Helena Rubinstein

Helena Rubinstein, a female pioneer in the cosmetics industry, made  her reputation  based  on  face creams. Rubinstein’s glamorous public  persona and  her  own natural complexion were her best advertising for women’s beauty  routines. Like her  rival, Elizabeth Arden,  she  became known as a groundbreaking cosmetics entrepreneur, philanthropist, and prominent international businesswoman.

Early Years and Immigration

Born the eldest of eight children to a Jewish family in Cracow, Poland, Rubinstein studied medicine for a short time  before  immigrating to Australia sometime in the  1890s.  Working as a governess and  possibly  a waitress,  Rubinstein sold  face creams made  by her  family’s friend,  Jacob Lykusky.  Rubinstein opened her  own beauty  salon  in Melbourne around 1900, and she was shortly thereafter joined  by her sisters  Ceska and Manka. With  a $100,000 stake, Rubinstein traveled  to London  where  she  met  and  married her  first husband, American journalist Edward Titus. She  opened a shop  in Paris  in 1912,  but  at the  beginning of World  War  I she and her family immigrated to New York City, where Rubinstein opened a Fifth Avenue  beauty  salon.  Shortly  thereafter, her  skin  care  products were  selling  in department stores  across  the country.

Beauty and Professional Philosophy

The Rubinstein reputation was built on skin care products, specifically face cream. Rubinstein’s promotion of the  beauty  routine took  the  Puritan work  ethic  and adapted it to the beauty  industry, but especially  toward the regularity of individuals’ beauty  routines, centered on the use of the triad: cold cream,  astringents, and moisturizers. Like  her  rival grande dame,  Arden, Rubinstein pushed the  beauty culture into  high-volume sales and  high-end advertising. Much of Rubinstein’s success was to be found in her salon  personnel’s personal touch. This  effort was directed at luring  middle-class customers into  the use of specialty  cosmetics. She also helped develop  the  1920s  view of the  New  Woman, specifically,  the  beauty specialist  as a professional. Rubinstein herself  became a model  for the  new  sophisticated and independent woman.

Later Years and Legacy

In  1928,  Rubinstein sold  her  American interests to  Lehman Brothers and  then bought the  company back  after  the  stock  market crash  in  1929.  Rubinstein divorced  Titus in 1938  and  married Prince  Artchil  Gourielli-Tchkonia, lending an additional European, aristocratic element to  her  image.  Her  personal migrations from Poland to Australia, London, Paris, and New York City, gave Rubinstein a truly international background. Other immigrant or working-class women could  aspire to these heights of success. Rubinstein maintained control of her extensive business interests through direct  involvement and family members until  her death in 1965.

However, the later period in Rubinstein’s life involved a shift in focus to include a growing  reputation as an art collector and patron and supporter of Israel. As an art patron, her collection illustrated her eclectic tastes; African sculpture, Oceanic and Oriental art, Egyptian, as well as modern paintings are a prominent legacy of her artistic  eye. Because  she believed that  education was an important avenue for career development, especially for women, she focused many of her philanthropic efforts  in areas  that  encouraged young  women to pursue higher education and nontraditional careers. The  Helena Rubinstein Foundation was created in 1953 and  supports education, the  arts, and  special  programs for women. The  foundation  also  continues Rubinstein’s commitment to  the  welfare  of Israel  through cultural programs and scholarships. L’Oréal  bought Helena Rubinstein’s rights  in 1988 and relaunched the company in the United States  in 1996.

Leave a Reply