Hero (product) worship: beauty's most modern classics

Building a cult beauty brand is what my life is about. I think about it, read about it, dream about it, live it. One of the tenets of a cult beauty brand is that it is supported by a hero product. Musing about this topic last night, I made a list of which products I would consider to be true hero products in beauty. Three things surprised me: first, the range of launch dates represented by this list (over a century); second, how many of these hero products are identified by words such as “pioneer,” “classic,” and “the original;” and third, how many from this list I actually own, use, and adore. Which of these modern classics do you have in your bathroom, vanity, toiletry case, or purse?

Nivea Creme: Launched in 1911, this soothing, rich moisturizer in the iconic blue tin remains a top seller for the brand, despite the controversial endorsement deal with Rhianna which was short-lived, as the star was deemed “too sexy” for a brand whose core values are family, trust, and reliability.

Chanel N. 5: Launched in 1921, immortalized by Marilyn Monroe, this fragrance remains one of the most feminine. What do you wear to bed?

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream: Formulated in 1930, this multi-purpose balm remains a favorite today. I use it on lips, cuticles, and more.

Olay Active Hydrating Beauty Fluid: Introduced in 1951, more than 190 million bottles have been sold, a few of them to my grandmother. I remember seeing this in my granmother’s bathroom growing up; the scent still reminds me of her.

Shu Uemura Cleansing Oil: I read somewhere one of these is sold every seconds… I must try this product, which was launched in 1967.

Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse: Launched in 1991, the brand’s first product and one of the first multi-purpose beauty dry oils on the market, one of these is sold every 6 seconds in the world. I use this on my skin, in my hair, on my face, and love Gold version for a little extra glitter.

Creme de La Mer Moisturizing Cream: I wasn’t able to find the exact launch date of this amazing cream, but I am guessing sometime in the 2000s… Based on Max Huber’s “Miracle Broth,” this product was a first in the ultra-premium segment of our industry. I can’t help but feel extra special when I use this…

Creme de La Mer Moisturizing Cream: I wasn’t able to find the exact launch date of this amazing cream, but I am guessing sometime in the 2000s… Based on Max Huber’s “Miracle Broth,” this product was a first in the ultra-premium segment of our industry. I can’t help but feel extra special when I use this… And love the fact that local DC celebrity dermatologist (and friend and mentor) Dr. Tina Alster also loves the brand (her go-to product is the La Mer Concentrate)!

Skinceuticals C E Ferulic serum: Launched in 2005, this serums has won Allure Magazine’s prized Best of Beauty Award three times, and is a key part of the brand’s success.

Finally, Kiehl’s Creme de Corps: Beyond a single product, this is really a hero product family. From the classic formulation, the brand has launched a number of limited edition bottles in partnership with various artists, and collections featuring different fragrances (the original is unscented). I kind of want to start collecting these…

I can’t help but wonder which more recent launches will be added to this list… time will tell…

2 thoughts on “Hero (product) worship: beauty's most modern classics

  1. In speaking with people about this piece, I would add the following were I to write it today:
    – Benetint by Benefit, launched in 1977 by Jean and Jane Ford; over 10 million units have been sold since it launched, and one bottle sells every minute worldwide.
    – Night Repair Cellular Recovery Complex by Estee Lauder, launched in 1982; this was the first product to feature an ad campaign of a sleeping woman in bed; 10,559 bottles are sold daily (= 7 bottles per minute).
    – Frizz-Ease Heir Serum by John Frieda, launched in 1991; four bottles are sold every minute in the US.
    – JLo Glow, launched in 2002 by Catherine Walsh at Coty; this perfume can be credited for launching the modern era of celebrity fragrances and the Jennifer Lopez fragrance franchise which has reached over $2B in cumulative sales.

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