At the start of the 20th Century, it was thought improper for respectable women to wear make up. Cosmetics were often sold 'under the counter'. However, Selfridges changed this by becoming the first store to openly sell powder and rouge. Gradually, wearing make up became more acceptable.
During the Suffragette Movement of the 1910s, many women wore bright red lipstick as a symbol of their defiance. The influence of the film industry in the 1920s and the glamour of Hollywood actresses, created a new demand for a variety of cosmetic products.
In 1931, the Daily Mail reported that 1,500 lipsticks were being sold for every 1 purchased in 1921.
During the Second World War, cosmetics were not rationed, but they were extremely scarce. During these austere times, make-up fulfilled an important role in providing affordable morale boosters.
During the 1960s and 70s, there was a growing interest in the use of natural ingredients in cosmetic products. The Mary Quant cosmetics range was launched in 1966 and the 'Special Recipe' range reflected this new interest. Some of the organic ingredients used in the Quant cosmetics were honey, almond oil, parsley seed oil and herb extracts.
Towards the end of the 20th century, there was growing consumer unease concerning animal testing for beauty products. The Body Shop, founded in 1976, sourced for its cosmetic products only those ingredients that had been developed without involving animal testing.
Many cosmetics manufacturers have been based in London throughout the 20th century. Yardley, founded in the 18th century, is one of London's oldest soap and perfumery firms. By the 1930s, it had glamorous retail premises in Bond Street and a large Art Deco-style factory in Stratford, east London. In the 1960s, the factory moved to Basildon in Essex, where it continued until its closure in 1999.
Established in London in 1834, Rimmel is one of the world's oldest cosmetics brands. Eugene Rimmel was an expert perfumer and cosmetics visionary. The Parisian cosmetics company Coty (created in 1904) opened a subsidiary branch in London in 1922. Another London manufacturer was F S Cleavers and Sons Limited, of 32 and 33 Red Lion Street, Holborn. In 1970, the fashion label Biba launched its own range of cosmetics, available from all Dorothy Perkins stores as well as the Biba flagship store in Kensington.
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