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Moment 19: Fountain of Youth

Estée Lauder transformed American fragrance in 1953 when, in a provocative advertisement, she introduced her Youth Dew—a perfume that doubled as a bath oil.

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Estée Lauder in 1961

Estée Lauder in 1961.

Photo By EVENING STANDARD/GETTY IMAGES

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWD 100 issue 11/01/2010

Estée Lauder transformed the nature of the American fragrance market with the launch of Youth Dew in 1953. While previously women did not buy perfume for themselves—that was left to their beaus and husbands—Youth Dew changed all that, with its dual billing as a bath oil that doubled “as a delicious perfume,” according to the original ad. The ad featured what was considered at the time a risqué photo of a nude woman getting ready to take a bath. The copy was equally provocative, especially considering it was the early Fifties. “Live a little, darling,” it teased. “Romance begins at bath time.” The product was designed as a toiletry item but had the concentration of essential oils equal to that of a perfume. A distinctive scent that is still sold today—in fact, it is credited for introducing the American market to rich, spicy Orientals—it always held a special place in its creator’s heart. In 1978, as Yves Saint Laurent launched Opium, Lauder quipped to WWD, “When I saw Saint Laurent’s Opium, I nearly passed out,” she said. “Opium is my Youth Dew with a tassel.”