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Helena Rubinstein

Selling face cream to Depression–era housewives and teaching makeup tricks to film vamp Theda Bara, Helena Rubinstein built a global beauty empire. Rubinstein worked as her father’s bookkeeper and studied medicine before immigrating to Australia in 1902. Local women envied her fair complexion and asked for samples of her face cream, made by a family friend in Krakow. Rubinstein opened a salon in Melbourne and began selling the cream, replacing the almond oil with lanolin from local sheep and natural perfumes like lavender and pine. She studied dermatology and nutrition in Europe and expanded her business to London and Paris before moving to New York in 1915. In the 1920s she began working with Hollywood movie stars while opening salons across the country. In a failed effort to save her marriage, she sold her business to Lehman Brothers in 1928, but after witnessing their mismanagement, she bought back the company for a fraction of the price. She went on to pioneer a “Day of Beauty,” precursor to the day spa, which helped catapult her business to even greater success. In 1953 she established the Helena Rubinstein Foundation to support medicine and the arts. Her autobiography, My Life for Beauty, was published posthumously in 1966.


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When Helena Rubinstein died at the age of ninety-four, she left behind an international cosmetics business worth millions, and the foundation she established to fund the arts.

Institution: The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, Cincinnati, OH, and Studio Lipnitzki

Date of Birth


Date of Death

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Helena Rubinstein." (Viewed on December 13, 2019) <>.


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