Since ancient Egyptian times, when women used kohl to darken their eyelids, make-up has enhanced the natural beauty of the female face. The available products may have become more sophisticated, but the principle remains the same.
For most women, make-up is an essential part of their beauty regime, with lipstick and mascara the most popular items in this category. Although many of us associate innovation in cosmetics with the French, TGI Europa research suggests British women are the biggest consumers of make-up.
The cosmetics market in the UK is more robust than in the rest of Europe; the French market, for example, has shrunk over the past five years. But despite a tightening of belts, women are unwilling to forego make-up. Even in tough times, its use can boost a woman's confidence and self-esteem for relatively little outlay. Shoe and handbag expenditure may be reined in, but lipstick is a cheap pick-me-up. One in five women wears lipstick every day, with a third reapplying it throughout the day.
According to Mintel, the UK make-up market is worth £1.2bn this year, and is one of the fastest-growing beauty categories, growing 35% in value between 2003 and 2007. It represents 16% of the total cosmetics and toiletries market.
In this sector, celebrities do not set the trends, with brands instead using professional make-up artists to endorse their products and offer expert advice. Sometimes, these artists launch their own lines, such as the Barbara Daly for Tesco range.
TGI says a quarter of women use make-up to cover their perceived flaws, but priorities change with age. So, while young women might want to hide spots, older women are more concerned with concealing their wrinkles. However, the over-65s are the least likely to wear make-up, and this market is not targeted by most of the big brands.
The category thrives on product launches, with premium brands introducing colour variants and product ranges twice-yearly.
Innovation in mascara, for instance, includes 'fuller lashes' effects and rejigged brush technology.
For face products such as foundations and powders, the focus has turned to skincare benefits, so products often include UV protection or anti-ageing ingredients.
One trend is the development of mineral make-up, the manufacturers of which are keen to tap into consumers' desire for natural goods. Based on titanium and zinc oxide, the products usually come in powder form and are applied to moisturised skin. As zinc has anti-inflammatory properties, it is often aimed at those with sensitive skin.
Multinationals such as L'Oréal and Coty dominate the mass market. The former's purchase of YSL Beauté earlier his year has strengthened the premium position of the company, whose products cover all sections of the market, while the latter owns Rimmel, the biggest budget make-up brand. Estée Lauder, meanwhile, is also big at the premium end.
In the 90s, niche brands such as MAC, Stila and NARS set out their stall, and have built up their presence.
Boots is the biggest manufacturer and retailer of make-up in the UK. It sells its own No7 and 17 brands, the latter aimed at teenagers, alongside the other brands available in its stores.
Make-up, one of those rare sectors unlikely to be hit by recession, is predicted to grow by 30% to reach a market value of £1.6bn by 2013.