The stories behind 13 iconic beauty products
Get the lowdown on why these cult buys were created
By Iantha Yu
Beauty Crew Beauty Editor / October 25 2017
From frank body’s delicious coffee scrubs right through to SK-II’s water-like essence that can hydrate skin, these cult classic beauty buys need no introduction, and we’re sure they’ve become firm favourites in your makeup bag or beauty cabinet. But have you ever wondered how or why these products were created? Read on to find out how 13 of our favourite products came to fruition.
The lip and cheek tint we can’t stop swiping onto our faces actually has an interesting story behind its creation. In fact, it was originally created in 1977 by Benefit’s co-founders Jean and Jane Ford for an exotic dancer named Rosie who requested a nipple stain. That night, the founders got to work creating the stain by boiling rose petals together to create the “Rose Tint”. The formula has since been redeveloped and is now known as Benetint, which is sold every minute worldwide.
frank body coffee scrubs
The frank body coffee scrubs are a sure staple in our showers, with good reason: they’re incredibly exfoliating and addictive to use. Steve Rowley, founder and Director at frank body, explained to us how the idea of these scrubs came about. “Two [women] would come into my café and ask for the used coffee grinds that had been through the machine. I was curious what it was being used for and thought maybe as fertiliser on their gardens, however as it happened, they were using the grinds to exfoliate their skin. We did a little research and found that fresh coffee grinds were the most beneficial to skin as the caffeine had not been extracted.” Using his new-found knowledge, Rowley packaged up the grinds himself and an internationally coveted brand was born. Psst… frank body has just gone through a little packaging revamp but the much-loved formula remains the same inside.
Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream Skin Protectant
The iconic Eight Hour Cream does so much more than nourish dry skin; it can also soothe irritation and soften hardened skin with ease. As for how this product was invented? According to the brand, Elizabeth Arden had a lifelong love of horses and massaged this therapeutic balm on the legs of her racehorses before and after events to soothe skin abrasions. Arden then offered ‘The Healer’ to her customers and it fast became a staple in American (and global) households.
SK-II Facial Treatment Essence
Also known as “miracle water”, SK-II’s renowned Facial Treatment Essence is a skin-loving formula known for its hydrating and anti-ageing properties. Interestingly, this product was discovered at a saké brewery in Japan where scientists noticed that the elderly workers had wrinkled faces but extraordinarily soft, youthful hands. The reason for this was because their hands were in constant contact with the saké fermentation process, which scientists then narrowed down the ingredient responsible and attributed it to the naturally-occurring liquid from the yeast fermentation process called Pitera.
Ella Baché Crème Tomate
Tomatoes can do much more than add colour and vitamins to your salad, they can also be really good for your skin. Ella Baché watched young girls in Hungary apply sliced tomatoes to their cheeks and foreheads to purify their skin and boost luminosity, and later used the fruit acid in her moisturisers (such as Crème Tomate) to promote beautiful skin.
Maybelline New York Colossal Big Shot Mascara
Maybelline’s Colossal Big Shot Mascara is the brand’s best-selling mascara this year, but the beauty brand has actually been creating mascaras since 1913. During this year, a young Chicago chemist, Thomas Williams, saw that his older sister Maybel was in love with a man who was in love with someone else. Maybel Williams tried to capture his attention by enhancing her lashes and brows with petroleum jelly, and her brother decided to add carbon dust to the jelly to darken her features more dramatically. In 1915, Maybel got her man and Thomas founded the brand Maybelline, named after the bride and her favourite beauty aid. A couple of years later, Williams created Maybelline Cake Mascara, the first modern eye cosmetic made for everyday use.
Kiehl’s Musk EDT
This warming spritz by Kiehl’s is one of its most famous products to date. As for its inception, a vat of the fragrance was found in the early 1920s, stored in the basement of the first Kiehl’s store on 13th Street and 3rd Avenue in New York. Unsure what was inside, but catching a whiff of what seemed to be musk notes, the vat was labelled “musk” by Irving Morse (the person who bought and ran the Kiehl’s store from founder John Kiehl). The vat remained in the basement where it was not opened again until 1958, at which time it was further developed and released to the masses in 1963 and became an instant hit. According to Kiehl’s, this musk oil has spawned perhaps 10,000 imitations all over the world and has been the most widely copied name and fragrance of the last 20 to 30 years.
Bobbi Brown Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner
No fierce feline flick on the eyes is complete without a dark, smudge-proof formula, and Bobbi Brown’s Long-Wear Gel Eyeliner is one we reach for constantly. As for how it was created - Bobbi Brown was on a photoshoot and forgot to bring her eyeliners, so she used a makeup brush and mascara to replicate the look of eyeliner. When the shoot finished, she went into product development to start working on creating a product with the same formula.
Sally Hansen Hard As Nails
Sally Hansen’s Hard As Nails is a top choice when it comes to quickly and temporarily strengthening weak nails, and the formula was launched by the brand in 1957. The idea for the product came about to fix a problem that the founder herself faced: “I was one of those women who always used to be breaking nails. That’s why I had such an interest in a product that really stopped nails from chipping or cracking,” said Sally Hansen.
Christophe Robin Cleansing Mask with Lemon
Some products are born out of sheer demand, which is exactly how this hair mask came about. Renowned French hairstylist Christophe Robin was working with the likes of supermodels Linda Evangelista, Claudia Schiffer and Iman, who used to change their hair colour with Christophe every other week so he needed to ensure their hair was healthy and strong so their hair colour could continue to look amazing. The Cleansing Mask with Lemon was the first of its kind in the ‘90s as it was rich in lemon to exfoliate the scalp, contained St John’s wort to repair weak locks, and could be used on sensitive scalps. It has been a best-seller ever since.
Mavala Double Lash
Whether you have sparse lashes naturally or as a result of constantly wearing false lashes, a serum like Mavala Double Lash can help strengthen your little hairs. Amazingly, this product was first produced in 1967 in response to the detrimental effects of heavy false lashes worn at the time by Sofia Loren, Audrey Hepburn and Elizabeth Taylor. 50 years later and it’s still a cult favourite.
111SKIN Y Theorem Repair Serum NAC Y2
While this product is relatively newer than the others on the market, the story behind its formula is incredibly fascinating. The key ingredient inside this anti-ageing serum was actually used by astronauts in extreme space conditions where they were exposed to extreme radiation and lack of gravity, which accelerated the signs of ageing. Founder of 111SKIN and plastic surgeon Dr. Alexandrides created a serum using this ingredient for his patients to heal from surgery, and soon after, the serum became highly sought-after.
Charlotte Tilbury Magic Cream
Rich in camellia oil, frangipani, peptides, rosewater and vitamins A, C and E, this skin care buy can plump up skin in an instant. “When I started as a makeup artist, I wasn’t satisfied with any of the moisturisers on the market so I would mix my own,” says Tilbury herself. “I would use it all the time on Kate Moss and other clients on shoots and backstage [at] shows, and the models, stylists [and] photographers would all go CRAZY for it. I swear, creating this amazing, dewy and radiant [product] is the reason why I was booked as a makeup artist.”
Want to know which products a panel of InStyle beauty experts swear by for improving the quality of your skin? These are the facial treatments that topped their Best Beauty Buys list for 2017.
Which products from this cult favourites list are you currently using? Let us know in the comments below.
Iantha is BEAUTYcrew's Beauty Editor, and has been part of the team since the site launched in 2016. Besides pinky-nude nail polish and wispy false lashes, she has a healthy obsession with face masks and skin care ingredients. Her previous work can be found in Virgin Australia Voyeur, Women's Health, and SHOP Til You Drop.