Cracow, Poland was the place of birth on Christmas Day, 1870, of the fabled cosmetics queen Helena Rubinstein. After elementary education she attended the University of Cracow, followed by a stab at studying medicine in Switzerland.
Rubinstein decided that going to Australia to live with an uncle would be advantageous, so she traveled there in 1902, taking with her a dozen jars of face cream which had been developed by a Polish chemist, Jacob Lykusky. By 1908 her sister Ceska had also made to trip to Australia and joined Helena in her business, which by now was booming. Helena took $100,000 and left for England to launch an international cosmetics empire.
Helena married an American journalist Edward Titus, in 1908, and they produced two sons, Roy (1909) and Horace (1912). The family moved to Greenwich, Connecticut, in 1915 and she opened a salon in New York City. Two years later she had salons in San Francisco, Philadelphia and Boston, and her products were jumping off the shelves of major department stores.
In 1918 they returned to Paris, where Titus founded the Black Mannequin Press, which published D.H.Lawrence as well as many other modern writers. Helena became enamored of art, and began a collection of jewels, paintings and sculpture. She was often solicited for commissions by such artists as Chagall, Dufy, Braque and Modigliani, and her apartment was the meeting place for many in the artistic realm.
Helena Rubinstein never followed any beauty routine because, in her own words, “it takes time and time is one thing I haven’t got.” However, she taught her salesgirls to tutor their customers in proper skin care and makeup application and came up with a plan for beauty she had experienced while at a Swiss spa. She later offered her clients a “Day of Beauty'” where women would spend a full eight hours at the salon.
The two reigning queens of the beauty business were Helena and her rival Elizabeth Arden, both of whom had salons on Fifth Avenue in New York City, and were bitter rivals for the cosmetic dollar. In 1938 Arden spirited away Rubinstein’s general manager and eleven of his staff members; in rebuttal Helena hired Arden’s former husband, Thomas J. Lewis.
Also in 1938 Rubinstein married Prince Artchil Gourielli-Tchkonia, a twenty-years younger Russian prince after whom she named her line for men.
Helena Rubinstein never retired from her business. In her last years she would receive her associates in her bedroom, holding court from a fluorescent-lighted lucite bed. Mme.Rubinstein, as she was called, died in her New York City apartment at the age of ninety-four in 1965.