From the 19th Century & Beyond: Bestselling Beauty Products Used Even Today

“The most beautiful makeup of a woman is passion. But cosmetics are easier to buy.”

― Yves Saint Laurent

Yves Saint Laurent is absolutely right if we take his words in today’s context. Just a few hundred years ago, obtaining cosmetics of any kind was a tough deal.

Though makeup was used liberally during the ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman times, it became increasingly frowned upon during the Middle Ages. Women were expected to be happy in their own skins. The use of cosmetics implied deception. Things changed with time. During the ultra-conservative Victorian Age, cosmetics were thought to be the tools of painted women. However, at the same time, women with flawed or tanned skin were looked down upon. To conform to the pale and perfect beauty standards of the era, ladies surreptitiously used cosmetics to get that coveted natural look.

To fulfill the growing demands for makeup, a plethora of beauty brands cropped up. Astoundingly, many of the cosmetics of yore have survived the test of time and are being used by us years after their inception.

Let us have a look at ten of the bestselling cosmetics of today that originated in the 19th century and beyond.

Product: Santa Maria Novella Aqua della Regina

Origin: 1533

Santa Maria Novella Aqua della Regina is the signature scent of Officina Profumo-Pharmaceutical di Santa Maria Novella. Well into its eight hundredth year, the Officina Profumo-Pharmaceutical di Santa Maria Novella is the oldest running pharmacy in the world. They developed Aqua della Regina in the year 1533 in preparation for the marriage of Catherine de Medici to Henry II of France. The fresh scent of the perfume makes it a bestseller even today. The secret to its success might be that the flowers and herbs used to develop it are still sourced from the original Florentine monastic garden.

Product: Farina Eau de Cologne

Origin: 1709

Italian-born Giovanni Maris Farina was the creator of the Eau de Cologne. To stave off his homesickness while living in Germany, he created this timeless fragrance that captured the essence of his hometown. The special concoction was composed of the essential oils of lemon, bergamot, tangerine, orange, neroli, and grapefruit. Farina added to that extracts of tobacco, lavender, jasmine, thyme, rosemary, and petitgrain. The crisp and light fragrance became an instant hit. The highly expensive Eau de Cologne soon became a staple for every royal family around the world. Its appeal remains unblemished today.

Product: Yardley London Lavender Soap

Origin: 1770

Yardley began its journey in the cosmetics world way back in the 1600s when King Charles I of England allowed a young man to supply the soaps in London. However, all the official records were destroyed in the Great Fire of London in 1666. Thankfully, this did not mark the end of the brand. Yardley’s signature lavender scent survived and continues to soothe our senses to date. The company exclusively grows a special species of lavender called Lavandula augustifolia in the South of England in its quest to maintain the authenticity of its products. Officially founded in 1770, Yardley is the oldest registered beauty brand in the world. It continued to be one of the leading brands in the industry. Yardley ventured out of its domain and sponsored the British Racing Motors Team in the Formula 1 Grand Prix in 1971 and McLaren from 1972 to 1974.

Product: Pears Soap

Origin: 1807

Way back in 1789, Andrew Pears founded Pears in a barber’s shop in SoHo. In the beginning, this exclusive product was reserved for the use of the peers of England’s nobility. In 1807, Pears came up with the world’s first transparent soap bar. It won the prize for soap at the Great Exhibition in 1851. Even today, it takes three months to make special soap with its super gentle formula of glycerin and other natural products.

Product: Bourjois Little Round Pot Blush

Origin: 1863

Bourjois Little Round Pot Blush is the world’s first powder blush. In 1863, Joseph Albert Ponsin, an actor from Paris, came up with this concoction based on a complex recipe. Gradually, Bourjois Blusher started moving beyond the arena of stage makeup. Almost two hundred years old, the product has become one of the bestselling lines of the brand. Bourjois continues to launch limited edition vintage series of the original Little Round Pots to fulfill the demands of collectors. 

Product: Penhaligon’s Hammam Bouquet

Origin: 1872

Penhaligon is a renowned perfumery that was founded by William Henry Penhaligon in the late 1860s. He was so inspired by the enthralling aromas of the nearby Turkish bath that he came up with his first fragrance. He named the heady scent Hammam Bouquet. The perfume remains a fan favorite to this day. Its unchanged original packaging with a flash of ribbon makes this product all the more enticing. Fun fact, Penhaligon is one of the few brands which still has four of its original products on the shelves, centuries after their inception.

Product: Vaseline

Origin: 1872

Anyone would be hard-pressed to find someone who has not heard of Vaseline. It is a staple in almost every household. In 1872, chemist, Robert Chessebrough, came across road wax while looking for oil in Titusville, Pennsylvania. He then dedicated almost a decade of his life refining the road wax to clear white petroleum jelly. He christened it Vaseline, an amalgamation of the German wasser, i.e water, and the Greek oleon, i.e. oil. Cheesebrough himself advertised the product extensively till it became a bestseller. He was knighted for his invention by Queen Victoria who informed him that she herself used Vaseline every day. Fun fact, some bakers use Vaseline in cakes and pastries instead of butter and lard. It is believed that the use of Vaseline makes sure that the pastries don’t turn rancid.

Product: Ivory Soap

Origin: 1879

The Ivory Soap, created by James Gamble of Proctor & Gamble, is the world’s first floating soap. The 99.44% pure product came to be when James added extra air to a batch of Ivory soap bars. The light soap flakes are also used to whip up snow for Christmas trees ever since the 1920s. Even after almost a century and a half of inception, it remains popular with people worldwide.

Product: Smith’s Rosebud Salve

Origin: 1892

It is indeed a wonder that approximately 3,500 tins of Smith’s Rosebud Salve continue to be sold every day even today. Dr. G.F. Smith came up with the all-purpose salve in 1892. It is still one of the most multipurpose products. It is helpful in dealing with chapped lips, razor burns, diaper rash, and many other issues. Surprisingly, it acts as a great highlighter and moisturizer. Nowadays, the salve not only comes in the original vintage tins but also in user-friendly tubes. 

Product: Shiseido Eudermine

Origin: 1897

Shiseido is iconic for many reasons. It was Japan’s first western style pharmacy. The first launch of ice cream in the country in 1928 is also credited to Shiseido. Established by Arinobu Fukuhara in Tokyo in the year 1872, it continues to serve its loyal patrons. Eudermine is the brand’s first beauty product. Launched in 1897, this softening lotion is still available in its original packaging style to boot. Fun fact, Shiseido was also the progenitor of one of the world’s first color-correcting and mood-lightening creams called The Shiseido Rainbow Face Powder.


The cosmetics industry has become an ever-growing one. Every season, we have a plethora of new products created for our enjoyment. The bestsellers list jeep on changing. However, some products never go out of vogue. It is a special experience to know that some of the products that we use today were also used by our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers. Do comment and let me know your favorite cosmetics from the nineteenth century and beyond that you use today as well.

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