Despite what its advertisements might have said, Marie Earle was not French, nor did the business begin in Paris in 1910. The Paris salon of Marie Earle opened in 1909 but its owners, M. Earle and N. Earle – possibly mother and daughter – had operated Marie Earle beauty establishments in Liverpool and Manchester well before this, perhaps as early as 1901.
The British business had an additional associate (E. M. Adams) but the partnership was gazetted as dissolved in 1910. By then Mrs. and Miss Earle had opened the Institut Anglais de Beauté at 279 Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris; perhaps waiting for the official notification of the dissolution before establishing their new firm.
Little is known of Mrs. and Miss Earle or how they came to develop their business. Electrolysis services were an important part of the Liverpool and Manchester salons and it is likely that other beauty treatments and cosmetics were traded there as well. In 1909, the Earles suggested to the French magazine ‘Les Modes’ that they had been trained in London hospitals but in a 1926 interview, published in ‘The Evening News’ in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, Miss Marie Earle remarked that the formulas for her cosmetics came from her Uncle Herbert Bastable, a Trinity College, Dublin trained, skin specialist with offices in Harley Street, London.
What is more likely is that Mrs. and Miss Earle started out – like many other early Beauty Culturists – providing electrolysis treatments and then added other beauty services and cosmetics. Why they moved to Paris is unknown but it is very telling that one of the first things they did after opening in France was to place advertisements in New York newspapers offering electrolysis and other beauty treatments to American women visiting Paris.
Electrolysis was an important salon treatment provided by Marie Earle for eliminating superfluous hair, port-wine stains and other birthmarks, enlarged capillaries and assorted skin blemishes.
Marie Earle’s methods are the most advanced scientific and rational on all matters regarding the preservation and enhancement of physical beauty. She has perfected a system of Electrolysis for the permanent removal of superflous [sic] hair, birthmarks, scars, moles, redness of the nose and all blemishes of the skin. After ten years practical experience and a long (London) hospital training she is in a position to guarantee absolute satisfaction as shown by countless testimonials.
See also: Electrolysis
Marie Earle also used vibro massage in the treatment of wrinkles and applied galvanic currents to revitalise tired eyes and strengthen facial muscles.
[E]lectric and vibro treatment is unsurpassed for giving firmness to relaxed muscles and tissue, natural freshness can be imparted to the complexion by it in a manner hitherto unknown, no matter how sallow, discoloured, or neglected the skin may be.
Like other Beauty Culturists of her time Marie Earle suggested that frequent bathing, nourishing food, positive thoughts and exercise would help ward off the problems generated by city life and the sedentary lifestyle it created.
Keeping the skin free from ‘impurities’ and other secretions that might block the pores of the skin was considered very important, so frequent bathing was suggested, using one or more of the bath preparations provided by Marie Earle. These included bath salts and soap, as well as an after bath lotion and a toilet powder.
Advice from Marie Earle regarding soap was mixed. It was considered too harsh for delicate skin – a caution that was later extended to all skin types – but she recommended one of her own as being suitable for even the most delicate of skins.
Once the skin was clean, a range of therapies could then be used to deal with specific skin problems such as dry skin or wrinkles. As with other beauty establishments of the time, these treatments relied on a combination of skin creams as well as physical manipulations like massage and strapping.
Marie Earle considered that wrinkles were the result of skin thinning and lax muscles so recommended that skin foods and muscle oils be combined with massage to build up the underlying tissue and strengthen the muscles of the face and throat. Many of her preparations were given the title ‘Perfection’ and included: Crème Perfection, a general face cream; Crème Perfection de Jouvance Antirides, (later called Crème Perfection Antirides) for use around the eyes; Crème Baume, a night cream; and Lait Amandes (Almond Milk) which was also useful for dry and damaged skin; and Huile de Jouvance, later Huile Perfection, a muscle oil that also had astringent properties.
Perfection Cream Antiride: “an absolutely necessary preparation for the daily, thorough cleansing of the face, taking the place of soap and water, which are so injurious to an exposed surface. It keeps the skin soft and supple and preserves its lustre”.
Huile de Jouvance: “develops the tissues; a wonderful stimulant composed of fortifying plants, very toning, closes the pores. For use with wrinkle cream, to strengthen the flesh, the muscles of the face and throat”.
Although Marie Earle advised against ‘violent astringents’ which she considered harmful, she nevertheless used them to firm up the tissues of the face. The astringent was sprayed on clean skin using a small atomiser or a Lucas-Championnière Pulvérisers. It was particularly recommended for oily skins as it helped to ‘close the pores’.
Earle’s Celebrated Skin Tonic: “Its bracing and healing qualities are unequalled. A truly refreshing preparation for giving firmness to the skin, distilled from herbs and flowers”.
The Elixir of Youth, later known as Elixir Marie Earle, was used in the treatment of acne and other skin blemishes. It was said to preserve and restore natural beauty so powerfully that ‘no woman need ever look old’. It contained ‘liquid oxygen’ (hydrogen peroxide) which ‘destroyed microbes, closed the pores and rendered the skin smooth and supple’. Hydrogen peroxide is chemically unstable and would have dissipated fairly quickly, particularly if the lid was not firmly tightened on the top of the jar.
Elixir Marie Earle: “has been proved by thousands of women to make the skin proof against all vicissitudes of weather or climate, it is essential to those who wish that their skin should be clear, soft, smooth, and free from sallowness, discolouration of any kind, sun burn and freckles, free also from the blotches of acne and the disfiguring blemishes, attendant on it, for which the Elixir is an absolute cure”.
Cucumber creams were a common treatment for freckles and suntanned skin and Marie Earle also had one in her range (Emulsion de Concombres Perfection) that could be applied to help keep the face and hands white.
Emulsion de Concombres Perfection: “Cooling and whitening, aids absorption and can be applied on top of the crème antirides”.
See also: Arsenic-Eaters and Cucumber Creams
Eyes were given specific treatments in many early beauty salons. Marie Earle freshened the eyes by combining galvanic treatments with cold and lukewarm compresses, an hour-long procedure she described as a ‘new English discovery’ that lasted for weeks and was better than ‘the old practice of steaming and massage’. Perfection Ointment (Onguent Perfection) was used to promote the growth of eyebrows and eyelashes, and women suffering from red eyes – as for example after motoring – could use a Marie Earle eye tonic (Tonique pour les yeux) or eye drops (Les Gouttes merveilleuses) to help clear them.
Marie Earle had both ‘flesh building’ and ‘flesh reducing’ creams in her product line. The fattening cream (Crème de Moelle) could be used to build up the chest, while the Lotion Réductrice could reduce excess fat on the rest of the body where slimming was needed.
Crème de Moelle: “a rich fattening cream to develop the contours of the neck and bust. a remarkable flesh builder. It transforms a thin scrawny neck into one that is plump and white and youthful. Pat it on the skin after cleansing. to quicken its effectiveness, leave some of the Creme on the skin overnight”.
Lotion Réductrice: “An excellent remedy for double chins and surplus tissue development in all parts of the body. Massage in morning and evening”.
Women who could not come to the Marie Earle salon for a facial treatment could purchase one of Marie Earle’s ‘Perfection’ face straps. These appear to be have been made from rubber and included a Perfection Face Mask, Perfection Eye Band and Perfection Chin & Throat Band.
A Perfection Belt – which acted like a girdle rather than a weight reducing device – was also available for women who wished to reduce the size of their waist.
[A]bsolutely essential to every woman who wishes to have a figure moulded into such graceful proportions that she can appear to the utmost advantage in the clinging and elegant gowns of the day, they are specially made for each person, and are so formed as to reduce the size many inches without in any way causing inconvenience.
Marie Earle considered that a painted woman was an ‘abomination’ and ‘an affront to good taste’ but nevertheless considered that a judicious use of ‘cosmétiques’ was ‘harmless and permissible’. Products in her range included: Émail 77, a liquid powder/enamel; Blanc Gras a powder cream in White and Rachel shades; Perfection Poudre de Riz, a loose face powder in White, Cream, Rachel and Flesh shades; Poudre Feuilles de Roses, powder leaves in three shades; Perfection Feuilles de Roses pour les Joues, rouge leaves in Soft Pink for blondes, Red Carnation for brunette and Dark Red shades; Perfection Feuilles de Roses, a liquid rouge; Perfection Éclat des Lèvres, a coloured lip balm; Ombre des Paupières, a bluish-gray powdered eyeshadow; and Crayons, eyebrow sticks in Black, Brown, Auburn, Blonde and Blue shades.
Earle’s Cream Niege: “Composed of perfectly harmless ingredients. It obviates in one application brownness and redness of the neck and arms. It imparts a soft, natural whiteness to the skin; invaluable for evening use, and quite imperceptible”.
Blanc Gras: “a finishing creme to be used before powdering. Protects the skin and gives it a soft white appearance”. Shades: Rachel and White.
Email 77: “an exquisite liquid powder made of the finest imported French ingredients, delicately perfumed. Unrivalled as a beautifier for evening use, but also very effective and becoming in daytime: hides all blemishes; looks perfectly natural on the skin. Absolutely prevents sunburn and freckles; waterproof lasting, does not rub off”.
Poudre de Riz: “The finest French poudre, in three shades, delicately perfumed, will not clog the pores”.
By 1912, Marie Earle had established an American branch at 30 East 57th Street, New York but a salon does not appear to have opened there until 1918. By 1922, this had moved to 600 Madison Avenue.
Not so long ago it was necessary to go to Paris to consult Marie Earle. And many women to whom money meant little and beauty much went to Paris for the privilege. Opinions might differ about the several great couturiers, but the beau monde was agreed upon the supremacy of one specialist. If one desired youth and loveliness, the order to one’s chauffeur was The Salon de Marie Earle. Several great American shops at the request of various women of society’s inner circle installed Marie Earle’s Preparations.
Then Marie Earle herself came to New York, upon the invitation of one of her clients and remained to establish a Salon. At first, she was here for only a brief season annually, now her personal services are available to American women throughout most of the year.
The company was heavily promoted as French in the United States and most of the products sold on the American market kept their French names. The trade marked signature of Marie Earle appeared on the packaging and in much of the advertising. Strangely, the handwritten signature was not that of Marie Earle but rather was originally penned by Juanita Ebbsmith, a member of the original firm.
I know little of the operations of the firm between 1914 and the early 1920s. Although it was hard for any established cosmetics company in the United States to do badly between 1922 and 1929, I imagine that the First World War and the post-war depression of the early 1920s took their toll. In 1922, Marie Earle incorporated in the United States by which time the company had opened a second American salon at 1635 Connecticut Avenue, Washington and the Paris salon had relocated to 23 Rue Pasquier. The New York salon moved to larger quarters at 659 Fifth Avenue in 1926 and then across the road to 660 Fifth Avenue in 1927.
Most of the pre-war Marie Earle products were still being sold in the 1920s. Some new lines were also introduced, such as Eau Mystérieuse. Its name, and the fact that it started out as a clear liquid but dried to a fine white powder on the skin, suggests that it was made with a water-soluble analgesic called phenazone, a not uncommon practice of the time.
Eau Mystérieuse: “a transparent liquid which immediately imparts natural whiteness and bloom to the face, neck, and arms, which does not wear off. Apply without rubbing and allow to dry for about five minutes, then wipe the skin firmly with a piece of muslin. Invaluable for greasy skins”.
See also: Liquid Face Powders
Marie Earle promoted herself as a ‘specialist in faces’. By the 1920s, washing the face with soap and water was now actively discouraged – as it dried the skin and promoted wrinkles – and the skin was to be cleansed with Crème Antirides (Essential Cream) instead. Essential Cream was advertised as being nourishing as well as cleansing but Emulsion de Conconbres (Cucumber Emulsion) was applied over the Essential Cream as it made the Essential Cream ‘twice as effective’. Both creams were applied with gentle finger strokes (never stretching) and any reference to the previous use of vibro massage disappeared.
Essential Cream and Cucumber Emulsion were used on all skin types but Marie Earle recommended that a different skin tonic/astringent be used depending on skin type. Dry skins were to use Eau Antirides (Soothing Freshening Lotion); normal skins, Lait D’Amandes (Almond Astringent); and oily skins, Tonique Pour la Peau (Strong Astringent). As before, all of these tonics were to be applied with an atomiser. Compared with the skin treatments customised for skin types offered by other salon-based companies, Marie Earle products were therefore only barely ‘individualised’.
In 1928, Marie Earle was acquired by Coty. New packaging was developed using a jet black, white and jade colour scheme and new cosmetics were added along with a more extensive range of accessories. In 1929, Coty also moved the Paris salon to the more fashionable address of 15 Rue de la Paix.
Coty also used Marie Earle to distribute Rallet, a perfume line Coty had acquired in 1926. Rallet perfumes were sold through Marie Earle salons and some Rallet lines were specifically developed for Marie Earle, e.g., Rallet No. 1.
Marie Earle was not immune to the problems generated by the depression years of the 1930s and, like many other American cosmetic companies of the time, introduced smaller sized preparations in 1933 and then repackaged its product line in a more modern style in 1934.
In 1932, Coty also moved the New York salon to 714 Fifth Avenue, decorating the new salon in Louis XVI style.
The Marie Earle skin-care range did not change much during the 1930s. Cleansing was still done with Essential Cream – still described as being two-propose as it cleansed and nourished. Then followed the Cucumber Emulsion – which nourished and acted as a mild skin whitener – before a toner was sprayed on, again according to skin type: Soothing Freshener Lotion (Eau Antirides) for Dry skin, Almond Astringent (Lait d’Amandes) for average skin, and Strong Astringent (Tonique pour la Peau) for oily skin. Day and night treatments for each skin type were also given.
Other products in the 1930s range included: Liquid Bleach, to improve the colour, texture and smoothness of the skin and remove freckles; Stimulating Oil, an astringent applied over Essential Cream to improve skin tone and firm sagging muscles; Acne Lotion, used on the face or body for acne and over-active oil glands; Wrinkle Jelly Glaze, a face mask applied before sleeping which tightened on drying; Special Nourishing Oil, spread over the body after a bath to guard against dry skin; Special Nourishing Oil, used with Cucumber Emulsion to develop tissue in the face, neck and bust; Reducing Cream for slimming the fatty tissue of the face, neck, shoulders, back or bust; Marie Earle Hand Lotion; Eye Cream; Eye Wash; Eye drops; and Eyelash Grower. Many of these products had been in the Marie Earle range for decades.
Some new skin-care products were added including Nurimor (1934), a dry skin cream, and Astringent Throat Cream (1935), a throat contouring cream.
Nurimor: This very rich new Cream gives a softening suppling effect—lessening the depth of lines and wrinkles, greatly improving the skin tone. The rapidity and completeness of its absorption by the skin approach a degree hitherto never achieved.
Coty continued to promote the Marie Earle skin stroking massage technique – rather than patting or strenuous rubbing and slapping – as the way to achieve smooth, unlined skin.
As in everything else you undertake in life, it’s not merely what you do but the spirit you put into your task which determines the measure of your success insofar as your home treatment is concerned. Just to apply your creams and lotions faithfully each night is not sufficient, when circulation is sluggish and the nerves of the face and neck are tense. Sluggish circulation must be stimulated—tense nerves, relaxed, through Marie Earle’s scientific stroking movements evolved to correct specific skin defects. Ten minutes a day devoted to the stroking movements your skin requires—and you will find youthful circulation stimulated, nerves perfectly soothed, so that the skin and deeper tissues absorb creams and lotions properly, Resultfully! Drooping muscles, puffiness, deep lines. wrinkles — these and other unwelcome “guests” — are speeded on their way by Marie Earle’s scientific stoking exercises.
Given the economy of the 1930s, Marie Earle considered it necessary to introduce a cut down skin-care routine. Made up of only three preparations – Essential Cream, Cucumber Emulsion and Eau Antirides – it was called the Basic Treatment and was expected to take only 10-minutes per day.
Marie Earle gives you a basic treatment that is amazingly simple as it is effective. It consists of just three preparations. Everyone works for you. Marie Earle’s Essential Cream enriches tired skin, returns velvety softness. You use it twice, once to cleanse, again to nourish. Over the second application you smooth Marie Earle’s cucumber Emulsion, to clarify and whiten. Finally Eau Antirides, to tone and refresh. The result? A glowing freshness that you may have thought you left behind you many birthdays past!
As with skin-care, Coty did not alter the Marie Earle make-up routine in any major way. Women could elect to use Finishing Cream (Blanc Gras), as a foundation (Shades: White, Rachel, Chair, Ochre and Sunburn) as or use Foundation Cream if they wanted to avoid using colour. This could be followed by Paste Rouge (Shades: Extra Light, Light, Dark and Raspberry), after which the face would be powdered (Shades: Chair, Peach, Rachel, Ochre, Sunburn, Blanche and Soleil) before eye make-up and lipstick (Shades: Light, Medium, Dark, Vivid) were applied. Liquid Powder could be used on the neck and at night on the shoulders, arms and hands, although Marie Earle recommended Eau Mysterious instead of Liquid Powder if the skin was oily or the weather hot enough to cause perspiration.
Colour coordination schemes developed by Marie Earle were based around hair colour and were given for Blonde, Titian, Light Brunette, Dark Brunette and Gray hair. Three examples are listed below:
Blonde Light Brunette Dark Brunette Finishing Cream Chair Rachel Sunburn Liquid Powder Chair Rachel Sunburn Paste Rouge Light Raspberry Dark Lipstick Vivid Vivid Dark Eye Shadow Blue Gray Green Eye Crayon Chatain Brun Noir Face Powder Peach Rachel Sunburn Mascara Chatain Brun Noir
The different make-up colour schemes were promoted using deco-inspired mannequins. Photographs of these were used widely in advertising of the period while the actual models were presumably used by demonstrators as a ready reference for customers.
Also see the company booklet: Understanding Your Skin
Like other companies in the United States, Marie Earle was affected by the Food, Drug and Cosmetics Act (FD&CA) passed into law in 1938. The legislation put an end to the use of terms like ‘skin foods’ and ‘muscle oils’ in the United States, which made null and void most of the explanations used by Marie Earle to describe why its products were effective. Then, in 1940, the fall of France cut the French company from the American arm. I have be unable to find any reference to Marie Earle in France after the war so the hostilities may have resulted in the end of the business there.
Things were better for Marie Earle in the United States and some new products were released there during and after the war including: Essential Foundation (1942), a creamy make-up in Rachel, Naturelle, Suntan, Cinnamon and Tropicolor shades; Peach Satin Cream (1947), a neck and chest cream; Aralinn (1948), a skin lotion; Masque Glace (1952), a foundation cream; and Aralinn Foundation (1952), a liquid cream.
Aralinn: “a revolutionary lotion, combines astringents and fine oils, stimulates circulation, but never dries the skin”.
In 1954, Coty combined Marie Earle with Lilly Daché cosmetics and Lucien Lelong, into a new company, General Beauty Products, Inc. with Lilly Daché [1893-1990] as its President. Lilly Daché, the well-known hat designer, had a connection with Coty through her 1931 marriage to Jean Despres [1903-1988], who, by the 1950s, was an executive vice-president of Coty. Daché was well known to Americans and her name was used to promote Marie Earle during the 1950s. Marie Earle products from the period often carried the phrase ‘Created by Lilly Daché for Marie Earle’ and even Marie Earle Essential Cream became ‘Marie Earle Essential Cream by Lilly Daché’. All in all, this signals a decline of the brand.
Daché made frequent trips to Paris and attempted to revive the Marie Earle line by introducing new skin-care products that were currently in vogue there. In 1954, Marie Earle therefore became the first company to introduce a royal jelly cosmetic into the United States, Queen Bee Cream (1954) and followed this with Queen Bee Masque and Queen Bee Emulsion. Unfortunately, the company did not capitalise on the royal jelly fad as well as later entrants. Its products were marketed largely to the cheaper end of the cosmetic market and its advertising budgets were tight.
See also: Royal Jelly
Lilly Daché also released Skin Vitamins, a box containing a month’s supply of vitamins packaged in 32 individual vials – one to be used each day to ‘treat dry, flaky, sensitive skin’ – an application style very reminiscent of French serums.
Coty’s financial position worsened during the 1950s, mainly due to the increased costs associated with advertising on television. Coty lost money in 1957 and 1958 and this seems to have triggered the offloading of some of its subsidiaries including the sale of Lily Daché, Lucien Lelong and Marie Earle to Mary Chess in 1960. The divestments did not save Coty which was bought by Chas. Pfizer & Co. in 1963.
See also: Coty
The 1960s and 1970s saw a good deal of change in the American cosmetic market and Marie Earle went through a series of owners including Nestle-LeMur (1964) and the Hichens Chemical Company (1970). There are some references to Marie Earle being currently based in the United Arab Emirates but as far as I can tell its preparations are no longer in production.
|1909||Marie Earle salon opens at 279 Rue Saint-Honoré, Paris.|
|1910||Marie Earle company established in Paris.|
|1912||Marie Earle branch opened at 30 East 57th Street, New York.|
|1918||First American Marie Earle salon established in New York.|
|n.d.||Paris salon moved to 23 Rue Pasquier.|
|n.d.||New York salon moves to 600 Madison Avenue.|
|1922||Marie Earle, Inc., organised in New York.|
|n.d.||Salon opens in Beacon Street, Boston.|
|1926||New York salon moves to larger quarters at 659 Fifth Avenue.|
|1927||Salon opens in Los Angeles.|
New York salon moves to 660 Fifth Avenue.
|1928||Salon opens in Southampton, Long Island.|
Marie Earle bought by Coty.
|1929||Marie Earle product line repackaged.|
|1929||New Paris salon opens at 15 Rue de la Paix.|
|1932||New York salon moves to 714 Fifth Avenue.|
Smaller sized preparations introduced.
New Products: Hand Lotion, Eye Wash and Eye Cream.
|1934||Marie Earle product line repackaged.|
New Products: Nurimor dry skin cream.
|1935||New Products: Astringent Throat Cream.|
|1942||New Products: Essential Foundation, a creamy make-up.|
|1943||New Products: Perfection Leg Make-up.|
|1946||New Products: Golden Morn, a dry skin cream.|
|1947||New Products: Peach Satin Cream, a neck and chest cream.|
|1948||New Products: Aralinn, a skin lotion.|
|1952||New Products: Masque Glace, a make-up foundation cream; Aralinn Foundation, a liquid cream; and Aralinn Home Treatment Package.|
|1954||Coty creates General Beauty Products, Inc. containing Lucien Lelong, Marie Earle and Lilly Daché Hair Cosmetics.|
Marie Earle moves to 78 East 56th Street, New York.
New Products: Queen Bee Cream.
|1960||Lucien Lelong, Marie Earle and Lilly Daché sold to Mary Chess.|
|1964||Nestle-LeMur buys Lucien Lelong, Marie Earle and Seaforth from Mary Chess.|
|1970||Hichens Chemical Company acquires Marie Earle.|
Updated: 29th August 2016
deNavarre, M. G. (1941). The chemistry and manufacture of cosmetics. Boston: D. Van Nostrand Company.
Marie Earle. (n.d.). Culture rationnelle et scientifique de la beauté par Marie Earle. Paris: Author.
Marie Earle. (1933). Understanding your skin. The essential key to personal loveliness [Booklet]. New York: Author.
Jones, G. (2010). Beauty imagined: A history of the global beauty industry. Oxford: Oxford University Press.