Dorothy Gray

Dorothy Gray was born Dorothy Cloudman in Gorham, Maine where she grew up on a farm. After moving to New York she worked for Elizabeth Arden as a treatment girl before opening a studio salon in 1916 on Fifty-Seventh Street, New York – her later New York salons were at 749 and 735 Fifth Avenue. She had changed her name to Dorothy Cloudman Gray in 1911, so when she opened her first salon, it was as Dorothy Gray not Dorothy Cloudman.

The reason for the name change is unclear. She had lost her father early on and the name change may have been to formalise an adoption by a Dr. Gray, the man who presumable bankrolled her new business. However, the name change may also have been to cover an intimate relationship, with the same Dr. Gray, as there are stories that Elizabeth Arden sacked Dorothy after finding out that she was living with a man ‘without benefit of clergy’. Whatever the circumstances, her business was a success and when she sold out to Lehn & Fink in 1926 she had salons in New York, Atlantic City, San Francisco and Washington.

After the sale, Dorothy dropped out of history but used the money she made to travel widely in Africa and South America eventually buying a large dairy farm in Amenia, Duchess County, N.Y., where she was known as Dorothy Long. After selling the farm in the 1960s she moved to Florida where, twice married, she died in her 80s having led a full life.

Lehn & Fink

Lehn & Fink, a New York based pharmaceutical company established in 1875, was mainly known for household products such as Lysol disinfectant and Pebeco toothpowder. After their purchase of Dorothy Gray, they went on to acquire Lesquendieu (which included Tussy) in 1929.

Lehn & Fink followed their acquisition of Dorothy Gray by embarking on an extensive campaign to increase product sales as well as the number of Dorothy Gray salons, both within the United States and overseas. Beginning with Los Angeles in 1927, they added U.S. salons in places such as Denver, Boston, Milwaukee, Norfolk, Seattle, and Buffalo and overseas salons in Paris, Brussels, Stockholm, Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, Marseilles, Nice, Monte Carlo, Cannes and London. Dorothy Gray services were also made available on some ships of the Grace Line and the American Republics Line – the first ship-board salon being installed on the S. S. Santa Rosa ship of the Grace line in 1932.

American Design of Beauty

Until Revlon, Inc. appeared on the scene, Dorothy Gray was one of the three most successful cosmetic companies in the United States, the others being Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, both of whom, like Dorothy Gray, had strong personalities. However, after a few attempts to use her image in advertising, Lehn & Fink dropped the idea and all that remained thereafter was her name and initials.

The success of the company was not due to product innovation as, with few exceptions, it followed trends rather than setting them. However, like Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden, Dorothy Gray had a solid product line, an extensive stable of salons, was New York based, and advertised extensively. Its growth followed that of the United States and during the 1940s and 1950s and it projected an image that was American in outlook. Being American rather than European was synonymous with being both modern and trustworthy to postwar American consumers. The corporate taglines ‘American design of Beauty’ (1940s), ‘Trust Dorothy Gray’ (early 1950s), and ‘For beauty the modern way’ (late 1950s), reflect this perception.

Facial skin care

What we know of the early Dorothy Gray methods comes mainly from after its purchase by Lehn & Fink. However, I think we can make the assumption that things would not have changed much in the early years after the sale.

One presumes Dorothy Gray’s attention was focussed on mature, female clientele who had the time and money to devote to the skin care treatments and cosmetics available in her salons. Needless to say reducing signs of ageing was high on their agenda. The main principle underlying the Dorothy Gray method for facial skin care seems to be the need for good skin circulation, one of many ideas she got from Elizabeth Arden when Gray worked for her as a treatment girl.

Dorothy Gray’s method of skin care appeals to the modern woman, for it was evolved with this scientific principle as its foundation: a rapid, healthy circulation is the first essential of a good complexion. Miss Gray’s treatments and preparations cleanse, of course; they nourish the skin; they correct excessive oiliness or dryness. But the basic principle of the Dorothy Gray method is the stimulation of circulation.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1929)

Stimulating skin circulation combined with cleansing, lubricating and protecting the skin from exposure formed the basis for Dorothy Gray facial skin care routines until well into the 1950s. Her facial treatments used creams and lotions combined with patting and strapping – two other treatment practices she got from Elizabeth Arden.

Beats the little Dorothy Gray Patter rhythmically, as it quickens the circulation into healthy activity. It is rapid circulation which helps keep the facial muscles active, the tissues firm. Dorothy Gray’s method of stimulation is vigorous enough to benefit the muscles and tissues, gentle enough to leave unharmed the network of tiny blood vessels which lie beneath the skin. The Dorothy Gray Patter is designed to give the needed sting so difficult to achieve with the fingers.
Pat in a nourishing cream – Dorothy Gray’s Special mixture for dry and sensitive skin, her Tissue Cream for plump faces, her Special Skin Food for thin ones.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1928)

See also: Patters and Straps, Bandages and Tapes

Cleanse, lubricate and stimulate

The Dorothy Gray system of ‘facial rejuvenation’ also identified areas of concern where ‘youth fades first’. In the 1920s there were three of these: 1. Lines and wrinkles (particularly around the eyes and mouth); 2. Double chins; and 3. Flabby muscles resulting in a crêpy throat.

The home treatments for these ‘areas of concern’ came in plain, boxed kits suitable for posting by mail. The products and routines reputably followed the same steps as the treatments in Dorothy Gray salons. Some early skin care lines were labelled as ‘Russian’ (e.g., Russian Astringent Cream) but this branding was dropped by the 1930s. So, although some names changed between the twenties and thirties the products used in the home treatments were as follows:

Double chin: Cleansing Cream, Tissue Cream, Astringent Cream, Orange Flower Skin Tonic, Astringent Cream (or Astringent Lotion if the skin is oily), together with a Reducing Chin Strap and Patter.
Lines and wrinkles: Cleansing Cream, Orange Flower Skin Lotion, Special Mixture, Special Toning Oil, Eye Wrinkle Paste, Astringent Cream (or Astringent Lotion if the skin is oily) together with Patter.
Relaxed muscles and crêpy throat: Cleansing Cream, Orange Flower Skin Lotion, Special Skin Cream, Circulation Ointment, Astringent Cream (or Astringent Lotion if the skin is oily) together with Patter.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1932)

All three treatments are variations on a theme of ‘cleansing, lubricating and stimulating’ with allowances for skin type and treatment area.

The 1930s saw a simplification in this home treatment regime. The number of products required was reduced and those referred to as a ‘skin food’, ‘tissue cream’ or ‘skin tonic’ were given a more functional name. Here Dorothy Gray was something of a pioneer, completing in the early 1930s what became mandated by the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) in 1938.

See also: Skin foods and Skin Tonics, Astringents and Toners

Easy as 1-2-3!

The range of products sold in each Dorothy Gray Salon Facial box introduced in the 1930s was reduced to three and the new packaging made it look more like an integrated system rather than a collection of products. The message of ‘cleanse, lubricate and stimulate’ became a lot clearer and easier to implement. Once a woman determined whether her skin was normal, oily, or dry, the home treatment routine now became as ‘Easy as 1-2-3!’.

Dorothy Gray Salon Facial Package
1. Cleanse. In the evening, use Dorothy Gray Cleansing Cream. It floats out deeply embedded dirt, helps prevent blackheads and coarse pores.
2. Lubricate. Then, lubricate with one of Dorothy Gray’s emollient creams. (Special Mixture for dry skins, Suppling Cream for normal and oily skins) Pat it on with the fingers; leave it on overnight to make the skin soft, smooth.
3. Stimulate. Next morning, after cleansing again, pat on a stimulating lotion (Orange Flower Skin lotion for delicate dry skins; Texture lotion for oily skins or coarse pores.) This contracts the pores, refines the texture and brings out the hidden glow.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1934)

Using a Dorothy Gray Patter was of course preferred to using the fingers alone. In 1934, a refinement was attempted when the message was modified from ‘cleanse, lubricate, stimulate’ to ‘cleanse, soften, stimulate’ but this change was short lived and by 1938 things were as before.

In the 1940s a further modification to the three step routine took place which brought it more in line with accepted practice of cleansing makeup, using an astringent to remove the last traces of the cleanser, then applying a skin cream which matched the skin type. In order to get this to fit the cleanse, lubricate and stimulate model, the last two steps had to be reversed.

Dry skin? For you, wonderfully effective Dry-Skin cleanser. For normal skin there’s luxurious Salon Cold Cream. If your skin is oily, it needs the beauty-cleansing ritual of Cleansing Cream (liquefying).
Both dry and normal skins take on a glowing, younger appearance from patting with Orange Flower Skin Lotion. Oily skin gets the same stimulating “lift” from Texture Lotion.
If the skin is either dry or normal, coax it to a more perfect softness with Special Dry-Skin Mixture. If oily—yes, oily skins do need lubrication—smooth in that very special Suppling Cream.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1950)

Nose, eyes and throat

Simplification of the home treatment routine in the 1930s, emphasising skin type of normal, oily, or dry, was accompanied by a rethink of problem areas, which moved from ‘double chins, lines and wrinkles, and crêpy throat’ to ‘nose, eyes and throat’, again with products that catered to skin type – normal, oily, or dry.

Pores and blackheads on the nose could be treated with Dorothy Gray Liquefying Cleansing Cream if the skin was normal or oily, or Dorothy Gray Cream 683 if the skin was dry. Particularly difficult cases might also require Dorothy Gray Pore Paste, or Dorothy Gray Pore Lotion if the skin was oily. Lines around the eyes required Dorothy Gray Eye-Wrinkle Paste, or Dorothy Gray Special Dry-Skin Mixture if the skin was dry. Crêpiness of the throat needed the rich emollients of Dorothy Gray Throat Cream with massage to improve circulation and of course a chin-strap to lift those sagging muscles.

Vitamin D was added to the Dorothy Gray Dry-Skin Mixture and Dorothy Gray Throat Cream in 1937 with vitamin A following a year later in 1938.

Outdoor pursuits

The first quarter of the twentieth century saw women take a greater interest in sports, outdoor activities and sunbathing. Dorothy Gray had a number of products that catered for the more active woman and/or fashion trends that increasingly exposed more skin to the elements.

Dorothy Gray Finishing Lotion evened out skin tone on exposed arms and legs – in shades of Blonde, Natural, Aureate, Rachel, Tawny, Orchid, and Sunburn. Dorothy Gray Sensitive Skin Cream containing Vitamin D could help sooth skin overexposed to the sun and Dorothy Gray Sunburn Cream could be used for those who wished to avoid a tan altogether. Although less effective than modern formulations, the sunburn cream contained the UV filters benzyl salicylate and benzyl cinnamate in a formulation developed for Lehn & Fink by Emil Klarmann in 1928, making it the first of its type.

In colder climes there was Dorothy Gray Blustery Weather Lotion and the Dorothy Gray Snow-Bird Twosome containing Before-You-Ski and After-You-Ski lotions for the snowfields, as well as Dorothy Gray Special Dry-Skin Lotion and Dorothy Gray Dry-Skin Cleanser to help with the reduced humidity associated with cold winter weather.

Pick-up treatment

The Dorothy Gray Salon Facial Package was to be used overnight. In 1935 the Dorothy Gray Pick-up Treatment was introduced. Designed to be used before going out in the evening it consisted of a cleanser followed by a face mask, the Dorothy Gray Masque Frappé. The package came in two forms, dry and normal to oily. The normal to oily package contained Dorothy Gray Cleansing Cream whereas the dry skin package contained Dorothy Gray Cream 683.

The introduction of Dorothy Gray Cream 683 entrenched the dry-oily skin divide right across ‘cleanse, lubricate, stimulate’ routine. Although Dorothy Gray Cream 683 disappeared and other product changes were made, the essentials remained the same through to the 1950s.

The rule of three

The ‘Cleanse, Lubricate, Stimulate’ routine was an early example of what Dorothy Gray referred to as a ‘Rule of Three’, that is, a routine that consisted of three parts. The company also used it in later skin care routines such as that used for combination skin.

Combination skin

The ‘discovery’ of combination skin resulted in a ‘Rule of Three for Combination Skin’.

1. A special smooth-texture cream is needed to cleanse thoroughly. Thus, Rule 1 is Cleanse with Salon Cold Cream (for very oily areas, use Cleansing Cream, Liquefying).
2. For finer texture, fewer flaws, give skin local stimulation. Rule 2. Stimulate by patting with non-drying Texture Lotion.
3. Dry scaly areas need softening: oily areas must be kept supple. So, Rule 3 is Lubricate with special Dry-Skin mixture.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1952)

Hormone creams

After the Second World War, Dorothy Gray produced a range of skin care products containing hormones. As with Helena Rubinstein, who first introduced skin creams containing hormones in 1932, the company went through a number of product lines including Cellogen Cream, Cellogen Lotion, Hormone Hand Cream and Remoldine until finally settling on Satura, the cream most people remember today.


Introduced in 1956, Satura contained moisturising agents, along with 10,000 USP of estrogenic hormones per ounce and vitamin A. As the decade progressed the moisturising aspects of the cream were accentuated. It could be argued then, that despite the hormones, and the fact that previous Dorothy Gray creams tackled dry skin, Satura was Dorothy Gray’s first cream marketed as a moisturiser.

Five instant aids to youthful radiance from one great moisture cream.
1. Special elements catch dew from the air to shield against drying by wind and weather.
2. Estrogenic hormones help protect against age lines and sallowness with deep, under-surface moisturizing action.
3. Humidifying formula works directly toward a young and creamy smoothness.
4. Vitamin A guards against flaking indicative of a dry or aging skin.
5. Special emollients slow evaporation from the skin to counteract the lines of age.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1958)

See also: Hormone Creams, Oils and Serums

The hormone was later dropped from the original cream and the name Satura was extended across a total product range including Satura Cleansing Cream, Satura Lotion Cleanser, Satura Skin Tonic, Satura Moisture Lotion, Satura Night Cream, Satura Algene Concentrated Conditioning Night Cream, Satura Super Rich Night Cream and so forth.

The youth market

The post war period also saw an increasing emphasis by Dorothy Gray on the youth market. Working again with a three-step routine the Scrub Set was designed for troubled skin. Rather than ‘cleanse, lubricate and stimulate’, the message here was ‘clean, clear and medicate’.

Scrub Set
1. Clean: Medicated Scrub soap goes deep to rout out clogging grime, hardened oil and make-up. Special oatmeal ingredient stimulates surface circulation, helps rid skin of deep-seated impurities.
2. Clear: Medicated Refining Lotion keeps troublesome bacteria in check.
3. Medicate: Medicated Blemish Cream promotes healing of blemishes all night long.

(Dorothy Gray advertisement, 1958)

Velveteen Medicated Night Cream and Velveteen Medicated Foundation were also available. The active ingredient in all these medicated products appears to have been hexachlorophene rather than the benzoyl peroxide in use today.

Decorative cosmetics

Along with skin care products, Dorothy Gray also sold a range of decorative cosmetics such as powder, rouge, lipstick, mascara, eyeliner and eye-shadow, toiletries such as bath salts and soaps, as well as manicure equipment and nail polishes. Vanity cases, compacts and perfumes were also available for sale. Dorothy Gray did not appear to have entered the antiperspirant/deodorant market, although Tussy, also owned by Lehn & Fink did.


In 1927, Dorothy Gray powders were sold in five shades in a light or heavy blends. The colours, White, Rachel, Natural, and Peach Aureate were available in both light (transparent) and heavy (opaque) blends. The heavy blend had an additional colour, Burnt Aureate. Other shades were added through the years including Tawny, Suntone, Roseglow, Special Blend, and Glo-Rachel.

Lipstick and rouge

Only three shades of Dorothy Gray rouge were available in 1927 but this increased, so that by 1938 lipsticks came in 12 shades including Tawny, Coppertan, Royalty Red, Plum, Siren, Avis, Scarlet, Sierra Gold, Daredevil, and Plum Pastel. Thereafter new shades were added annually and included: Cockade, Firelight Red, Ripe Cherries, All Clear Red, Nosegay, Brass Band, Crimson Glory, Smiling Red, Headline Red, Red Letter Red, Portrait Pink, In the Pink, Vintner Red, Bright Touch, Savoir Faire, and Elation in the 1940s, Red Trey, Sea Coral, Drum Red, Bright Lilac, Flamboyant, Spring Crocus, Royalty Red, Edwardian Rose, Wild Peach, and Apple on a Stick in the 1950s, Coral Sail, and Spinnaker Pink in the 1960s.

Rouge was produced in both a cream and powdered/compact form. By 1935 the powdered form was also sold in larger cakes marketed as Boudoir Rouge. As the 1930s progressed, lipstick and rouge were sold in matching combinations. Later, advice was offered on what clothes would work best with lipsticks and eventually, as with Revlon, lipstick and rouge was matched with the colour of nail polish. Dorothy Gray had been selling nail polish since the 1920s, initially under the name Chan Wah Poli.

Eye make-up

Eyeliners, mascara, and eye-shadow came in a range of shades. By the 1960s there were six shades of eyeliner and thirteen shades of eye-shadow in a range of matte and frosted tones.

The Dorothy Gray salon

Dorothy Gray building

In 1929, much to the annoyance of Elizabeth Arden, a flagship shop and salon was opened in the new Dorothy Gray Building at 683 Fifth Avenue, which was now the company headquarters. The first floor store contained numerous armchairs where you would wait for an attendant to help you with advice, determine skin type and tone, or select products.

Right: Dorothy Gray building opened in 1928.

Walking through a corridor lined with tall dressing cases, from which products could be viewed and selected, you reached a long staircase that took you to the salon on the second floor. There you reached a vestibule decorated in French First Empire style, with a high dome ceiling and plush carpet, containing a central oval shape reception desk surrounded by couches placed against the walls. Glass fronted cabinets containing Dorothy Gray products were built into the walls.

If booked in for a facial you were ushered into a room, where you settled into a big, deep, covered armchair with an additional block to raise your legs. You faced a large, shelved mirror and to one side there was a small medicinal looking cabinet from which additional products could be obtained.

Dorothy Gray Salon

Above: A 1920s drawing of a treatment room from the original Dorothy Gray New York Salon on 753 Fifth Avenue. A cross between a boudoir and a doctor’s office.

Dorothy Gray Salon

Above: A facial treatment room from the New York Dorothy Gray salon from the 1950s. The fixtures and fittings have been updated but not much else has changed. The covered armchair is still being used and you can see the client’s elevated feet under the sill on the bottom right. The practice of using two therapists was probably restricted to visits from LIFE magazine who took this photograph.

Nutritional advice

Above: Nutritional advice was available as part of a weight loss program.

A physician could be consulted to set up a weight loss plan. Massage and other body treatments, along with exercise routines including squash were also available to help clients slim down or improve their posture. They could also remodel themselves into a ‘new personality’ by enrolling in a Personality Styling course that included lessons in skin-care, make-up, hair-care, clothes-styling, diet, and voice modulation. Not all Dorothy Gray salons were as extensive as this. Those built into department stores or on shipping lines would have been more limited.

1933 Dorothy Gray salon on the Santa-rosa

Above: A Dorothy Gray ship-board salon on the ‘Santa Rosa’ in 1933..

What happened to Dorothy Gray?

In 1966, Lehn & Fink was bought by Sterling Drug, a U.S. pharmaceutical company. This began a series of buyouts each of which progressively weakened the brand. Sterling Drug was acquired by Eastman Kodak in 1988, the various components of Lehn & Fink were separated and Dorothy Gray along with Tussy and some other components were sold to Playtex Products in 1998. After some unsuccessful reorganisations, Playtex sold a number of its brands, including Dorothy Gray and Tussy to Cenuco in 2005. Unfortunately, Cenuco also had financial problems and, after renaming itself Ascendia Brands in 2006, sold Dorothy Gray and Tussy to KCM Brands for $1 million in 2008.

The only current sign of life for Dorothy Gray seems be found in Argentina and Uruguay. Both countries appear to have functioning websites with extensive Dorothy Gray product lines on sale.


1916Dorothy Gray opens a New York studio salon.
1922Dorothy Gray establishes a laboratory on East Fifty-Ninth Street.
1926Dorothy Gray acquired by Lehn & Fink.
1928Dorothy Gray building erected in New York.
Dorothy Gray produces the first commercial sunscreen containing U.V. chemical filters.
1929Dorothy Gray begins radio sponsorships.
1930Dorothy Gray opens first European salon in Paris.
1932Dorothy Gray opens first ship-board salon on the Grace Ship the Santa Rosa.
1937Vitamins added to Dorothy Gray emollient creams.
1940Color Cue released which harmonised lipstick, nail polish and face powder.
1956Satura face cream introduced.
1967Dorothy Gray sold to Sterling Drug.
1988Sterling Drug acquired by Eastman Kodak.
1998Dorothy Gray sold to Playtex Products.
2005Dorothy Gray sold to Cenuco, Inc.
2006Cenuco, Inc. becomes Ascendia Brands.
2008Dorothy Gray sold to KCM Brands.

Updated: 12th August 2013


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The man behined the scenes. (1932) Dry goods economist. New York: Textile Publishing Company.

Peiss, K. (2007). Hope in a jar: The making of America’s beauty culture. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Woodhead, L. (2003). War paint: Elizabeth Arden and Helena Rubinstein their lives, their times, their rivalry. London: Virago.