Helena Rubinstein was born in 1872 in Krakow’s Jewish ghetto, the eldest of eight daughters of a kerosene dealer. By her late teens, she had abandoned Poland for Australia, where she began cooking up vats of face cream. She called it Valaze, and claimed that it was the creation of an eminent European skin specialist named Dr. Lykuski and had been “compounded from rare herbs which only grow in the Carpathian mountains.” She rented a storefront in downtown Melbourne, and peddled her concoction at a staggering markup.
In just over a decade, she had become a millionaire. She expanded to London, then to Paris, then to New York—and from there to almost every other major city in the world. She added one product after another,
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