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Personal Care Products


People have wanted to look and feel attractive since the earliest days of civilization. Many ancient societies stressed the importance of personal hygiene. For example, Hindu texts, such as the Vishnu Purana and the Manusmriti had detailed codes of hygiene. Archaeologists have found evidence of the use of cosmetics as far back as ancient Egypt and Greece. The ancient Romans had elaborate public bathhouses. Today, in our image-obsessed world, taking care of one’s personal appearance and demonstrating good hygiene are extremely important. Studies have shown that those who present a good personal image have a better chance of success in life—from finding a life partner to landing a job. 

The personal-care products industry aims to help people look better and feel better about themselves. It creates, manufactures, and sells personal-care, beauty, and hygiene products. Examples include cosmetics, toothpastes, sunscreen, razors, shaving cream, deodorant, soaps and other products for bathing, hair care products, skin care products, nail and cuticle care products, fitness products (such as specialized running shoes and supports and braces), and many other items. Products are sold in retail stores, door-to-door, by mail order, and online.

The personal-care industry is a massive field. Worldwide, it generates more than $250 billion in annual retail sales, according to the Personal Care Products Council, a trade association for the cosmetics and personal-care products industry that has more than 600 member companies. As of 2016, the United States is the largest consumer of personal care products with China and the United Kingdom following in second and third place. In the U.S. the personal care products industry accounts for almost $237 billion toward the national gross domestic product (GDP) and employs or supports 3.6 million workers, generating more than $140 billion in wages.

There are approximately 3,400 cosmetic and beauty products manufacturers in the United States, according to research group IBISWorld. They are located in every state and throughout the world. Companies range from massive, multinational corporations to small firms with fewer than 100 employees. Well-known makers of cosmetics and personal-care products include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Revlon, Unilever, Kimberly Clark, Avon, L’Oréal, and the Colgate-Palmolive Company. The industry has close relationships with other industries, including transportation, packaging, and chemicals and petroleum, which provide many of the raw materials, such as propylene glycol, that are used to make personal-care products. Retail stores, which sell personal-care products, are located in nearly every town and city. Substantial amounts of personal-care products are also bought and sold online.   

Jobs in the personal-care industry exist at many levels and provide opportunities for people with a wide range of skills. Career paths include those in research and development, manufacturing, marketing, sales, administrative support, and other fields.

The personal-care industry is an important segment of the U.S. economy. People will always need hygiene products such as toothpaste and soap, cosmetics will remain popular, and the U.S. population will continue to grow (creating more market demand). These developments translate into an excellent overall employment outlook for the personal-care industry.