It’s not just being an ambassador anymore or the face of a house. Now, celebrities are building full beauty brands that compete alongside the storied cosmetic brands like L’Oreal and Estée Lauder. But where is this coming from? With different celebrities seeming to announce new beauty lines every week, how did they enter the beauty market, and why can’t they seem to stop?
There’s no shame in confronting the fact that we’re obsessed with celebrity culture. From the Kardashians convincing us all to start wearing (and loving) bike shorts to fans creating Instagram fashion archive accounts solely devoted to their favorite celebrity’s closet, we have a strong history of being obsessed with celebrity culture, whether it’s through what they’re wearing, eating, visiting, or putting on their faces.
Enter, our love of celebrity beauty. Whether it was Madonna and Cameron Diaz rocking the over-plucked eyebrow or Christina Aguilera and Destiny’s Child showing up in glossy eyeshadow and lip gloss in the 1990s, we followed their lead religiously. We loved to see what makeup celebrities were using throughout the 90s and the early aughts, but it goes back even further than that.
Marilyn Monroe’s signature platinum curls of the 1950s are still copied to this day, even among fellow celebrities: Amy Adams, Jessica Chastain, and Taylor Swift have all hit the red carpet in recent years emulating those curls. People wanted to hear all about Audrey Hepburn’s tricks for maintaining that doe-eyed look or how Sophia Loren has managed to stay looking so young. (Apparently, Loren’s trick was olive oil, according to the BBC. Sounds familiar? Jennifer Lopez also claimed olive oil was what kept her skin glowing as well.)
Celebrities first began to monetize their name and face by being the face of a beauty product or campaign. Companies were able to see that people emulated celebrity beauty routines and started using them to help sell products. But with time, we’ve moved away from the tactic of buying a product because a celebrity is an ambassador of a house or the face of a campaign. While seeing that celebrity endorsement used to be everything, it has since faded in conjunction with the rise of celebrity beauty brands. Why be the face of the brand when you can BE the brand?
Fragrances are where celebrities really entered the beauty industry. In the early aughts, we began to see production of celebrity fragrances seriously pick up, but this practice dates back even further. Cher, Elizabeth Taylor, Michael Jackson, and Elvis Presley all created fragrances as early as the 1980s. In the 1990s, more celebrities began to hop on the bandwagon, and even athletes like Michael Jordan tried their hand at making a fragrance.
But celebrity fragrance really picked up steam in the 2000s. Think of your favorite 2000s pop diva, and it’s almost guaranteed they made a fragrance. The list goes on and on: Christina Aguilera, Naomi Campbell, Jennifer Lopez, the Olsen twins, Jessica Simpson, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Hilary Duff, Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani. And that’s only the beginning.
So we shouldn’t really be all that surprised by celebrities building full-fledged beauty brands. They’ve pivoted into building their own brands rather than supporting existing brands. It even feels like the natural next step: they create fragrances and then move into skincare or makeup lines.
Of the celebrity beauty brands that exist right now, the OGs are usually considered to be Kylie Cosmetics and Fenty Beauty — although you could even argue that the Kardashian brand in general started this, not just Kylie Jenner. The Kardashian Sun Kissed self-tanner line hit stores in the early 2010s, while their Khroma Beauty (later renamed Kardashian Beauty due to lawsuits over similar naming) remained popular among fans until the mid-2010s.
Kylie Jenner helped begin this full-blown celebrity beauty line trend with Kylie Lip Kits in 2014 and has since turned into a millionaire businesswoman thanks to the brand. Her brand now encompasses makeup as well as skincare, with her most recent launch being the Kylie Skin Makeup Melting Cleanser. But it doesn’t look like she’s stopping anytime soon: reports show that she’s trademarked the name “Kylie Baby,” so perhaps a baby line is on the horizon? Plus, with all the workout content she’s been sharing to Instagram lately, one can only expect that a fitness line could also be coming in the near future.
Meanwhile, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty has unequivocally changed the beauty industry. When her first line of foundation came out, it was released 40 shades (it now comes in 50 shades). That shade range was unheard of at the time. “The Fenty Effect” came out of that release, which was a call for industries (not just beauty) to challenge the norm and push the boundaries. In beauty specifically, it caused brands to expand makeup lines to be more inclusive and offer more shades.
Since then, celebrities have continued to build beauty brands. Like the list of celebrity fragrances, this list could go on and on as well. The celebrities creating beauty brands now cross over across industries, encompassing hair care, skincare, makeup, and tools: now, we have Miranda Kerr’s Kora Organics, Kim Kardashian West’s KKW Beauty, Halsey’s About Face, Lady Gaga’s Haus Laboratories, Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty, Emily Ratajkowski’s Loops Beauty, Pharrell Williams’s Humanrace, Jennifer Lopez’s JLo Beauty, Jessica Alba’s Honest Company, Victoria Beckham’s eponymous line. Not to mention Kesha, Madonna, Cindy Crawford, and Josie Maran. Taking a page out of Rihanna’s book to make the industry more inclusive, Tracee Ellis Ross saw an opportunity to create more diverse options and created Pattern Beauty to offer more options for curly, coily, and textured hair. Millie Bobby Brown’s Florence by Mills has also become popular with the Gen Z crowd, but she caught herself in a bit of hot water when it appeared she wasn’t actually using the products she preached. Marketing is everything for these celebrity-owned brands.
So, why are there so many celebrity beauty brands? Why do they want to do this so badly? It’s a great way to expand their brand, find lucrative outlets in other industries, and have a creative outlet. Celebs want to diversify themselves and be more than actors or singers. Actors aren’t just actors anymore. They’re producers, writers, directors. They also want to be business owners, and everyone’s obsession with their skincare or makeup routine makes this business the perfect opportunity to monetize themselves and their fanbase. There are opportunities for huge payouts down the road, like through an IPO (which Alba’s Honest Company just raised more than 0 million for). Beauty has high margins, repeat purchases, and there’s a lot of selling done through word of mouth. Plus, it’s easy to get a customer through a celebrity: harnessing their fandom is like a built-in customer base.
In the words of Ariana Grande (yes, she’s created fragrances before), “I want it, I got it.” We see it, we buy it. This is a way to close the gap between us and them — it gives us proximity. With our obsession with celebrity culture, we want to feel like a celebrity, and buying a product from them lets us do that, even just a little bit. We tend to trust celebrities, too. If they trust it on their skin, we trust it. All too often we’ll take note of how amazing a celebrity’s skin is or how beautiful they look, and then try to recreate that routine or look for ourselves.
But, there’s a risk the market will become oversaturated. There’s a chance it already is. So, celebrities need to be careful and calculated as they market their brands. Authenticity, quality, and diversity is important. They need to offer quality products that are different from the rest to succeed, otherwise they’ll fall by the wayside as consumers choose from thousands of other brands.
Will this trend of celebrity-owned beauty brands continue? What’s the next step? How long can this last? Judging by the way things have looked in the past, this trend of building beauty brands will evolve into something else, just like celebrity endorsements evolved into making fragrances evolved into full-on beauty brands. We’ll just have to wait and see what the next iteration of celebrity beauty will look like.END
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