The beauty world is extremely transitional, ebbing and flowing with the latest trends, and while some products are fleeting, others stand the test of time. It’s natural selection, really—a prime example of survival of the fittest. Take, for example, the Mason Pearson hairbrush ($230): It’s been a hairstylist (and customer) favorite since the early 1900s while some its peers have long since collected dust on discount-store shelves. Why is this, you ask? A successful product is one that not only works extremely well but is also practical (sorry, Dr Pepper–flavored lip chaps of yore—we still love you, though!).
When you purchase it, you know what you’re getting, plain and simple, even if the label has changed a bit over the years.
Below, take a look at how some of the most beloved cult products have changed through the ages.
You may know Noxzema ($4) as a tingly-fresh paste-like face wash, but did you know that it was originally developed as a sunburn remedy? Then, when a customer exclaimed it “knocked [their] eczema,” the brand’s name was born.
Back in the 1950s, Revlon created a sultry campaign for its Fire & Ice lipstick and nail enamel, with a slogan reading, “For you who love to flirt with fire… who dare to skate on thin ice…” The crimson hue was presumably suited for the compelling, confident, and powerful woman. Today, you can buy that same Revlon red in a variety of formulas, like its Super Lustrous Creme Lipstick ($8).
Sally Hansen and her husband (who was a chemist) crafted the perfect nail polish in the late 1950s—one that was referred to as a “nail clinic in a bottle.” Strengthen your own digits today with Sally Hansen’s Hard as Nails Xtreme Wear Nail Color ($3).
Sea Breeze’s first venture was an antiseptic for minor cuts and scrapes, which makes sense as the tingly formula we know today kills acne-causing bacteria and tightens pores like a champ. Try Sea Breeze Astringent ($7) to feel its healing power for yourself.
Beloved by celebrities and mere mortals alike, Smith’s famous Rosebud Salve ($6) was first created to fix a number of skin ailments, though its ability to remedy dry, chapped lips is its real claim to fame.
In search of a revolutionary new scent for the modern woman, Coco Chanel met a perfumer who spent many months crafting the perfect blend for her. When it was time to reveal his work, he numbered 10 samples: 1 through 5 and 20 through 24. Of course, Chanel chose sample number five. The perfume, Chanel No. 5 ($100), is infused with notes of jasmine, rose, vanilla, sandalwood, and an overall freshness, a trait that was very important to Chanel.
Chances are you’ve seen a jar of Pond’s Cold Cream ($5) in your great-grandmother’s, grandmother’s, and/or mother’s medicine cabinets. It’s a suds-free way to remove every inch of your makeup while moisturizing your skin like no other.
Yardley London took on the global market in the late 1800s with its signature English lavender soap (among many other scents, like Crushed Carnation above) that it’s known for today. Lather up with your own Yardley London English Lavender Naturally Moisturizing Bath Bar ($3) for smooth skin and an intoxicatingly sweet scent.
Coty Airspun Face Powder ($6) was the first setting powder I ever purchased. My mom told me to get it because “it’s been around for so long, so it has to be good.” Sure enough, it set my foundation all day long and created a smooth, poreless finish.
What’s your favorite cult-classic beauty product? Sound off below!