Honors Theses and Capstones

Date of Award

Spring 2017

Project Type

Senior Honors Thesis

College or School




Program or Major

Business Administration: Marketing and International Business & Economics

Degree Name

Bachelor of Science

First Advisor

Bruce Pfeiffer


Over the years, the cosmetic industry has struggled with a variety of ethical issues. This research examines the effects of these unethical practices on consumers’ perceptions and judgements. More specifically, do consumers consider ethical issues when evaluating cosmetics? Can consumers’ ethical perceptions and decision making be influenced? If so, are heuristic appeals or systematic appeals more persuasive? The results of this study indicate that unless prompted, most consumers do not consider ethical issues when purchasing cosmetics. The study also found that both heuristic and systematic appeals were effective in influencing general industry perceptions, but only the systematic appeal was successful in influencing perceptions of specific ethical issues as well as participants’ behavioral intent with regard to purchasing cosmetics. These findings have important implications for the cosmetic industry. Consumers are still generally unaware and unconcerned with the ethical issues within the cosmetic industry, and as a result, they do not generally consider ethical issues when choosing beauty products. Although the industry still suffers from unethical practices, several companies are seeking to position themselves within the industry as ethical alternatives. This research indicates that this positioning strategy will only be successful if the ethical issues related to the industry are communicated to consumers in a detailed and systematic way.