Photo Credit: Chanel.com
Beauty is a fickle business. Marketers, developers, formulators, and consumers are always looking for the next new texture, ingredient, delivery system, or molecule. As a result, thousands of new cosmetic products are introduced each year. In 2011, the fragrance category alone saw the launch of 1,200 new perfumes worldwide—that’s more than three a day!
Thankfully, even with all of these new launches, the beauty loving public has made sure that iconic products, including favorites dating back to the early 1900s, have not been forgotten.
Perhaps, the best example of a classic product that remains a bestseller worldwide is the timeless, feminine fragrance Chanel N°5 ($98). Launched in 1921, the perfume was created by Coco Chanel to reflect the liberated spirit of the 1920s, particularly the daring and boyish flappers. With a strong floral base, N°5 was revolutionary in its use of aldehydes, organic compounds that acted as aroma boosters. The scent itself has continued to be boosted by celebrity fans throughout the decades, including Marilyn Monroe, who when asked what she wore to bed, famously quipped, “Why, Chanel N°5, of course.”
Fragrance, probably more than any other beauty category, has many classic products still available. Just check out Parfums Caron and its Tabac Blond ($100) scent created in 1919. Fracas ($95) by Robert Piguet is another trailblazer—the original tuberose perfume that was introduced in 1948 has been copied by many but never surpassed. Madonna was on record as a big fan, that is, until she launched her own scent, Truth or Dare, an obvious imitator, or should we say homage, to Fracas. Bandit ($95), another Piquet creation, which was originally launched in 1944 and relaunched in the last decade, was reportedly a favorite of Marlene Dietrich.
Hollywood has long been linked to the aura of certain beauty brands. Just think of the Elizabeth Arden salon as it was portrayed in the 1939 film, The Women, starring Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, and Rosalind Russell. Launched in 1930, Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream ($19.50) is a bestselling favorite of beauty editors even today. It’s an award-winning skin protectant that is great for chapped lips and rough elbows, but also loved by makeup artists for adding shine to legs, lips, and eyelids, and keeping eyebrows in place.
Erno Laszlo is another classic brand with a long history of Hollywood fans, including Ava Gardner, Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Greta Garbo. Dr. Laszlo opened his New York Institute in 1939 and launched his first skincare line at Saks Fifth Avenue in 1952 (at the time, you had to be a card carrying member of the Laszlo club to be able to make a purchase). The line stayed in demand for years and it’s famous black soap was even immortalized by Woody Allen in 1977, when he mentioned it in Annie Hall. Today, the Erno Laszlo Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar ($39) remains a key part of the Laszlo skincare system, which also entails the signature step of splashing the face 30 times.
Many iconic products prove the adage that “what is old, is new again.” Carita, established by two Parisian sisters over 60 years ago, is right in tune with the current fascination with oil treatments. Carita Paris Fluide de Beauté 14 ($69), originally launched in 1956, nourishes dry skin with a blend of hazelnut and corn oils, while a vitamin complex strengthens and protects the skin.
Even makeup shades have weathered the test of time. Take Revlon’s iconic Fire and Ice lipstick ($8) for example. Launched in 1952, as the name implies, it’s both warm and cool, and works on almost any skin tone. Revlon’s Cherries in the Snow ($5), which made its depression era debut 1932, was the first-ever opaque nail polish. A blue-based red, this shade is great for cool skin tones. Chanel’s Vamp Nail Colour ($26), a huge hit in the mid 90s, harkens back to a former era. It was originally created as a special shade for the Chanel 1944 fall/winter fashion show.
And last, but certainly not least, is my all time favorite—Maybelline Great Lash Mascara ($5.19). Dating back to 1971, this classic provides the thick black coverage my long but pale lashes crave. Sometime you just can’t beat the tried and true.