Monday, September 8, 2008

The Helena Rubinstein of India plus... Helena Rubinstein

I say with without hesitation that this piece on Shahnaz Hussein, by Ellen Byron, is the best story the Wall Street Journal has ever published.
“In America, beauty is only about color and cover,” Husain says. “Americans desperately need me. They’ve gone on too long without me.” She has firm ideas about what women in the U.S. are lacking. “The American woman is the woman in a hurry,” Husain says. They “need more facials, more skin care, more manicures, more pedicures. Their femininity is very neglected.”

You've got to read this article for the description of Shahnaz's personal beauty routine, performed with the help of her live-in beauticians, and for the luscious photos of men gathering silver bucketfuls of pink rose petals to be used in skin cream. I also loved what Hilary Johnson wrote about the piece. Shahnaz Hussein's products contain ingredients like sandalwood, gold, and diamonds, and are available online. I was charmed by these instructions for the Shaface Herbal Face Conditioner/Mask:
(mix with) one tsp. honey, 1 egg (use egg white for oily skins and egg yolk for dry skins), 1 tsp. yoghurt. Apply the paste all over face and neck, avoiding eyes. When it dries, wash it off with milk, then water.
I think the actual Helena Rubinstein would have approved. Helena too created a beauty and cosmetic empire from scratch that included a raw-food restaurant in Manhattan. Her diet theory differed a bit from the current raw fad; she was a big believer in dairy. Her 1938 book Food for Beauty recommended a surprising amount of cream cheese.
I am utterly convinced that this sunlight nutrition diet will help every human ill, excepting only the results of an accident or some organic malformation. That statement will startle you. I want it to startle you. Then you will pay heed and set your feet now on the path to beautiful young health...
You must be vibrant. You must be alive, active, creative in your own life, able to meet every emergency with resilience. You must be all these things to be called youthfully beautiful in these modern times. Rythmic speed and elastic poses are the symbols of the modern woman. The satin boudoir and the lady-like "vapors" of Victorian days are no longer fashionable.

At left is an ad for Helena's "Snow White" makeup. Her line exists to this day. While she was still alive, she became a patron of the arts, and a great philanthropist. Work funded by her estate continues to thrive.
But back to the fun beauty stuff. Here is Helena's recipe for salad dressing:
Reducing Dressing (1 pint)
1 1/2 cup chemically pure mineral oil
1/2 half strained lemon juice
1 teaspoon vegetable salt
2 saccharine tablets

What? It's raw. Mineral oil was commonly used as a laxative at the time. Next time you're out of EVOO for the vinaigrette, reach for the Johnson's. I'm not sure the "baby" fragrance will taste any worse that vegetable salt and saccharine.
Tomorrow I'll show you some more of Helena's vintage products, and share some selections from her earlier book, The Art of Feminine Beauty.