10 Women Who Changed the Beauty Industry

10 Women Who Changed the Beauty Industry

From the very first innovators to the current boom of ‘lipstick entrepreneurs’, there have been incredible women who have paved the way for other women in beauty. Feel inspired by some of the incredible achievements of 10 women who have changed the face of the beauty industry over the last 100 years.

10 Amazing Women in Beauty

  1. Martha Matilda Harper

    The creator of modern retail franchising.

    Born in 1857, Martha moved from being a servant girl to one of the most highly respected business women of her time. She paved the way with huge innovations in both beauty and business thanks to her hair salon,The Harper Hair Parlour. She is believed to have been the first person to come up with a system for what we now know as franchising, training women to open Salons using the Harper Hair Parlour and following her rules. By the 1920s, there were over 500 Harper salons around the world all lead by her.

    As if that wasn’t enough, she also invented the reclining shampoo chair which we all use every time we go to the salon!

  2. Madam C. J. Walker

    The first female self-made millionaire in America.

    Madam C. J. Walker developed and marketed a line of beauty and hair products for black women during the 1900s. She started out selling door to door, training women to become “beauty culturists” by teaching them how to groom and style their hair. She ended up owning a company which included a factory, hair salon, beauty school and learn the art of selling. She made her fortune and continued to support other women by training them and having many women in key management roles.

    At a time when women, and especially women of colour, had few opportunities and suffered huge discrimination, Madame C. J. Walker was a true pioneer in the beauty industry.

  3. Elizabeth Arden

    Elizabeth Arden

    The woman who made the world fall in love with Make Up.

    Throughout the first half of the 20th Century, Elizabeth Arden built a cosmetic brand that is still known all over the world. She helped establish Make Up as a thing that was acceptable for all women, where it had previously been associated with lower class women. She traveled to Paris to learn about beauty, and created ranges of Rouge and Powders that sold around the world. She has been credited with developing the idea of a ‘Makeover’ and showed women the transformative powers of Make Up. Arden was awarded a Légion d’Honneur in 1962 in recognition of her contributions to the cosmetic industry and her legacy lives on with the Elizabeth Arden brand.

    Elizabeth Arden not only showed that women could innovate and sell but also her success proved the consumer power of women.

  4. Coco Chanel

    The creator of one of the most iconic brands in existence.

    Coco Chanel is known for the huge innovations she made in fashion, but we all know that the Chanel brand is also known for its incredible beauty products. Coco Chanel applied the same innovative approach to the development of the Chanel No. 5 fragrance as she did to fashion. She broke from tradition and created a distinctly modern perfume for the times. It was clean, fresh and used a blend of scents and ingredients that had never been used. It is a fragrance which has lasted through the ages and was the first of many iconic beauty products from Chanel.

    Coco Chanel was a business innovator who created a brand which redefined femininity, in both fashion and beauty.

  5. Estee Lauder

    Estée Lauder

    A woman who showed the power of ambitions.

    Estée Lauder declared that she ‘never worked a day in [her] life without selling’. It was this drive that led to her being named one of Time Magazine’s top 20 most influential business geniuses of the 20th Century. Estée Lauder started out selling just 4 products, and now her legacy is a multinational corporation which owns 28 different beauty companies. She was undoubtedly one of the most powerful business women of the 20th Century.

    With her grandaughters Aerin and Jane still having huge day to day involvement with the company, Estée Lauder gave women in business someone to look up to.

  6. Anita Roddick

    Anita Roddick

    The one who showed business and philanthropy could be combinded.
    No list of women in the beauty industry could be complete without Anita Roddick. She founded The Body Shop in 1976, creating a range of quality products that used refillable containers and this became the basis for a business centered around ethics and trust. Roddick never shyed away from using her business as a platform to discuss big issues in society and the environment. She created the Body Shop Foundation and partnered with many charities over the years.

    Anita Roddick showed that business could be done differently and her influence is still felt on every British High Street.

  7. Iman

    The woman who redefined cosmetics for women of colour.

    Iman is a woman who saw a fundamental gap in the beauty industry and after failing to find products which worked for her skin tone, took matters into her own hands. Iman Cosmetics is designed around a range of foundations and cosmetics in shades which work with darker skin tones. She developed products which gave women of colour a real choice of options, at an accessible price point. The Iman Cosmetics foundations are now one of the top selling foundations for the USA.

    Iman gave women of colour visibility within the beauty industry and the success of her range speaks volumes for the demand for products which work on all skin tones.

  8. Bobbi Brown

    The advocate for alternative beauty.

    Bobbi Brown started out as a Make Up Artist in New York. She became known for her natural make up looks, which stood out against the bold, bright beauty of the 80s. In creating her cosmetics line, Bobbi Brown declared that “all women are pretty without makeup, but with the right makeup can be pretty powerful”. She spread the message that Make Up could be a tool for empowering women rather than appeasing others. The initiative now helps empower women and educate girls around the world.

    Bobbi’s whole ethos encourages women to feel great and to use Make Up however they like, which is a message we adore.

  9. Charlotte Tilbury

    The woman who has made rock star beauty accessible.

    Charlotte Tilbury is another Make Up Artist who has taken the cosmetic world by storm. Tilbury has worked with people like Mario Testino, Gisele Bundchen, Kate Moss and Tom Ford. With her distinctive style, she built up a huge following, Where she is doing things differently is by opening up her skills to all of us. With her YouTube channel showing tutorials, and the option for customers to buy a complete look from a menu card, she is making beauty something for everyone. You can be your own Make Up Artist.

    Charlotte Tilbury is one of a new generation of beauty innovators who is changing the way we buy and use Make Up.

  10. Emily Weiss

    The new voice of Beauty.

    Emily Weiss started out in the beauty industry with the launch of her website, Into the Gloss. With articles and reviews on products, interviews with interesting and inspirational women and Weiss’s own distinctive style applied to all the writing, it has become one of the most respected beauty sites online. It is a place where women come to discuss and debate beauty and Weiss has used this as a platform to create a line of skincare products which satisfy the needs of women. She has almost democratised beauty, asking women what they want and working to find the solution. Weiss’s entrepreneurial spirit shows a new path where women can be actively involved with the development of products the want rather than being told what they need.

    Emily Weiss is one to watch. With the same sort of passion and drive of the women before her, she is showing how the beauty industry can evolve with our new digital age.

Have a browse of all our posts celebrating International Women’s Day. Meet the team, chat with our favourite bloggers and shop our offers to celebrate womanhood with Lookfantastic.



Make Up Specialist

Major fan of scented candles, Make Up brushes and Highlighter. I’m always on the hunt for those Holy Grail products and my dressing table is covered in more beauty products than I like to admit. As an adopted Northerner originally from Brighton, I spend most my days wondering what all this rain is about. My hair isn’t grateful for the move. Currently loving: NIOD Photography Fluid