Helena Rubinstein was born Chaya Rubinstein in Krakow, Poland. As a young woman, she fled to Australia where, in 1906, she opened a shop and began selling pots of face cream. In 1914, having already opened salons in London and Paris, she arrived in New York and began a lifelong competition with Elizabeth Arden. She said:

"All the American women had purple noses and gray lips and their faces were chalk white from terrible powder. I recognized that the United States could be my life's work."