At the turn of the 20th century, that "face" was Caucasian, slightly plump and hidden under hats and long skirts. But when the calendar turns to 2000, the face of beauty will be as diverse as the global population.
Beauty will be brown, white, yellow and red in skin tone. It will be individualistic, confident, unabashedly older, and portrayed as healthy and toned in eclectic style.
But the bigger makeover, say futurists trying to catch hold of the elusive image of beauty in the coming millenium, will be in consumers' attitudes, shopping habits and response to beauty advertising.
Consumers in the dawning new century, they say, will demand more performance from beauty products and more accountability in advertising. Beauty will be less in the eye of the beholder than the dermatologist, an expected new distribution outlet for cosmetics and skincare.
"Our definition of the face of beauty is broader today than it was 30 years ago and it will continue to grow," says Regina Kelley, director of strategic planning, Saatchi & Saatchi Advertising, New York. "We're more willing to accept older women as the face of beauty, as well as women of diverse ethnic backgrounds."
Moreover, health, nutrition and quality of life will be the foundation of beauty and fashion in the new millennium.
"It will become how healthy you are, how you look while living longer," notes Suzanne Grayson, president of Grayson & Associates, a beauty industry consultant.
"Really good health, the kind that shows up in hair, skin and nails, is going to be in," agrees Cosmopolitan Editor Helen Gurley Brown.
Beauty also will be internally driven rather than pushed by outside sources, pundits predict.
"We're not going to be looking at the runaways for our fashion style," says Watts Wacker, resident futurist at researcher Yankelovich Partners.
"It's going to be whatever style works best for you, the individual."
The 21st century woman no longer will find much appeal in trying to achieve the impossible, but will want products that can help maximize the attributes she already has.
"We're going to demand more realistic images that reflect who we really are and how we really live our lives," says Liz DiPilli, strategic planning partner, Project X Account Planning, a New York market researcher. "Women.... want to see companies promote products that say `it's OK not to be perfect but here are some products that can help you feel better and look better."'
"We're going to see more affirmation and celebration of the wisdom and beauty that comes from age," says Vickie Abrahamson, a partner at market forecasters Iconoculture. "Age is going to be mainstream and beautiful."
Product performance will be key. Even basic color cosmetics-like foundation, lipstick and eye color-will have to serve more than one function to appeal to the woman of the new age.
"Beauty products are going to have to be multitask," says Anne Zehren, marketing services director at Glamour. "There is a growing number of women who we call `Time Bandits.'
"They just want to roll their face on in the morning and go, so their moisturizer is going to have to moisturize as well as offer a SPF (sun protection factor) and AHA (alpha-hydroxy acid)."
These Time Bandits are but one segment of women that Glamour is calling "The New Value Seekers." In a new mail survey of 2,500 women aged 18 to 49, Glamour found there's already been a substantial change in how women see themselves.
Ms. Zehren says they are more confident and more in control of their lives, including their fashion and beauty decisions. And they look to themselves for validation of their choices.
"Ninety-five percent of the respondents to the survey time said the time they spend on personal care products is to make themselves feel better, not necessarily to look better," she says.
That desire is also showing up at an earlier age. The survey found women are beginning to care about their skin and maintain their youthful appearance while in their 20s, a far younger age than found in a 1987 Glamour survey.
"They're not waiting until they are in their 40s to do something about wrinkles and other signs of aging," Ms. Zehren says.
Women "want products that tie in with our well-being, both mentally and physically," says Pat Halperin, senior product manager at Maybelline.
But Maybelline and others will have to grapple with some new issues in this multifaceted face of beauty in the new millenium. Namely, if there isn't one standard of beauty, then how can marketers sell their version of hope in a bottle?
It may well be through the dermatologist office.
Dermatologists are going to emerge as real competition to traditional retailers of beauty products, says Gary Stibel, partner at New England Consulting Group.
"More and more skincare will be by prescription, and dermatologists are well situated to take advantage of the huge market that will spring up for individual skin care regimens," he says.
"We'll visit dermatologists like we do dentists, using products that go beyond anything that Retin-A can do," says Ms. Gurley Brown in agreement. "We're going to take advantage of all that's out there to look as good as possible."
Already, in fact, "There are a growing number of dermatologists who are offering advice, treating skin and selling skincare products that address women's concerns about aging," says Wendy Liebmann, president, WSL Retail, a retail consultant.
This reliance on experts undoubtedly will have implications for marketing and advertising, as beauty products will more than ever before have to live up to their promises.
"Beauty marketers will have to be [more] careful in the claims they're making for their products," says Barbara Caplan, senior VP, Roper Starch Worldwide. "The public today is far more skeptical, and will turn against companies that make false promises."
Most experts agree women are going to hold products to a higher standard than ever before.
"Women are going to demand products with real technological benefits that help minimize signs of aging," says Pam Alabaster, assistant VP-cosmetic marketing at L'Oreal's Cosmetics and Fragrance division. "There will be more emphasis on function, rather than beauty benefits."
Those benefits will be easier than ever to visualize, says Frank Feather, an independent consultant and business futurist who believes women will use computers-cybershopping-to play with different faces, perhaps printing out a particular face, complete with a list of items for that look.