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Household and clothing
Helena Rubinstein cosmetics
revolution in marketing

Helena Rubinstein built an empire 'on cold cream and dreams'. She was the pioneer of today's multi-trillion dollar cosmetics industry.

In 1894 Rubinstein emigrated from Cracow in Poland to live with her Uncle Louis in country Victoria. Her milk smooth complexion, pampered by Polish face cream, was the envy of the rough skinned local women and she began importing cream to sell to them. Rubinstein moved to Melbourne in 1900 to work as a governess and waitress. In 1902 she borrowed money from a boyfriend, J T Thompson, to buy jars and labels to package face cream made to the Polish recipe.

She sold it as Crème Valaze, a French name based on the stereotype that French people appreciated beauty more than Melburnites. Each jar cost 10 pence (9c) to make and sold for a profitable 6 shillings (60c). Crème Valaze made Helena a profit of 12 000 pounds ($24 000) in two years. (Australia's first minimum wage was set in 1907 it was 8 shillings (80c) for a day's work.)

She opened the Valaze Institute at 274 Collins St, Melbourne, in 1905, where she imitated the medical method of consulting, prescribing and treating her customers in an 'operating room'. Rubinstein's showy 'scientific' approach to beauty care and highly developed sense of marketing (she enlisted the great opera star Dame Nellie Melba to serenade customers) made her a darling of society. Using the same flamboyant approach to promotions, she built clinics in Sydney and Auckland.

By 1909 there were Salons de Beauté Valaze selling Helena Rubinstein brand cosmetics in London and Paris. By 1916 this Polish-Australian dynamo had opened six salons in the USA and Canada, ran Australian, European and American factories and was distributing creams through department stores.

Who Did It?
Key Organisations
Helena Rubinstein Ltd : design, manufacture, sales
Key People
Helena Rubinstein : entrepreneur
Jacob Lykusky : chemist, inventor

Further Reading
Inside the beauty business
Margaret Allen
Simon and Schuster, New York, 1981.

Helena Rubinstein Cosmetics
Short biography of Helena
History of Beauty and Hygiene products
Vogue 1943 Advertisement for Helena Rubinstein products
Quotations from Helena Rubinstein

The glamorous image of the modern cosmetics industry. Helena Rubinstein was a pioneer of the industry?s marketing strategies. She once said, ?there are no ugly women, just lazy ones?. Courtesy Powerhouse Museum. Photo Sue Stafford. Make up by Helena Rubinstein.
ATSE Powerhouse Museum