Use of Chemists

photoWhile both Rubinstein and Arden began in business mixing their own preparations, they quickly joined forces with selected chemists. While still in Australia, Helena Rubinstein began working with local chemists. In 1914 Elizabeth Arden hired chemist A. Fabian Swanson, and in 1916 she set up a lab for him at 665 Fifth Avenue so that he could produce her Venetian Cream Amoretta, and other products in her Ardena line.

Rubinstein frequently traveled to Europe in the 1930s, and she was not unaware of the gathering storm clouds. In 1934, she hired chemist Dr. Ludwig Salfeld, enabling him to leave Germany for Paris with her promise of employment. A year later she brought him to London where he remained her chief chemist for many years.

In an interview, journalist, author and businesswoman Shirley Lord commented on the use of chemists by both Arden and Rubinstein:

They were the first people who went to really skilled people with medical degrees. I mean, the medical profession was very magisterial about anything to do with cosmetics—I mean it was terrible right beneath them. But both Helena and Elizabeth paid enough in order to have research chemists. One of the greatest in the world she (Rubinstein) found at Dupont, his name was Jack Marsner, and he stayed at the company all the way through until he was wooed away from Rubinstein by Chanel. But she found him at Dupont. He had all the degrees in the world but he had a particularly clever idea about color and paint. And so he became her Vice President for Research. So she was very wise about that.

photoDuring World War II, scarcity of raw materials meant that substitutions often had to be made. Here, in a still frame from The Powder & the Glory, are Rubinstein’s recipes for “mascara as it should be” and “mascara in wartime”.

Sources:
The Powder & the Glory
War Paint by Lindy Woodhead
Producers’ interviews with Naomi Games and Shirley Lord

Photos:

  • Helena Rubinstein in lab—courtesy Helena Rubinstein Foundation
  • Mascara recipes—still frame from The Powder & the Glory, courtesy Naomi Games (papers of Dr. Ludwig Salfeld)

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