Cosmetics: The Beauty Merchant

Even after half a century in the U.S., Helena Rubinstein could clearly recall her first impression upon landing in New York in 1914. "It was a cold day," she would say in speech still heavily accented from her Polish girlhood. "All the American women had purple noses and grey lips, and their faces were chalk white from terrible powder. I recognized that the U.S. could be my life's work."

Her life's work, in the U.S. and elsewhere, became one long pursuit of profitable ways in which to make women more attractive — or to make them think they...

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