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5 Iconic Cosmetics

Revlon Fire and Ice
An advertisement for Revlon from 1943
An advertisement for Revlon from 1943
Apic/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Today, Revlon sells a variety of cosmetics, but when the company was founded in 1932, it sold only one: nail polish. This nail polish was different from others on the market because it was made with pigments, not dyes, which allowed it to go on smoother and last longer. In 1940, Revlon began selling lipsticks to match the nail polish, and a decade later the company began launching polish-and-lipstick combos tied to the fall and spring fashion shows. This marketing maneuver allowed women who couldn't buy the latest couture fashions to feel like they were staying current just by buying a new tube of lipstick [source: Tobias].

Revlon's marketing genius was on display when it launched its Fire and Ice shade in 1952. In advertisements starring model Dorian Leigh and shot by photographer Richard Avedon, Revlon launched the first ad campaign to overtly link makeup with sex [source: Sherrow]. Fire and Ice girls, according to the advertisement that was everywhere in 1952, are the kind of girls that close their eyes when they're kissed, are excited by sable furs, want to travel to Mars and streak their hair platinum without consulting their husbands [source: Tobias]. In other words, revolutionary women for the times, but these women were extremely exciting and attractive to men, as the numerous window displays, print ads and radio spots took great pains to emphasize. The ad campaign was a hit, and Revlon and lasting red lipstick were forever linked.