Cleanups, confidence, and cosmetics: Marketing beauty in India

Gauri Pathak, Mimi Nichter

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Since economic liberalization in 1991, India has been experiencing rapid economic growth and a shift to consumer culture, making it fertile ground for marketers of consumer goods. Historically, sales of beauty products in India had been limited by high taxation, restricted consumer choice, and high levels of poverty; post-liberalization, the country was therefore seen as a market with immense, albeit untapped, potential. However, even as beauty industry reports tout the potential for growth, nearly three decades after liberalization, per capita sales of beauty products continue to be some of the lowest in the world. Little is known about why beauty products remain stubbornly resistant to aspirational marketing efforts. Meanwhile, scant social scientific attention has been paid to the creation and marketing of tastes and desires by the beauty industry in India and women’s engagement with those desires. In this article, we present ethnographic depth on how local beauty cultures affect understandings of bodily aesthetics to create hybrid beauty practices and on how marketing efforts seek to channel these practices into consumer behavior. We examine some of the major points of contingent difference linked to low volumes of cosmetics sales in India and explore the approaches adopted by advertisers and marketers of beauty products to convert such difference into new imaginaries that foster mass consumption.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)411-431
Number of pages21
JournalJournal of Consumer Culture
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 2021


  • Beauty work
  • India
  • consumption
  • globalization
  • makeup
  • marketing

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business and International Management
  • Social Psychology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Marketing


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