There are so many MLM cosmetic companies it defies counting. There is Artistry, Arbonne International, BeautiControl, Esther, L’bel Paris, Mia Mariu, Miessence Organic, DASH Minerals, Nouveau Cosmetics, just to name a few.

But beyond that you have the two giants . . . and they are perpetually locked in a battle for the faces of the woman across the world.

It’s Avon vs. Mary Kay

Apparently, it seems to be Avon. This New York-based company is the world’s largest direct seller of beauty-related products and cosmetics, with over $10 billion in revenue and 6.2 million independent representatives in more than 100 countries around the world.

Avon logoAnd you can’t touch their longevity, either. Avon was founded in 1886 and is still going strong with 41,000 employees and sales growth of 2.9% in 2009. It is even traded publicly on the New York Stock Exchange as AVP.

In addition to cosmetics, Avon has an extensive product line including their signature fragrances, jewelry, toiletries, home furnishings, and more.

High unemployment in the U.S. has been a boon for the company recently. The number of independent representatives grew 7% from 2008 to 2009 when an additional 400K joined the ranks.

Part of the reason for Avon’s continued dominance over the years is its belief in the power of advertising. In fact, in 2007, it doubled its ad spending—and increased it again in 2008. The company also focuses on customer research, product innovation, and market intelligence.

In a fairly distant second is Mary Kay. According to Dun and Bradstreet, the company’s revenues were $2.6 billion in 2009, with over 1.8 million independent consultant in 36 countries.

Founded by the legendary Mary Kay Ash in 1963, the company offers over 200 products in the categories of cosmetics, fragrance, sun protection, body care, facial care, and nail care.

Mary Kay consultants are eligible for a range of luxurious awards every year. It could be anything from jewelry to Mary Kay’s famous pink Cadillac.

All about the marketing baby!

Mary Kay has stayed in touch with the Internet age, too. Each independent beauty consultant can buy his or her own website to sell to clients over the Internet. In fact, over 90% of the company’s revenue is now generated through those online orders.

A fast growing segment of the cosmetic MLM business is organic makeup. Increasing, customers want their cosmetics to be free of mary kay logochemicals and to contain all natural ingredients.

In early 2010, Avon, for its part, acquired Liz Earle Beauty, a United Kingdom company that develops skin care products from botanical ingredients. With this acquisition, Avon seeks to expand its natural beauty product line due to the increasing popularity of these products.

Mary Kay was one of the first companies to ban product testing on animals. However, there is no indication that they have taken the steps to develop a specifically all-natural line of cosmetics and skin care products.

Perhaps Mary Kay can take a cue from Avon, and put research, development, and market trends at the forefront. If that happens, they could have a shot for the top slot.

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