Best Beauty Companies for Women: Consumers

VITAMIN W has completed a study on the beauty sector which is presented in three parts. Please also see "Best Beauty Companies for Women: Leadership," and "Best Beauty Companies for Women: Employees." This work is part of a larger research project analyzing how companies serve women as consumers, leaders, and employees. The full methodology and results of the study will be available later this summer. Sign up for our newsletter to get the results first.

By Anna Louie Sussman

Based on our scoring of advertising, product toxicity, and corporate philanthropy, beauty companies by and large do know how to treat a lady.

Nearly all surveyed companies scored well on advertising, showing women engaged in activities outside the mom sphere and featuring models of color. A few even dared to be funny.  

The beauty industry does have its ugly side. Of the 14 companies we rated, only Avon, Johnson & Johnson, and Natura Cosmetics scored well on avoiding potentially harmful chemicals, while the others—Procter and Gamble and Elizabeth Arden, in particular—push products containing ingredients that have been singled out by consumer groups for removal (check the SkinDeep database for details). **

Because beauty companies target mostly female consumers, so do many of their philanthropic and corporate social responsibility endeavours. Revlon, Avon and Estée Lauder all have high-profile initiatives around fighting breast cancer. Avon support efforts against domestic violence and MAC Cosmetics (the wild child in the Estee Lauder family) has been a leader in CSR devoting all the profits of VIVA Glam lipstick to HIV and AIDS initiatives. In over 20 years, MAC has raised more than $250 million. (Compare that to Bobbi Brown whose Pretty Powerful Campaign for girls donates 1 cent of the retail price of mascara that costs $29.) Johnson & Johnson, the health and beauty conglomerate, supports hundreds of health-related projects, including many focusing on maternal and child health. L’Oreal supports female scientists through a fellowship program. Perhaps some of them are working on finding new, non-toxic ingredients for the cosmetics of the future?

Find your products on the list of popular brands below the chart.

*companies with stars are ranked the highest

See Page One or Two of the Series


** We rated toxicity by combining scores from GoodGuide's information about health, the Environmental Working Group's "skin deep" guide, and each company's commitment (or lack thereof) to remove potentially harmful chemicals from their products.


Research by: Megan Black, Kimi Kellen, Padmini Parthasarathy, Elizabeth Stanton

Image: Andres Rodriguez,