Behind the Most Iconic Beauty Brands

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Behind the Most Iconic Beauty Brands

While studying graphic design in college, I naturally had to take a few art history classes. I thought they would be super-boring, but I ended up loving them! Learning the history of some of the industry’s most iconic beauty brands was no different. It’s fascinating to hear how some of these multimillion-dollar brands started from humble beginnings.


Make Up For Ever



Former fine arts student Dany Sanz founded Make Up For Ever in 1984 in Paris, France. She began her career as a body painter, who began formulating her own products to meet her artistic needs. Other artists soon began clamoring for her products, leading her to start Make Up For Ever. She also founded the first professional makeup school in Europe in the 1970s. In 1999, Make Up For Ever was purchased by luxury-brand house LVMH. Some of their most popular products are the HD line of foundations, a favorite for those who need to be camera-ready, and their ultra Aqua line, originally formulated for synchronized swimmers.


Urban Decay



Urban Decay was founded in 1996 by Sandy Lerner, her business partner Pat Holmes, David Sower, and creative visionary and makeup addict Wende Zomnir. Frustrated by the lack of edgy, avant-garde colors available in cosmetics, they began mixing up nontraditional colors, like Acid Rain, Roach, and Smog. Previously owned by LVMH, they were purchased by L’Oreal in 2012. You can’t mention Urban Decay without the Naked palette, the product that shot to cult status in 2010, as they’ve since released two additional palettes and many complementary products in the Naked line.


Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics



Makeup artist David Klasfeld founded Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics in New York City in 2004, starting humbly with two lip balms. As OCC added products like airbrush makeup and loose color pigments, they quickly became a favorite in makeup artists’ kits for their high-quality, high-pigment, cruelty-free formulas. In 2009, OCC launched one of their most successful products to date, Lip Tars. These mega-pigmented lip colors leave nothing to be desired and come in a wide rainbow of traditional and unconventional colors. I love mixing them!


Benefit Cosmetics



Benefit Cosmetics began in San Francisco in 1976 with twin sisters Jean and Jane Ford. The Ford sisters originally opened up as a boutique called The Face Place. Their first product was Benetint, a lip and cheek tint made from steeped rose petals; it was originally created as a nipple tint for a local exotic dancer! Face Place launched a catalog in 1989 and was renamed Benefit Cosmetics shortly thereafter. It opened its first department store location in 1991 and was acquired by LVMH in 1999. Now, it’s sold at retailers like Sephora and Ulta. Beyond Benetint, Benefit has created several other products, like the amazing They’re Real mascara, Erase Paste undereye concealer, and Hoola bronzer.





Beginning humbly in her one-bedroom apartment, Maureen Kelly created Tarte in 1999 after being frustrated by all the chemicals and harmful ingredients found in many cosmetics. The more “natural” products available weren’t glamorous or appealing, and certainly not girly or fun. Maureen created a line with the slogan “pretty powerful” and set her products apart by ensuring that they were all free of parabens, mineral oil, phthalates, sodium lauryl sulfate, triclosan, synthetic fragrances, and gluten! Tarte utilizes Amazonian Clay and oil derived from the Maracuja fruit in many of its products, producing such popular products as 12-hour blushes, Lash-Enhancing Primer, and Cheek Stain.





NARS was founded by French photographer and makeup artist Francois Nars in 1994 after feeling frustrated that there weren’t nearly enough options for makeup artists. Knowing what photographed well, he created a line of best-selling products with ultra-cheeky names that are now some of the most coveted products at department stores and retailers like Sephora. NARS’s “Orgasm” blush, “Laguna” bronzer, milky-pink lip gloss “Turkish Delight,” and hot pink lipstick “Schiap” have become synonymous with the brand. However, NARS is no stranger to controversy, collaborating on a holiday collection with photographer Guy Bourdin in 2013, a photographer known for images that seem to glamorize violence against women.





It’s easy to remember that LORAC was founded by celebrity makeup artist Carol Shaw because LORAC is Carol spelled backwards! Carol created LORAC (pronounced la-rock) while working as a professional makeup artist in West Hollywood in 1990. After hearing many of her clients complain that products made them break out and irritated their skin, she set out to create a line that was fragrance-free and utilized the mildest ingredients possible, suitable for even the most sensitive skin. LORAC began selling in Fred Segal stores in 1993 and is now sold in Ulta, select Kohl’s stores, and online. Their Pro Palette is one of their most popular products and one of my top must-haves!


Too Faced



Founder Jerrod Blandino began his journey to the ultra-feminine Too Faced while working at an Estée Lauder counter in the ’90s. He felt the makeup industry was seriously lacking in the fun department! The first product he created was a glitter eyeshadow, and he’s been cooking up products that don’t take themselves too seriously ever since. Not convinced? Their popular Chocolate Soleil bronzer is made with real cocoa powder and smells like a delicious bowl of Cocoa Puffs. Their Boudoir eye palette has shadows with names like “Fuzzy Handcuffs” and “Lap Dance,” and last year they released an awesome mascara under the high-expectation-setting name Better Than Sex.