair out in the name of beauty and repeatedly hitting your child in the name of authority” - Child Beauty Pageants? Uhm, NO (Lovelyish Blog)


A Matter Of Fairness

"We judge on the basis of what somebody looks like, skin color, whether we think they're beautiful or not. That space on the Internet allows you to converse with somebody with none of those things involved" - Bell Hooks

Fairness and skin complexion is another very sensitive matter in most countries. In countries like India the market for fairness creams is a booming one, estimated to be about $147 million currently. Fairness creams have been a controversial issue in the country. Feminist groups have raised much outcry in the past about fairness cream advertisements promote bias and portray women in a regressive light. What's surprising, though are the statistics. In India over 25% of the consumers of fairness creams are men. HLL, CavinKare, Godrej, and Emami are among the leading companies in the fairness cream market. The photoshopping and airbrushing of images by advertisers is another major concern. In Arizona, the HB 2793 legislation is aimed at disallowing the distortion of images to project impossible ideals.


Men’s Beauty – Changing Perceptions

While men across the world have changed and growingly shown preoccupation with beauty, cosmetics, treatments, and products, perceptions seem to have remained puritan. The market for men's cosmetics has seen a huge growth in the recent years but the success of the brands manufacturing and marketing these depends on their adaptability to 'masculine' perceptions.

According to a study by Kline & Company, the skincare market for men has about lost its 'niche market' status. Skincare products for men are now ubiquitous and words such as "metrosexual" are now obsolete. “It used to imply a certain niche group, whereas in 2012, all types of men, in urban and suburban areas, are using male grooming products” - Nancy Mills, Consumer Practice Industry Manager, Kline & Company.

In India, the market seems to be growing at about 25% each year. The market for personal care products in India is already estimated to be about INR 17 billion (approximately $309 million). India's first exclusive retail chain of men’s personal care products, Men & Boys (M&B), says that the monthly per capita consumption of men’s grooming products is likely to double by 2020. At present the monthly per capita consumption is INR 850and is likely to go up to INR 1,774 by 2015 and INR 3,739 by 2020. According to a report by Kline men’s skin care products sales in the US saw its best growth in 2011. According to Mintel, a research firm forecasts sales of men’s toiletries in the US is likely to reach $3.2 billion in 2016, while the current sales figures are pegged at $2.6 billion and were $2.2 billion in 2006. In Europe, the sales of skincare products for men have shot up from € 289 million in 2005 to € 420 million in 2010. And these figures come from the five biggest markets in the continent - France, Germany, Italy, Spain and UK.


Are Beautiful People Happier?

Beauty Is the Promise of Happiness- Stendhal

In March 2011, economists Daniel Hamermesh and Jason Abrevaya of the University of Texas at Austin, published their report called “Beauty Is the Promise of Happiness"? They put together a compilation of data from surveys of over 25,000 people in four countries. They then compared happiness levels with how attractive the respondents were. The findings were startling. The respondents who were ranked the top 15% most beautiful were also 10% happier than those featured in the bottom tiers. This means that good looks played a vital role in a number of areas from securing employment to finding a good mate. While not all ugly people are sad, generally prettier people are happier in their lives. When the respondents were categorized into 6 categories based on their looks, "Personal beauty raises happiness," says Hamermesh.

Research reveals that men who have above-average good looks earn about 3% more than average looking men and below-average looking men earn almost 22% less than the average looking man. When it comes to women, the differences are not quite as steep. An above average looking woman earns about 4% more than an average looking woman and a below average woman 3% less than her average counterparts. Studies also suggest that unattractive people are 22% more likely to be earn a conviction in trials than good-looking people. Their sentences are on an average 22 months longer. A study by researchers John Graham, Campbell Harvey, and Manju Puri of Duke University found that CEOs are routinely judged as competent by their looks. Also, CEOs deemed competent by their appearance have higher payouts.


The Big Numbers

  • According to Euromonitor, the beauty sector generated $43 billion in 2011 by way of sales. An average Brazilian woman spends 11 times as much as a British woman on maintaining beauty.

  • According to 2010 Staraya Krepost reports the value of the Russian beauty products market is pegged at $7.8 billion. The growth is estimated to be about 14% and over 53% products are imported.

  • The Indian cosmetic industry is pegged at $4.6 billion. The industry is set to see a growth rate of about 20% per year.

  • China boasts of being the biggest online beauty market in the world. The $17.1 billion beauty industry in the country grew 18.7% between 2010 and 2011.

  • In South Africa, the cosmetics and toiletries industry is currently estimated to be $1.9 billion but the growth potential, experts say, is huge.

  • 2009 reports suggest that the Australian cosmetics and beauty products market was well over $5.2 billion.

  • Early 2012 reports suggest that the UK beauty industry may be worth over $25 billion and engages almost a million employees in the country.


Sources –,4457

Are We Obsessed With The Way We Look.

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