As skincare consumers, we are always after the new. But there are some brands that are worth revisiting, learning from and embracing. And one of the best is back and reformulated for the 21st century.
Erno Laszlo was a pioneer of modern skincare. He was one of the first people to ascribe science to skincare—a concept that seems unbelievable to ignore these days but was revolutionary at the time. This notion came to him whilst he studied skin pathology and disease at the Royal Hungarian Elisabeth University of Medical Sciences in Budapest. Laszlo quickly became well known and in 1927 treated Hungary’s Princess Stephanie’s acne successfully and some of Hungary’s top actresses even helping to heal the skin of a star who had been shot in the face. He then opened his first skincare Institute in Budapest.
But the rise of the Nazi party in next-door Germany made Laszlo decide to immigrate with his wife to Los Angeles in 1937. Soon he was a renowned skincare guru—an overused term but in this case, well earned—during the golden days of Hollywood. Working in the makeup department at Warner Brothers studio, he soon garnered a long line of Hollywood stars as clients and also friends.
His Hollywood following was genuine—no paid ambassadors for his products. Katherine Hepburn, Grace Kelly, and Greta Garbo became devotes and Audrey Hepburn claimed, “50% of my beauty, I owe to my mother, 50% to Erno Laszlo.” Marilyn Monroe was a close friend and Lazlo created pHormula 3-8, a nourishing balm, specifically for her. When she died, a pot of Erno Laszlo Active pHelityl Cream was clearly seen on her nightstand in photos that chronicled the room where she met her untimely death.
Jackie Kennedy also was a client and Laszlo, of course, was not the only man that she and Marilyn shared. In New York, Laszlo opened “The Institute” on Fifth Avenue, an invitation only treatment center where women would beg, borrow, and steal an appointment. Little wonder the Institute was dubbed “The House of Silence” by the Duchess of Windsor, because its walls contained so many secrets.
And now not only is the brand back, The Institute has been re-opened in Soho and I was lucky enough be given a membership that normally costs $10,000 a year; indeed you have to be introduced to join, as well.
So I got down there before you could say Black Soap Splashing (keep reading). It’s a three-story glass fronted mansion with a sweeping staircase straight out of Top Hat. Soon I was seated drinking tea and chatting with my aesthetician, Tinamarie Geradi, who announced she wanted to “clock” me.
I’m pretty open to things but this sounded violent and yet she seemed such a nice lady. Turned out “clocking” is the method of skin analysis that Lazslo created, based on the dryness or oiliness of the skin during the course of the day.
If your skin is super dry early in the morning, you are an 8:30, a bit later and moderately dry you are a 10:30 and if your skin is only slightly dry, you are an 11:30. The same goes in the afternoon for 1:00, slightly oily, 2:00 oily, or 3:00 for the oiliest skin. My rather fair English skin does ask for moisturizer when I finish cleansing but it doesn’t scream for it so Tinamarie determined I was a 10:30.
With that established, we went downstairs to one of the beautiful treatment rooms and she talked me through the facial as she cleansed. Take my word for it; the Erno Laszlo deep-cleansing process would make a face-wipe cry. Following that came a face-peel and extraction—oh did she ever extract, getting so many nasties out that my skin felt cleaner than it ever had.
But at home, the process starts with a half-teaspoon of Phelityl Pre-Cleansing Oil massaged onto the skin to break down makeup and impurities. Then you use one of the Cleansing Bars—my prescription was for the iconic Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar —to cleanse, exfoliate, and condition. How? The water in the sink becomes a treatment bath. First, massage the bar twice over the skin, then splash the water in the sink on your face twenty times, drain the sink, then splash your skin ten times with warm water from the tap. So not everyone can get into the “House of Silence.” But most of us can splash out $39 on a bar and treatment in one and experience a bit of old Hollywood reformulated with up to date science.