The 20 Biggest Cosmetic Companies in the World

While having a good working knowledge of raw materials and formulations is important for being a great formulator, having a working knowledge of the cosmetic industry is just as important for your cosmetic chemist career. Today, we’ll take a look at the companies in the cosmetic industry and who owns some of the biggest brands.

Every year the trade magazines put together a list of the biggest cosmetic companies in the beauty industry. It’s a pretty handy list and if you are just starting or have been working for a while in cosmetics, you should be familiar with these companies. At the very least, you’ll know where there might be future employment opportunities. These companies hire lots of cosmetic chemists.

You can see the complete list of the Top 20 Global Beauty Companies as compiled by Beauty Packaging magazine.

Here is the quick list. They are ranked by yearly sales. After that I’ll write a little about the main companies and how that can be useful for cosmetic formulators looking for jobs. Note that these are the biggest companies worldwide and it considers only the beauty portion of the business. Some of these companies are much larger than reported here, but that is because they also have significant business in other industries like household or food.

Beauty Sales (US Billions)

  • 1. L’Oréal $27.2 billion
  • 2. Unilever $21.3 billion
  • 3. Estée Lauder Cos. $11.8 billion
  • 4. P&G $11.8 billion
  • 5. Coty $7.7 billion
  • 6. Shiseido $7.3 billion
  • 7. Beiersdorf $5.9 billion
  • 8. Johnson & Johnson $5.9 billion
  • 9. AmorePacific $5.6 billion
  • 10. Kao $5.3 billion
  • 11. LVMH $5.2 billion
  • 12. L Brands $4.6 billion (est.)
  • 13. Avon $4.1 billion
  • 14. Henkel $4 billion
  • 15, Mary Kay $3.5 billion
  • 16. Colgate-Palmolive $3 billion
  • 17. Chanel $2.8 billion (est.)
  • 18. Natura $2.4 billion
  • 19. Revlon $2.3 billion
  • 20. Kose $2.3 billion

Before we talk about the specific companies let’s discuss how this information will help you. Of course knowing the industry companies can be of trivial interest, it can also be quite useful to a cosmetic chemist in the following ways.

Knowing the biggest companies in cosmetics

First, it is useful in terms of competitive research. If you already have a job, it’s good to know which brands go with which company. This can help you compare formulas and determine what raw material blends they might be using. This could help you in your efforts to knock-off their formulas. You can also see where they are using the same basic formulas for different brands. A chemist who is more knowledgable about their competitors is more valuable to their company.

Next, knowing the industry players can help stimulate new product ideas. You can get a good idea where these companies are putting their development efforts. This can spark ideas on what areas you might want to pursue or even avoid.

Finally, you ultimately work for yourself and often you’ll be faced with finding a new employer. Knowing the cosmetic industry can be incredibly helpful when researching for interviews. If you want to stand out when interviewing for a cosmetic science job, it’s helpful to know something about the company. This list can quickly get you familiar with your potential employer. It can also help you learn about the company’s competition. The more you know about the industry, the better your chances of landing a job.

Alright, let’s give a little more detail of the top 10 biggest companies in the cosmetic industry. You may already or someday will be working for one of them. At the very least you will be competing against all of them. These companies often have the best technology and the best performing products. It’s great to learn from them by studying how they are putting together their formulas.

Largest companies in the cosmetic industry

Company number 10 – Kao corporation
This company headquartered in Japan has yearly beauty sales of $5.3 billion. It sells products in most all cosmetic categories including color cosmetics, skincare, facial and body cleansers and hair care. Popular brands from this company include Bioré, Jergens, John Frieda, and Goldwell. While based in Japan, they have a significant presence in Cincinnati if you were looking for a job in the US.

Company number 9 - Amore Pacific
This beauty company based in South Korea has yearly sales of $5.6 billion and has benefited from the K-beauty trend in recent years. They are rapidly growing with an almost 18% increase in 2017.  Among its most popular brands are Sulwhasoo, Laneige, Mamonde, Innisfree, Etude, Lolita Lempicka, Annick Goutal.

Company number 8 – Johnson & Johnson
Although they are primarily a pharmaceutical company J&J had beauty product sales of over $5.9 billion. This includes products for baby care, skin care and oral products. It’s most famous brands include Johnson’s Baby, Neutrogena, Aveeno, and Listerine. The company is located in New Jersey, USA.

Company number 7 - Beiersdorf
This German based company had sales of over $5.9 billion in 2017. They have a wide range of personal care products including skincare and body care brands. Some of their most important include Nivea, Eucerin, Labello, Florena, and La Prairie.

Company number 6 – Shiseido
Another Japanese based company makes our top ten list with sales of just over $7.3 billion. This company makes all types of personal care products including skincare, fragrance, hair care, sun care, body care and makeup. Some of its popular brands include Shiseido, Za, Senka, Anessa, Sea Breeze, Nars, and Bare Essentials.

Company number 5 - Coty
This is a New York based company who built up their beauty business through acquisitions in recent years. In 2017, they had sales of $7.7 billion. They are a big player in Fragrance (#1), professional hair care (#2) and color cosmetics (#3).  They bought a number of brands from P&G and now own brands such as Adidas, Clairol, CoverGirl, David Beckham, Katy Perry, Max Factor, Rimmel, Sally Hansen and Wella. They also own luxury brands such as Marc Jacobs, Calvin Klein, Chloé, Gucci, Hugo Boss, and Philosophy.

Company number 4 – Proctor and Gamble
Now we’re starting to get into the bigger numbers. This huge company had annual beauty product sales of over $11.8 billion which is down significantly from the $20 billion plus of years ago. But they sold a bunch of brands to Coty to become more efficient. Located in Cincinnati, Ohio, USA they still hold dominant positions in the skin care and hair care. They sold off most of their color cosmetic products. They spend the most money on advertising so it’s not surprising that they have a number of well known brands including Aussie, Gillette, Head & Shoulders, Herbal Essences, Ivory, Olay, Old Spice, Pantene, Safeguard, Secret, Crest, Oral-B, Scope, Art of Shaving and more.

Company number 3 – Estee Lauder
This New York based company has annual sales of about $11.8 billion. They have a number of prestige brands in the main cosmetic categories including color cosmetics, skin care, hair care and fragrances. Their well-known brands include Estée Lauder, Bobbi Brown, La Mer, MAC, Smashbox, Clinique, Origins, Ojon and more. If you work on more expensive beauty products the products from this company are good ones to emulate.

Company number 2 – Unilever
The second largest company in the beauty business is located in London. It has annual sales of $21.3 billion and much like P&G has a number of well-known mass market brands. They sell products in every cosmetic industry category and have some of the best selling in them. Popular Unilever brands include Axe/Lynx, Dove, Lifebuoy, Pond’s, Close-Up, TRESemmé, Suave, Sunsilk, and Vaseline. This is the company that purchased my former company, Alberto Culver. Fortunately, I was gone before they shut it down.

Alright, and the number 1 beauty company in the cosmetic industry is…L’Oreal.
L’Oreal has annual beauty product sales of over $27.2 billion dollars. They are based in France and sell products in color cosmetics, skincare, hair care, sun care, and fragrances. Their most important brands linclude L’Oréal Paris, Garnier, Maybelline New York, and Softsheen. They also sell luxury brands like Lancôme, Giorgio Armani, Yves Saint Laurent, and Kiehl’s. They have professional hair care products such as Kérastase, Redken, Matrix, and Pureology. Finally, they also own beauty product distributors such as The Body Shop. You don’t get to generate nearly $30 billion in sales without having a number of streams of revenue!

So there you have it, all the biggest beauty companies in the world. Make it a point to learn about them as you may find yourself working for or with them at some point in your career.

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How to Become a Cosmetic Chemist

The job of a cosmetic chemist, or as they call it in the UK a cosmetic scientist, requires you to do a wide variety of things both in and out of the lab. Your main responsibility will be that of a formulator. This means you mix raw materials together to create cosmetic products like lipstick, nail polish, skin lotions, shampoos, toothpaste and any other type of personal care product.

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