Beauty Superstars So Iconic You Can Still Buy Them 100 Years Later

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Beauty Superstars So Iconic You Can Still Buy Them 100 Years Later

These days, it feels like more and more beauty products are being created and released faster than ever — great for consumer choice, but the relentlessness of the beauty calendar can be fatiguing, and it’s harder than ever for a new product to truly stand out from the crowd.

That’s why we’re taking a step back and revisiting some of the true icons of the beauty industry, whose fame and popularity has withstood the test of decades; a century, even.

Read on to discover just what we mean.

01 | SHISEIDO EUDERMINE

THEN: RED WATER IN A PRETTY BOTTLE

At a time when Japanese cosmetics had, well, Japanese names — this was only 1897, after all — Shiseido named its first cosmetics product Eudermine, a combination of the Greek words for good (“eu”) and skin (“derma”). Before this foray into beauty products, Shiseido was a Western-style pharmacy, complete with instore soda fountains. A softening lotion, Eudermine came in a beautiful glass bottle and was even known as Shiseido’s Red Water because the lotion looked just like red wine.

NOW: A MOISTURISING SOFTENING LOTION IN A SERGE LUTENS BOTTLE

More than 100 years later, Eudermine is still sold in Shiseido stores, albeit with an improved formula and housed in a Serge Lutens-designed bottle created in 1997 to celebrate the lotion’s 100th anniversary. Patted on skin after cleansing, this peony-scented goodie supposedly hydrates skin instantly and balances moisture levels.

02 | CHANEL NO. 5

THEN: A LAB “MISTAKE” NAMED NO.5

It’s the world’s most famous perfume, so famous that Marilyn Monroe once declared she wore nothing else but Chanel No.5 to bed. Not that the fragrance hasn’t enjoyed its share of scent-sationalised goss much earlier. In 1921, when Coco Chanel asked for a perfume to be concocted, she was given 10 samples, each numbered one to fi ve and then 20 to 24. She liked the fifth one most — hence its minimalist name — although it’s been said that this scent was really the result of a laboratory mistake. But Chanel loved that it reminded her of the smell of soap and cleanly-scrubbed skin (an olfactory hang-up from her Dickensian childhood). Today, Chanel No.5’s scent story is a little more polished — it is made with sandalwood, vanilla as well as premium May roses and jasmine from a family-owned plantation in Grasse. One 30ml bottle is said to embody 1,000 jasmine flowers and 12 May roses.

NOW: THE DRESSING TABLE STAR

Chanel No.5 has spawned a few modern-day variations, from a fresher, more citrusy EDT spray to an arsenal of bath soaps, body creams, deodorants and even hair mists for the woman who has the means to layer and cloak herself in everything No.5. This year’s Christmas season also sees the fragrance bottle (in 100ml) packaged in a theatrical gift box. Just the kind of drama we want on our wish list, thank you very much.

03 | KIEHL’S ORIGINAL MUSK OIL

THEN: A SECRET “LOVE OIL” MADE BY A RUSSIAN PRINCE

Here’s a whiff of a darn good brand story. In the early 1920s, a relative of the Kiehl founding family was said to have formulated the Original Musk Oil. What made this even more intriguing? He was believed to be a Russian prince. The story gets racier. The perfume oil was supposedly hidden away in a vat mysteriously labelled “love oil” until it was unearthed in 1958 and made into the Original Musk Oil, which went on sale in 1963. More fun facts: despite its name, the scent does not use any animal musk. It is also famous enough to become part of the Smithsonian Museum’s permanent collection of American pharmaceutical products.

NOW: A SIGNATURE EDT

For a modern take on the Original Musk Oil, there is the Musk Eau de Toilette. Love oil or not, it opens with a creamy yet citrusy touch of bergamot nectar and orange blossom before settling down into a blend of rose, lily, ylang-ylang and neroli, and finally drying down to a warm, sensual base of tonka nut, white patchouli and musk.

04 | SHU UEMURA CLEANSING OIL

THEN: A REVOLUTIONARY WAY TO CLEANSE YOUR FACE

As a makeup artist working in Hollywood in the 1960s, Shu Uemura realised that many actresses removed their heavy stage makeup with an oil-based cleanser. This allowed them to make quick makeup changes in between sets, but still kept their skin clean, dewy and soft. Deciding that more women should get to benefi t from oil cleansing, he created his first cleansing oil, Unmask, which was sold in Japan in 1967. It changed the way women cleansed their faces because the oil could remove dirt, impurities and, of course, makeup, in one easy application yet offered skincare properties.

NOW: YOUR ALL-IN-ONE CLEANSER WITH SKINCARE BENEFITS

After Unmask, Shu Uemura launched more than five cleansing oils, including Ultime8 Sublime Beauty Cleansing Oil — it’s made with eight botanical oils to elevate the cleansing experience. For instance, tsubaki oil softens and moisturises skin while washing away the day’s grime and dust.

05 | SULWHASOO GINSENG CREAM

THEN: A SKINCARE PRODUCT TO PROMOTE KOREAN GINSENG

Grasse, known as the world’s perfume capital, houses the rose, jasmine, lavender and mimosa plantations that contribute a good part of the extracts found in almost every iconic EDP or EDT out there. In 1960, a young man named Sung-hwan Suh visited this historic French town and fell in love with the idea of how cultivating plants that represented a country could help boost its economy and introduce it to the rest of the world. When he got back to his hometown of Kaesong in Korea, he decided to pay tribute to a famous Korean plant — ginseng. So, in 1966, Suh created ABC Ginseng Cream, the first skincare product made with Korean ginseng, which has long been prized for its nutritive, anti-ageing and elixir-like qualities.

NOW: A SUPERCHARGED ANTI-AGEING CREAM WITH GINSENG (AND MORE)

While you may not be that familiar with the ABC Ginseng Cream, you may know its descendant better: Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream EX. The original ABC Ginseng Cream has also inspired the development of many of the brand’s signature products, like its First Care Activating Serum EX. Now in its fourth generation, Sulwhasoo Concentrated Ginseng Renewing Cream EX promises to target signs of ageing like dryness, dullness and loss of firmness. It features a Bioconversion Technology that allows the active ingredients of ginseng saponin (available in very tiny amounts in ginseng plants) to penetrate deep into skin.

This story first appeared in the December 2019 issue of A.

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