Icons like Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn have not only left behind rich contributions to the world of cinema and pop culture. Their films, photos, and interviews have left us all intrigued by their individual takes on how they presented themselves through the lens of beauty. Yet, while these two larger-than-life figures took different approaches to some aspects, they had one thing in common when it came to skincare: Erno Laszlo.
If you’re unfamiliar with the Hungarian doctor, he was an advocate of the double cleanse—a practice that Audrey Hepburn used with the Erno Laszlo brand’s Active Phelityl Oil and Active Phelityl Soap—long before TikTok and YouTube showed us all why a two-step cleanse was important to our routines. In 1927, Laszlo opened his first institute in Budapest, complete with a lab where he formulated personalized treatments, including the custom Phormula 3-1 made to heal the acne of Princess Stephanie of Hungary.
Over a decade later, Laszlo moved to New York and opened his first stateside institute on Fifth Avenue in 1939, with screen sirens like Katharine Hepburn and Greta Garbo among his first clients. The members-only institute had up to a monthlong wait. Laszlo’s impact on beauty hasn’t let up, and Patricia Schuffenhauer, chief product officer of Erno Laszlo, tells us all about the nearly 100-year-old brand.
Schuffenhauer tells Byrdie, “Dr. Erno Laszlo had a mission to support and encourage people in pursuing their life ambitions by providing science-based solutions that restored their skin to its optimum health. His pioneering approach to enabling self-care and confidence through customized skin rituals is trusted by icons of the past and present.” Schuffenhauer says that Laszlo’s approach wasn’t just about treating the skin; he also focused on overall wellness, a practice we have been discussing and adopting more now than ever.
FOUNDED BY: Dr. Erno Laszlo, 1927
BASED IN: New York
BEST KNOWN FOR: Skincare products
MOST POPULAR PRODUCTS: Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar, Shake-It Tinted Treatment, and Vitality Treatment Mask
FUN FACT: Dr. Erno Laszlo worked with Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis.
OTHER BRANDS YOU’LL LOVE: Estée Lauder, Lancôme, and Clinique
“Dr. Laszlo famously coined the phrase ‘psycho-cosmetology’ as the art and science he employed to treat his clients,” she tells us. “At a time when dermatological science focused on the treatment of disease, his focus was on ‘understanding and addressing the connection between emotional well-being, the physiology of skin health, and the link to feeling [beautiful]. We continue to believe and promote the balance of mental health and a strong skincare ritual as the cornerstone of healthy, younger-looking skin.”
Schuffenhauer shares that the Erno Laszlo brand’s mission remains the same, as the beauty industry continues to see rapid change. “Throughout our time in the skincare wellness space, we have empowered women to reveal their best skin,” she tells Byrdie. “Since the beginning, Erno Laszlo has been devoted to delivering products with scientific efficacy behind them. The ingredients and technology used within our formulas all have a stated function within the formula or on a client’s face. As the beauty industry evolves, we try to be flexible and adapt: We stay on the forefront of raw materials and science, while also educating and becoming more transparent as our consumers become more knowledgeable and hungry for information about their skincare products.”
If you’re curious about whether you can try some of the products Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis once used, the answer is yes (we’ll share those with you below). There is even a product Dr. Laszlo created for Marilyn Monroe in the 1950s to heal a scar on her stomach after she had her appendix removed. It’s called the Phormula 3, and it will make its debut in fall 2021 as Phormula 3-10. Keep reading to learn more about this legacy brand’s signature products.
Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar
“The Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar, which Jackie Kennedy used, can still be used today to clean and gently exfoliate [the] skin,” Schuffenhauer tells us. Formulated with Dead Sea mud, charcoal, and glycerin, this famed cleansing bar washes away the day without overdrying the skin.
Hydra-Therapy Cleansing Duo
“Audrey Hepburn utilized [the] Active Phelityl Oil and Active Phelityl Soap to double-cleanse her skin every day,” Schuffenhauer shares. “Today, modern-day devotees can capture the same experience using the Hydra-Therapy Cleansing Duo.” If you’re interested in giving this cleansing duo a go, the brand recommends using the antioxidant-rich cleansing oil and safflower-seed-oil- and glycerin-infused cleansing bar together.
Shake-It Tinted Treatment
“The Shake-It Tinted Treatment, which was a favorite of Marilyn Monroe, was brought back last year in collaboration with the Makeup Museum,” Schuffenhauer tells us. The tinted toner treatment, which comes in a universal shade, is formulated with glycerin, citric acid, calcium carbonate (helps absorbs surface oils), and non-drying cosmetic-grade alcohol to help tighten pores.
Citric acid is an alpha-hydroxy acid extracted from citrus fruits. It promotes exfoliation, acts as a natural astringent, and is a good source of antioxidants.
Vitality Treatment Mask
This two-step mask—infused with magnesium carbonate sourced from the Dead Sea—lets you bring the spa home. Schuffenhauer says, “When the two phases (powder and liquid) are mixed, it creates a modeling mask that reveals hydrated, plump skin and refines pores instantly. It may get messy, but the results are worth it.”
Think about this essence like science in a bottle. It’s formulated with patented microfluidic technology, which enables thousands of encapsulated oil droplets (bubbles) to float and keeps each bubble in a protective membrane that holds meadowfoam and raspberry oil, which only disappears once the Micro Essence hits the skin. This essence brightens, hydrates, and improves skin texture over time.
Phelityl Night Cream
“Phelityl Night Cream [is] a lightweight, mattifying cream that’s rich in essential fatty acids (essential to healthy skin function) to restore skin hydration levels,” Schuffenhauer explains. “Our clients in Asia have nicknamed it ‘tofu cream’ because of its bouncy texture.”
Detox Cleansing Oil
This charcoal- and shea-butter-infused cleansing oil helps to hydrate and cleanse the skin. In addition to using the cleansing oil after a long day, Schuffenhauer recommends following up the oil cleanser with the Sea Mud Deep Cleansing Bar.