Procter and Gamble (P&G) is an American manufacturer of soaps and beauty products that was first established in the 19th century and is now a billion-dollar business. P&G has introduced a myriad of common household beauty products that range from Ivory Soap to Oil of Olay.
In 1837, cousins William Procter and James Gamble founded P&G in Cincinnati, Ohio. Originally it produced candles and laundry soap. In 1879, P&G introduced Ivory Soap, a soap intended for both personal hygiene and laundry. It was not meant to be a beauty product and was sold on its purity and ability to float. In 1926, P&G introduced its first personal beauty soap, Camay, a perfumed soap. In 1933, P&G created a new beauty product, Drene, a liquid shampoo that cleaned oil off of hair. At around the same time, it developed a liquid dentifrice called Teel that it stopped selling during World War II.
In 1947, P&G started a division to concentrate on toiletries and opened a new factory in Cincinnati to develop and produce them. The company developed Personal Size Ivory, which was sold as a beauty product along with a number of soaps and shampoos. The company continued to sell Drene and created Shasta Cream Shampoo and Prell, which is still on the market. In 1948, P&G began manufacturing permanent kits. Lilt was the first one the company produced, followed by Pert and Party Curl. Finally, P&G developed Pin-it, a permanent that used bobby pins. They also tried manufacturing Lana for bleached or frizzled hair, but it proved unsuccessful, and they followed up that failure with another one, Wondra, a face-cleansing cream. In 1952, P&G began manufacturing Gleem toothpaste and the much more popular Crest, with fluoride added. Over the next few decades, the company would develop similar products and expand into new territory: the 1960s and 1970s, for example, saw experiments in men’s hair care products, along with Head and Shoulders antidandruff shampoo, Secret and Sure deodorants, Scope mouthwash, and Coast, a deodorant soap bar.
By the end of the 1980s, the company began to look for ways to expand sales of cosmetics and beauty products and began to acquire other corporations: They purchased Noxell Corporation, manufacturers of Noxzema products and CoverGirl cosmetics. They also acquired Bain de Soleil, a sun care product line, and in 1991 they bought Max Factor and Betrix from Revlon. By the end of the 1990s, they had control of the fragrance business belonging to Giorgio Beverly Hills and had introduced the world to Pantene Pro-V, which became the fastest-growing brand of shampoo across the globe. From 2001 to 2008, the company purchased the Clairol hair care line from Bristol-Myers Squibb, found an entrée into the professional hair care market by purchasing a controlling interest in Wella AG, a German company, and began to produce the Old Spice line of products and to sell Hugo Boss Baldessarini, a luxury fragrance brand for men. By the end of 2008, P&G’s unaudited annual sales worldwide were $83.5 billion, and the company was one of the biggest manufacturers of soaps and beauty care products in the world.
P&G’s corporate reach, however, has not gone unchallenged. Indeed, they have had to alter everything from their original logo to their global business practices. In the United States, rumors erupted that their longstanding moon and stars logo that dated back to middle of the 19th century was satanic. The company gradually transformed its logo to just its initials—a logo that remains one of the most recognizable in the global marketplace. Far more problematic was the company’s venture into feminine hygiene products. In 1980, after P&G’s Rely Tampons were linked to toxic shock syndrome, the product was taken off the market. More recently, the company has been accused of what is described as greenwashing—branding suspect detergents as environmentally sound. Above all else, the use of animals to test beauty products has outraged animal rights groups and other consumers, who have organized global boycotts and public protests. In 1999, the company announced that it would reduce animal testing to 20 percent of its consumer goods, but this number did not include new products and thus did little to resurrect the company’s reputation. Indeed, during the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics in California in 2005, the company lobbied against efforts to implement a regulatory framework for the use of chemicals in beauty products that would require companies to report all toxic ingredients used in their products.
To be sure, P&G has put millions of dollars into researching alternatives to animal testing in response to consumer pressure and to a March 2009 European ban on animal testing. Thus, P&G may be a global powerhouse in the beauty industry, but the corporation is not immune to everyday concerns about product safety and other ethical business practices.