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David Jones

Becoming Elizabeth Arden

Photograph of Elizabeth Arden wearing a hat with a newspaper in her lap. Getty Images


“To be beautiful and natural is the birthright of every woman.”

 – Elizabeth Arden

We all know Elizabeth Arden: the classic cosmetics, the scientific skincare; the beautifully-bottled fragrances. Since its beginnings a century ago, the beauty brand has become a household name, a go-to gift for special anniversaries and Mother’s Day, and a staple in the vanities of women worldwide.

But behind every great label stands a great (and in this case, elegant) entrepreneur. In celebration of one of history’s most prominent beauty technicians, we thought we’d share nine things you may never have known about the woman behind the rectangular-paned red door.

1. She was a Florence first

Like many icons whose names have undergone an “artistic adjustment”—Chanel, Diane von Furstenberg, Lady Gaga—Elizabeth Arden was born Florence Nightingale Graham on December 31st, 1884. An entrepreneur from the very start, Graham changed her name to Arden in 1909 for business purposes, apparently already aware of “branding” before “branding” was a thing.

2. She was a small town girl

Like many luminaries, Arden made her business start in New York City, but her life story began elsewhere. The beauty technician was born in Woodbridge, Southern Ontario, Canada; the fifth of five children.

3. She was (almost) a nurse

In her early life Arden studied nursing, an education that saw her foster an interest in the lotions used for the treatment of burns. This fascination with the science of skincare would go on to inform many of Arden’s own cosmetological ranges.

4. She learnt a lot on the job

Before carving out a name for her company as one of the most influential beauty brands in the world, Arden worked as an assistant to a beautician named Eleanor Adair in New York, circa 1908. Soon after in 1910, with invaluable industry experience added to her beauty kit, Arden made moves to set up her own operation.   

5. She knew how to take a risk 

Elizabeth Arden opened her first Red Door salon on Fifth Avenue, New York City, in 1910, motivated by her personal belief that beauty was more than just a surface veneer of makeup. As such, Arden’s products were formulated to promote the cooperation between science and nature, in order to develop a woman’s finest natural assets.

6. She practiced what she preached

The Elizabeth Arden philosophy was simple and founded in common sense: to create skincare products that benefited the skin. Against the idea of merely “masking” a woman’s face, Arden promoted her philosophy of holistic beauty in all that she did. Her routine championed diligent skincare, as well as nutrition and fitness, as she continued to apply a thorough and scientific approach to the development of her famous skincare range.  

7. She understood the power of desire

Born with a mind for business, Arden understood that a woman’s beauty regime was as much about emotion as it was about aesthetic. With this in mind, the elegant entrepreneur created the newest and best products on the market—skincare, cosmetics and services that woman not only needed, but desired, too. 

8. She was the makeup marvel of innovation

Elizabeth Arden did not have one claim to fame, she had many. Not only was she the first to introduce eye makeup to the women of America, she also established the concept of the “makeover”. But Arden’s list of achievements goes on. The accomplished beautician was also the first to develop travel-size beauty products, the perfect merger of cosmetics with common sense.

9. She was a loyal suffragette

There’s no denying that Elizabeth Arden was one of the twentieth century’s most successful female entrepreneurs. So it comes as no surprise that she was also a dedicated suffragette. In 1912, Arden participated in a march for women’s rights, where all 15,000 of her fellow suffragettes wore red lipstick as a sign of solidarity. Lipstick that was supplied, of course, by the one and only Elizabeth Arden.

Explore the Elizabeth Arden legacy—by browsing her skincare, cosmetics, best sellers, and fragrances today.