Like vintage beauty products? I mean really vintage beauty products, as in over-one-hundred-years-old vintage. Me too! Back when I was making and peddling my beauty potions at local farmers markets, I would spend hours just researching for nostalgic beauty companies and products for inspiration. While many of those businesses and products have come and gone, there are still many that have withstood the test of time.
All of the following businesses were established before 1900 (one started in the 1200’s!). Most of then have remained true to their original formulations, while other have updated some the their classics. Either, they all are definitely worth oohing, aahing and of course, worth trying.
Inspired by Turkish Baths, William Penhaligon launched Hammam Bouquet in1872. This spicy and floral eau de toilette is described as “evocative of the Edwardian era of decadence and excess”. Still bottled in Penhaligon’s originally designed bottle, features some of the worlds most precious fragrances such as Rose Otto, Jasmine and Amber. Intrigued? I thought so.
Dr. Hunters Original Remedies
Before the United States was united, Dr. William Hunter set up his apothecary shop in Rhode Island in 1752. Some loyal customers of Dr. Hunters fragrances and personal care included George Washington, Abe Lincoln, JFK, Greta Garbo and George Gershwin. My hubby loves their Newport cologne, while I’m a huge fan of Dr. Hunters Hand Cream.
Sort of like a Swiss army knife in cologne water, Florida Water has been refreshing men and women alike since 1808. The many uses include facial toner, skin refresher, deodorant, as well as helpful in relieving discomfort from insect bites. See more uses on the company website.
Though I’ve certainly seen packages of Frownies in many shops, I honestly didn’t pay much mind…until now. These little wonders were created by Margaret Kroesen in 1889 when she saw that her beloved daughter was showing signs of premature aging. Today, Frownies are just as effective and are a great alternative to botox injections. I’ve already ordered mine from Amazon.
Santa Maria Novella
The first time I learned of this line, I was absolutely smitten. Founded in 1221 (!) in Florence, Italy by Dominican friars, Officina Profumo-Farmaceutica di Santa Maria Novella is one of the oldest apothecary pharmacies in the world. I love the Body Milk that comes in a thick, sturdy glass bottle and rustic cardboard box. Learn more about the history and see photos of the original pharmacy here.
The Original Eau De Cologne
The first eau de cologne was created by Giovanni Maria Farina in 1709, an Italian perfumer who was then residing in Cologne, Germany. Reminiscent of “springtime in Italy”, this secret formula continues to be popular 300 years later.
Mason Pearson Hair Brushes
Founder and designer Mason Pearson began his brush-making career in the 1860’s, but it was his 1885 rubber-cushion hair brush that launched his success (though it took another 20 years to perfect it). Today’s Mason Pearson hair brushes are very similar to the original 1885 model and are still made mostly by hand .
The House of Yardley was created in 1660’s, however London’s Great Fire of 1666 brought an end to that false start up. Only thing that remained true to the House of Yardley when it reincarnated into Yardley London in 1770, was the use of English lavender to fragrance their soaps. Today, Yardley still creates their classic soaps, a hair pomade and a hand cream in the original vintage recipes along side their many (yummy!) modern products.
The first documented soap maker in the Marseille region occured in about 1370, but it was not until the end of the 1500’s that Marseille, France began to make a name for itself for creating superb olive oil based soaps. Today’s classic olive oil and palm oil Savon de Marseille are created in the same manner as it has been for hundreds of years, however the newer varieties like Lindon Blossom and Sandalwood are worth trying as well.
I wanted to also mention these cosmetics companies that were also established before the 1900’s, however these companies no longer recreate the original formulations or the modern versions no longer resemble the originals. Click on the links to learn more about their history.
Colonial Dames – Family owned since it’s founding in 1886
Avon – An American icon (and I’m not just saying that because I’m a former Avon lady *wink*)
Shisiedo – The first western-style pharmacy in Japan.
Bourjois – Created the first powdered blush.
The Oldest Cosmetics Company
As I did the research for this post, it became apparent that there are quite a few companies that claim to be the oldest cosmetics company in the world. There are some personal care companies (like Creed) that make certain claims about a rich and colorful history, but there is very little (or sometimes none in the case of Creed) that supports these historic claims. I say, if you’re going to make that claim, you better have records to back it up.
So, as far as the oldest cosmetics company that is still in business today that can support its claims with well documented evidence, Santa Maria Novella of Italy is the winner. Although they technically established themselves as a pharmacy, their natural evolution of balms and pomades to fragrances and personal care warrants this ancient company a bona fide beauty biz.
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