Books

Book Review: ‘Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty’ by Michele Fitoussi

Flawless as Helena Rubinstein's skin, and as captivating as the Polish born Jewish beauty magnate's 70 year reign, this brilliant biography stands as a fascinating history of "make-up".
Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty

Helena Rubinstein: The Woman Who Invented Beauty by Michele Fitoussi HarperCollins Australia, $35

Flawless as Helena Rubinstein’s skin, and as captivating as the Polish born Jewish beauty magnate’s 70 year reign, this brilliant biography stands as a fascinating history of “make-up”, which, when HR sailed for Australia in 1896 — with pots of the skin cream her mother doused her eight daughters with — was taboo, only used by prostitutes and actresses!

In a white scientist’s coat over silk taffeta, HR defined dry, oily and normal skins and preached the ritual of soap, astringent and cleanser to Melbournites; and seduced Parisians with a body beneficial cocktail of low-fat diet and exercise, all in the early 1900s.

A trail blazing self-marketer, “Madame” was at the forefront of sun protection creams, products for men, and invented the revolutionary “mascara-matic” tube refill, which replaced spitting on a mascara cake.

She outlived both her husbands and her youngest son; counted Colette, Picasso, Matisse, Chanel and Chagall among her circle, and waged a famous war against her arch US rival Elizabeth Arden.

But waiting in the wings was the newest beauty queen, Hungarian/Czech Jew from Queens, New York, Estee (Esther) Lauder, whose latest innovation in the 1940s — the free miniature sample — would take the world by storm and out shadow them both in time.

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