A Skincare Timeline:
Blockbuster Innovations, Decade by Decade since the 1900s

If there’s a Noble prize for the skincare inventions, the laurels would surely go to the goodies highlighted in this feature – the blockbuster breakthroughs of the twentieth century. Okay, we’re skipping Cleopatra’s remedy of milk and roses that’s been around since the B.C. years, but seriously, do we ever credit the Research & Development teams that are the backbone of the countless skincare wonders we’ve seen? Here’s our salute to them!

It all began in 1859, when chemist Robert A. Chesebrough took unrefined black “rod wax” from oil rigs and extracted from it the light-colored gel that we now know as Vaseline. Chesebrough patented the process of making petroleum jelly in 1872. At first Vaseline was advertised as an ointment for scrapes, burns and cuts, but today we know that it has no medicinal effect, nor is it able to be absorbed by the skin. Now women everywhere use this timeless product to help nourish their chapped hands and lips, keeping them supple by preventing the skin’s moisture from evaporating.

Back in the 1870s, Dr. Charles Browne Fleet probably had no idea that his small invention would be in every woman’s purse over a hundred years later. Chapstick was created to function as a skin moisturizer and lubricant to prevent and protect our pretty little chafed, chapped and sunburned lips. Today, the beloved product is available with SPF’s as high as 30.

Johnson and Johnson created their legendary Baby Powder in 1890, after they mixed talcum powder with some medicinal plasters. The soothing effects worked on adults as well as babies and featured the same distinctive smell that is loved today.

Carmex has been manufactured by Carma Laboratories in Franklin, Wisconsin since 1937. Its active ingredients include menthol, camphor, and phenol, an anesthetic which gives Carmex that soothing and healing sensation that we’ve come to rely on.

In 1944, pharmacist Benjamin Greene created something that would save soldiers from the sun’s harmful rays. His sunscreen, with a sticky, red substance, which he called “red veterinary petrolatum,” worked primarily by physically blocking the sun’s rays with a thick petroleum-based product. Although Greene’s invention didn’t work nearly as well as sunscreens of today, it was a pretty good start.

Estee Lauder and husband Joseph began their cosmetics line in New York City in 1946. The first four products included a Super Rich All Purpose Cream, Crème Pack, Cleansing Oils and Skin Lotion. The quartet of products proved to be a solid foundation as Estee Lauder remains one of today’s most popular cosmetic lines.

Before the 1950s, teenagers were out of luck when it came to finding a product to help them with their troubled skin. The issue of acne was just not addressed. Then Clearasil came along. It was the first dermatological brand designed solely for the purpose of young skin dealing with acne. Thank goodness! With its chief ingredients of benzoyl peroxide, triclosan or salicylic acid, Clearasil has been bringing clear skin and confidence to teenagers and adults ever since.

Cold creams have been around for ages, but it wasn’t until the 1950s that the classic, Pond’s Creams hit supermarkets across the United States. No other lotion cleanses and softens skin better than the timeless cold cream. The classic small bottles, containing Pond’s Vanishing Cream or their Cold Cream, are vanity table staples that will continue to be around for generations.

The 1950s was a decade focused on pure beauty – nothing greasy or full of odd chemicals. The creation of Oil of Olay’s Beauty Fluid perfectly characterizes this timeless era. The pink shade and familiar fragrance, combined with the light, smooth texture leaves skin completely lovely, with shine and roughness absent. Women who use Olay’s Beauty Fluid can fool anyone with their age.

Things began to get a little more complex in the 1960s. But Clinique kept things simple. As the first dermatologist-guided, allergy-tested and fragrance-free cosmetic brand, they developed the 3-Step Skin Care system, addressing individual skin care needs for different skin types. Their cleansing facial bar soap, exfoliating Clarifying Lotion and Dramatically Different Moisturizing Lotion can be suited for any type of skin, whether it be dry, oily or combination. The moisturizing lotion is amazing; one is sold every four seconds somewhere in the world! This system got the ball rolling for future skin care treatments, making them personalized and potent.

Many products we still rely on today were first released in the 1960s. The Dove Beauty Bar became available nationwide, cleansing sensitive skin everywhere. Neutrogena marketed its new soap that rinsed off quickly and easily and returned one’s skin back to their normal pH within eleven minutes!

With the 1970s and 1980s we saw more advanced concoctions, but we never abandoned the mission for clean, clear and smooth skin. The Body Shop opened and their original body butter is still known today as the best around. Available in a variety of fragrances, there is one for everyone. Not interested in scents? More of a sensitive skin type of gal? Dove introduced their Unscented Bar in the 1980s, the same time that their soap became the number one physician recommended cleaning bar!

We have Dr. Howard Murad to thank for doctor invented skin care treatments to this day. In 1989 he was one of the first dermatologists to make their own skin-care line, inspiring hundreds others over time. Murad’s products tackle all possible skin issues: aging, acne, sun protection and sensitivity, helping anyone find saving grace in a bottle.

Burt’s Bees was marketed throughout the 1990s, and their earth-friendly, all natural products are to die for. Their famous beeswax lip balm should be in every woman’s purse, along with another 1990s handbag essential: Clean & Clear Oil Absorbing Sheets. These little sheets of paper remove oil and shine in seconds, perfect for moments when you just don’t have time to reapply some makeup or wash your face.

In 2002, we discovered a way to improve our skin without creams, lotions or potions. The Food and Drug Administration approved the use of botulinum toxin type A (BOTOX Cosmetic) for frown lines on the face. This temporary fix is injected in between the eyebrows and usually lasts up to four months and is perfect for those who desire a long term solution to stubborn wrinkles.

Don’t mind daily lotion application? Then Jergen’s Natural Glow moisturizer is probably on your must-have list. The first ever gradual self tanner hit the market and was sold out almost immediately. With no need to worry about staining, streaking or discoloration that is often associated with other self-tanners, Jergen’s delivers the perfect level of color, giving you that sun-kissed glow (without the risk of skin cancer).

Have a stubborn pimple and a date in less than 24 hours? Its 2007-no problem! The Zeno is a hand-held, battery-operated device, whose tip transfers heat onto a blemish, killing the bacteria and making them disappear after only two to three treatments over the span of 24 hours. That’s beauty and the geek for you.

What’s to come in skin care over the next few years? Who knows! But these blockbuster innovations will be used for generations to come. To those scientists who made them possible, we salute you!