Selling Beauty: Historical Perspectives on the Marketing of Cosmetics and Makeup


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Throughout history, women have been expected to discipline and reshape their bodies in accordance with expected norms of beauty. This expectation has only been exacerbated by the rise of social media and influencer culture. 
This special issue seeks to trace the origins of this ‘idealised femininity’ to early cosmetic and makeup marketing and the scientific rationalisation of beauty, critically examining how scientific discourse and ideas about beauty and health are channelled through marketing materials (e.g. advertisements, packaging, posters). Specifically, it aims to bring together a range of interdisciplinary researchers to historicise our understanding of contemporary trends in cosmetic and makeup marketing, demonstrating how advertisements can be mobilised by those in positions of power for their own personal agendas, often targeting the most vulnerable in society (in this case, women). In doing so, it seeks to uncover links between past and present ways that manufacturers have capitalised upon scientific innovations to create new products or rebrand existing products and employed science to make claims about beauty and health. 
The special issue will, thus, demonstrate the continuity of science in cosmetics and makeup—even if fundamental ideas of beauty and health have evolved over time—showcasing how many of the marketing strategies employed today can, in fact, be traced to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In highlighting these strategies, the findings seek to offer contemporary consumers a space to reflect more critically on the claims put forward in cosmetic and makeup marketing—and indeed in what they see on social media—in ways that they may struggle to do when being too temporally close to them. 
Cosmetic and Makeup History (CaMH) is an emerging field of academic study, with a wide range of interdisciplinary research being conducted, including in the area of marketing. However, to date, there has been no dedicated platform to bring together scholars working in this area, nor are there any journals specifically focused on this topic. The secondary aim of this special issue is, therefore, to showcase the significance of studying cosmetic and makeup marketing to drive forward the field of CaMH and encourage further studies in the area

List of Topic Areas

  • The marketing of cosmetics and makeup in the late nineteenth/early twentieth centuries
  • Scientific claims in advertisements (both from a linguistic and semiotic perspective)
  • Issues around beauty, health, idealised femininity and ‘healthy’ bodies 
  • Transhistorical perspectives, drawing parallels with contemporary cosmetic and makeup marketing

Submissions Information

Submissions are made using ScholarOne Manuscripts. Registration and access are available here.
Author guidelines must be strictly followed. Please see here.
Authors should select (from the drop-down menu) the special issue title at the appropriate step in the submission process, i.e. in response to ““Please select the issue you are submitting to”. 
Submitted articles must not have been previously published, nor should they be under consideration for publication anywhere else, while under review for this journal.

Key Deadlines

Opening date for manuscripts submissions: 22/04/2024
Closing date for manuscripts submission: 31/10/2024