We’re as guilty as anyone of overusing the world ‘cult’ when we are describing our favorite beauty companies. But can you blame us? There are those brands (and products) that are so legendary that they’ve achieved near mythical status in the beauty world. What is it that makes a cult brand? We dissected one of our favorites, Erno Laszlo, to find out.
Erno Laszlo opened his first institute in Budapest in 1927, after healing the Hungarian Princess Stephanie’s skin. Less than ten years later, he was the country’s go-to dermatologist because of his effective treatments and strict skin-care regimes. In 1952 Laszlo launched his eponymous product line with fifteen products available exclusively at Saks Fifth Avenue. The line wasn’t available in any other retail stores until 1962.
Laszlo’s list of devotees reads like a roster of the iconic and famous: Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Jackie Kennedy Onassis, and Madonna, just to name a few.
Generations of Fans:
Forget family jewels: there is a tradition amongst clients to pass down his skin care secrets to their children and grandchildren. Jacqueline Kennedy brought her daughter to see Laszlo when she was just seven years old.
In 1939 Laszlo opened his institute on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan to an elite clientele. Not only were appointments difficult to get (99% of applicants were reportedly turned away), there was an air of secrecy about the doctor. The Duchess of Windsor called the institute “The House of Silence” because there were so many secrets kept within its walls.
Woody Allen famously immortalized Laszlo’s Black Soap in the 1977 film, Annie Hall. He says, “I found this in the apartment. Black soap. She used to wash her face eight hundred times a day with black soap. Don't ask me why."
The Quirk Factor:
The Hungarian dermatologist was legendary for his eccentricities and strict skin-care rules. The Erno Laszlo “splashing technique,” which involves splashing your face with water 30 times, is mandatory.The doctor is on record as saying, “A woman may not tell me the truth about everything, but her skin will never lie.”