Cosmetics Mavens

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The recent obituary of L’Oreal heiress, Liliane Bettencourt, led me to think about the amazing American women who shaped the cosmetics industry. These women developed their own cosmetics and pioneered business models as well. Their significant legacies live on today. Match the woman with her accomplishment:

_____ 1. Her cosmetics empire began with a face cream that she learned how to make from her uncle, a chemist.

_____ 2. She opened her first Red Door Salon in New York City in 1910; she introduced the concept of a makeover to the cosmetics industry.

_____ 3. At the time of her death, one of the richest women in the world, her cosmetics empire began with twelve jars of cold cream she took with her to Australia from her native Poland.

_____ 4. Her business model includes the Golden Rule and a pink Cadillac which is awarded to top sellers.

_____ 5. The first self-made female millionaire in the U.S., she provided opportunities for African-American women to sell her hair care and skin care products and become economically self sufficient.

A. Helena Rubinstein

B. Madam C.J. Walker

C. Elizabeth Arden

D. Estee Lauder

E. Mary Kay Ash

Polish native Helena Rubinstein moved to Australia in 1902 with twelve jars of cold cream she had gotten from a friend of her mother’s. Australian women loved the cream as it helped with the hot, dry climate. She then opened a beauty salon in Melbourne from which she could sell the cold cream. Rubinstein was the first to recognize that skin types differed and thus that different women needed different products. From Australia, she moved to London and opened the first modern beauty salon in Western Europe. She opened a salon in Paris before moving to the U.S. in 1914 and opening her first salon in New York City. At that point in time, she made all of her products personally including waterproof mascara and medicated face creams. After World War I, Rubinstein was recognized as Europe’s leading cosmetician and her name was on over one thousand different cosmetics. After World War II, Rubinstein was instrumental in ensuring that cosmetics were affordable for the middle class. Her cosmetics empire led to her being one of the richest women in the world.

The first self-made female millionaire in the U.S., Madam C.J. Walker began developing her own hair care products after suffering scalp and skin disorders associated with the harsh products available for African-American women in her day. In 1905, Walker moved to Denver where she sold her products door-to-door, teaching other women how to groom and style their hair. Her business expanded and she eventually settled in Indianapolis where she established her headquarters, laboratory and research center. She trained other women in her “Walker System” and they sold her hair care and skin care products. By 1917, the company claimed to have trained 20,000 women. She also trained the women on how to budget, build their own businesses and become economically self-sufficient, a model that Mary Kay Ash would later adopt. Walker has been featured on a U.S. postage stamp and inducted into the National Women’s Hall of Fame.

An arch rival of Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden founded her first Red Door Salon in New York City in 1910. She emphasized the importance of makeovers and the coordination of lip, eye and facial makeup. She introduced eye makeup in the U.S. as well as travel-sized products. Arden made it respectable for women of the middle classes to use makeup targeting middle-aged and plain women. She began her international expansion in 1915. By 1929, Arden had 150 salons across the U.S. and Europe. One of the wealthiest women in the world, her one thousand products were sold in luxury markets in 22 countries. Arden opened her first spa in 1934. She said “To be beautiful and natural is the birthright of every woman.”

Estee Lauder learned how to make face creams from her uncle, a chemist, who had moved in with the family in New York City shortly after World War I. Her first face cream, Super-Rich All Purpose Cream, was dispensed to her family and friends. After Lauder married, she refined the creams and entered the beauty business. Subsequent to her divorce, she marketed her creams to retirees and tourists in Miami. In 1946, she established Estee Lauder, Inc. with four skin-care products, a face powder, eye shadow and lipstick. Her packaging “Lauder blue” became a significant part of her brand. Lauder introduced free gift with purchase. Her perfume line was introduced in 1953 with the first fragrance Youth Dew; it became the best-selling perfume in the world. By the end of 1990, Estee Lauder was number one in department store makeup sales and department-store skin treatment sales. In 2004, she received the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Frustrated after training yet another man who had been promoted over her and paid more, Mary Kay Ash sat down at her kitchen table and drew up what she thought would be the ideal place to work. This became the business plan for Mary Kay Cosmetics, Inc. which she started in 1963 with her life savings of $5,000. Her business was based on the Golden Rule, doing unto others as you would have them to unto you. Today, the Mary Kay sales force numbers more than three million women who work to achieve economic self sufficiency symbolized by the pink Cadillac. Ash’s many honors include induction into the National Business Hall of Fame and the Horatio Alger Distinguished American Citizen Award.

Learn about more she-roes and celebrate amazing women. These giants in the cosmetics industry are among the more than 850 women profiled in the book Her Story: A Timeline of the Women Who Changed America. I am proud to tell women’s stories and write women back into history. I stand on their shoulders.

(Answers: 1-D, 2-C, 3-A, 4-E, 5-B)

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