The History of Lancome Cosmetics

By Lori A. Selke

One of the largest skincare and cosmetics companies in the world, Lancome comes with a true French pedigree. Its specialties have expanded from fragrances to include a full makeup line and anti-aging treatments. The high-end luxury brand's trademark symbol is a large gold rose, and Lancome often incorporates rose scents and botanicals into its products.

Vanity Fair Campaign Hollywood 2013 - Vanity Fair, Lancome And Clarisonic Beauty Luncheon With Vanity Fair Beauty Director SunHee Grinnell
credit: Charley Gallay/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
A make-up artist applying Lancome products to a client in a salon.

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Founded in France

Armand Petitjean founded Lancome in France in 1935 as a perfume house. At first, the company deliberately eschewed advertising, preferring to grow its reputation by word of mouth. Petitjean was particularly insistent on promoting the Frenchness of his new company, equating that national identity with quality and craftsmanship as well as a certain je ne sais quoi -- the indefinable spirit of France itself.

Acquired by L'Oreal

By the 1960s, increased competition with bargain brands led to financial woes for Lancome. It was acquired by L'Oreal Paris in 1964. The Petitjean family stipulated that Lancome's original vision, French-centric and prestige-oriented, must be maintained. And indeed, Lancome became L'Oreal's high-end anchor brand, preserving and extending its legacy.

Famous Faces

In 1981, actress Isabella Rossellini agreed to be the public face of Lancome. Their relationship would last another 14 years. Rossellini's contract pioneers the use of famous faces in cosmetics advertising. Since Rossellini's time, celebrity beauties such as Uma Thurman, Penelope Cruz, Emma Watson, Kate Winslet and Lupita Nyong'o have been chosen to represent the brand.

The Future is French

In 2014, Lancome signed Caroline de Maigret to be their brand ambassador. De Maigret is the author of " How To Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits." She embodies the effortlessly chic French spirit that Lancome continues to embrace. De Maigret was 39 when she joined forces with the cosmetics brand, another sign that Lancome plans to broaden the definition of beauty while maintaining its core identity of refined elegance, superior quality and undeniably French.