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CULT BEAUTY: The History Behind the Products

Frances Winston reveals the history behind some of the world’s best-selling beauty products

They say necessity is the mother of all invention and that is certainly true when it comes to some of the world’s best known beauty products. Equally, on occasion, a fortunate accident led to the creation of a much loved and trusted cosmetic. In fact pretty much every lotion or potion that we use on a daily basis has a pretty interesting tale to tell about how it came into being. With millions upon millions of products in the world we simply don’t have enough space to share them all but here are just a few of the fascinating stories about the origins of certain beauty species.

Crème de la Mer

This luxurious, uber-pricey moisturiser has spawned a whole range of products including body lotions, serums and eye creams but the original is still the best and is so lush that apparently Kate Moss used to use an entire jar a day on her body to keep her skin supple. Although it is essentially a face cream Kate was definitely on to something as this was originally developed as a cure for the scarring suffered by a burns victim. Its creator, Max Huber, was an aerospace physicist for NASA who suffered severe chemical burns whilst working with fuels. Having undergone numerous therapies and medical treatments and tried out many different preparations he couldn’t find anything to relieve his discomfort and decided to research skincare himself. He began his search for a cure in 1953 and 6,000 experiments later Crème de la Mer was born.

Fleurissimo by Creed

The story behind this deliciously light, floral perfume is definitely one of the most romantic of any product ever made. Creed have been master perfumiers since 1760 and specialise in bespoke fragrances. Of course this service doesn’t come cheap but many well-known figures have availed of it – one of them being Prince Ranier of Monaco. He commissioned this stunning scent as a wedding gift for Grace Kelly to wear on her wedding day and the scent emulates the bouquet she carried. With a mixture of rose, tuberose, violet leaves and Florentine iris, this is a beautifully feminine scent and unsurprisingly it remained a favourite of Princess Grace until her tragic death in a car crash in September 1982. Several years after her passing Ranier gave his permission for Creed to release this special scent to the general public and it was an immediate hit.

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream

A staple in most women’s make-up bags this multi purpose cream has been a firm favourite amongst celebrities and the girl on the street for over eight decades. A fantastic moisturiser, hand cream, lip balm and eye sheen, this was the first product ever to bear the Elizabeth Arden brand name and yet the beauty innovator didn’t create this wonder product for women but rather her beloved racehorses. Elizabeth was an avid horse breeder and originally invented this balm to be massaged into her horses joints following a race. However, the grooms noticed that while they were applying it to the horses it was also benefitting their hands and a legendary beauty product was born.

Yves Saint Laurent Semi Loose Powder

Next time you have your morning cappuccino spare a thought for its contribution to the invention of this wonder. One of YSL’s creative directors had been unhappy with traditional methods of face powder distribution for some time, feeling that the applicator always picked up too much. Obsessing about it while making a cappuccino at home she was grating chocolate onto the top of the drink and realised that a similar idea would allow you to use just the right amount of powder. With this in mind she created their now infamous dispenser that allows you to grate exactly how much powder you need off the solid block.

Nars the Multiple

When fashion bible Vogue commissioned a photo shoot with make-up artists who had their own ranges and asked them to define their look in one image most of the participants brought everything including the kitchen sink, anxious to get as much exposure as possible for their products. Not so Francois Nars. He brought along just one item from his cosmetics collection – a lipstick in a natural peachy shade. Using just this and Vaseline he created a fresh faced and sexy look that had the Vogue offices inundated with phone calls after the issue hit the shelves, as fashionable women everywhere scrambled to try and discover how to recreate the look. However, Francois had used the lipstick mixed with Vaseline to give the eyelids a sexy stinted sheen but it isn’t tested for use on the eye area and so he was reluctant to share the secret of his model’s sexy look. Realising that people were definitely interested in a multi-use product, he went ahead and invented The Multiple, which was the first ever product of it’s kind and paved the way for all of the multi-use products you see on shelves nowadays.

MAC Viva Glam

Back in 1994 cosmetics giant MAC came over all philanthropic and decided to give something back. With this in mind they set up the MAC AIDS Fund. Obviously a charity needs to have money to distribute, so they created a brand new lipstick called Viva Glam. Since then it has become a cult classic with a new colour released and new high profile spokes-models appointed annually – most recently Lady GaGa, Nicki Minaj and eighties icon Cyndi Lauper. Best of all every single penny from the sale goes directly to the charity, with the money being distributed according to where the lipsticks were purchased. Therefore the more Viva Glam lipsticks that are sold in Ireland the more money Irish AIDs charities get!


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