Helena RubinsteinThe woman
Helena Rubinstein always strived to make the most of women's beauty. She considered beauty a means to power and seduction, reflecting intelligence and education, and it was to direct all she did. She devoted her life to it, building a veritable empire around beauty. Let's take a closer look at this exceptional woman.
Helena was born in Krakow's Jewish Ghetto in 1872 and nothing in her early life suggested she was destined to become such a powerful woman. As the eldest in a family with eight daughters, she would have been married off to a rich old widower if her parents had had their way. But Helena had other plans, and at 22 her free-spirited nature drew her away from the family home and over to Australia.
Her mother worried she wouldn't have enough face cream, so she slipped a dozen little pots of it into her departing daughter's luggage. In Australia, Helena's alabaster complexion and feisty personality instantly appealed to the women and they began asking her for beauty tips. She was a salesgirl in her uncle's grocery shop when she realised her secret knowledge could be a ticket to greater things – maybe even a whole different life.
Her plan was to recreate the formula of her face cream and teach these women the rules of beauty.
Helena doggedly pursued her goal through trial and error, eventually finding the right formula, and began to dispense her first beauty tips: protecting skin from sun and wind, moisturising skin and getting enough restorative sleep.
Word spread about her skincare treatments and in 1902 she was able to open her first salon, the Valaze House of Beauty.
as an Art of Living
Her focus on beauty rapidly expanded to become more of an overall life aesthetic. Helena Rubinstein's interests included painting, jewellery, fashion, architecture, furniture and interior design. She decided she would first conquer London and then take on the whole of Europe. Her husband Edward Titus wrote the advertisements for her, and the combination of excellent products with the subtle art of marketing was a winning formula.
Helena headed to Paris next, where her quest for beauty saw her flitting back and forth between the laboratories and the artists of Montparnasse, constantly seeking to balance applied arts and Art with a capital A. She rubbed shoulders with the greatest artists of the twentieth century, from Picasso to Dali, including Braque, Fernand Léger, Matisse, Van Dongen and Eluard.
Helena Rubinstein opened a factory in Saint Cloud, where she worked with a team of chemists to develop even more complex creams that would protect skin from the effects of ageing. She also produced make-up there: a blusher for cheeks and a tinted powder to mattify the face. In under two years, she had Paris at her feet. Three of her sisters were working with her and she supported her family back in Poland. Her New York salon opened just before the First World War, providing a sumptuous setting where art and fashion mingled with skincare and beauty. It was an instant hit and the brand's fame soon spread across America.
Her keen flair for business carried Helena through the Wall Street Crash of 1929 and two World Wars, while she also had to contend with many romantic disappointments. She led her company with panache and took a pioneering interest in some very avant-garde ideas such as hormone creams, electro-stimulation, the links between nutrition and beauty, beauty products for men, and beauty therapy" for ill people. She was also the first to open a beauty institute and to employ beauty advisers in her shops
By the time she died in New York in 1965, the 93-year-old had built up a huge beauty empire. Although the Helena Rubinstein brand was sold to L'Oréal in 1988, it remains anchored in its founder's values: science in the service of beauty, women's liberation, and the audacity to rewrite the rules.
The brand's history
The story of Helena Rubinstein, the brand, and Helena Rubinstein, the woman, are one and the same. When she opened her first beauty salon in Sydney in 1902, Helena Rubinstein invented something totally new: a sanctuary dedicated to beauty, skincare and aesthetic treatments, that was also a showcase for Valaze, her earliest moisturising cream for dry skin.
In London she found that English women's skin concerns were different from those of Australian women, so in 1912 she established the first system for classifying skin by type and providing specific skincare tailored to each of them – a revolutionary approach for that era.
Her philosophy was taken up by thousands of women seeking new skincare products, and the brand grew as it swept across Europe and the United States. Expert beauty consultants, specially trained in Helena Rubinstein products, were yet another innovation.
In 1934, Helena and the chemists in her Saint Cloud factory came up with a hormone cream in a bid to delay the effects of ageing on the skin.
The history of the brand also reflects that of women's lives. Initially make-up was vilified, but as the century wore on and it became more accessible, women began using it in increasing numbers.
Helena Rubinstein was an acute observer of social trends. She saw the changes coming and she was ready for them. In 1958 she invented, first, waterproof mascara, then the automatic mascara.
Her innovations kept the brand relevant to women as they gained new freedoms and their lives altered. Since its 1988 buy-out by L'Oréal, the brand has continued to pursue the ambitions of its founder.
The latest scientific research informed the development of the first skincare cream with plant stem cells, launched in 2010, and 2014 saw the innovative Re-Plasty prescription, the first made-to-measure cosmetic intervention from L'Oréal Luxe.
The Helena Rubinstein brand is driven by the same motivations that inspired its founder over a century ago: make the full power of beauty available to women through outstanding cosmetic treatments that are pioneering, effective – and a pleasure for all the senses.
Helena Rubinstein puts science at the service of beauty. The most eminent biologists, dermatologists and aesthetic doctors devise groundbreaking products for the brand.
But the strong focus on innovation is never at the expense of sensory pleasure.
The formulae of Helena Rubinstein creams – ultra-penetrating serums, enveloping creams or transforming textures – are painstakingly developed so the experience of applying them is always a revelation for the senses.
While effective science and medicine are at the service of beauty, pleasure is still at the heart of it.
The brand today
Since 2008, Helena Rubinstein's alliance with the medical expertise of Laclinic-Montreux has enabled it to offer the best of aesthetic medicine and cosmetic surgery in one place. The skincare range re-Plasty is one of the fruits of this collaboration, replicating the effects of treatments offered at Laclinic.
2014 saw the beginning of a new chapter: the Helena Rubinstein brand started working with Jean-Marc Lemaître, Research Director of Inserm (France's Institute of Health and Medical Research), to explore how innovations in cellular reprogramming can be applied in its products.
The spirit of the brand's founder Helena Rubinstein can be felt in today's most cutting-edge research, which puts the effectiveness of science and medicine in the service of beauty.