Adrien Arpel, a pioneering entrepreneur in the skin-care industry, was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, on July 15, 1941. She believes that “when you’re happy with yourself you make those around you happy,” and “when you’re honest with yourself first you are honest with everyone.” This philosophy has served her well in her life and in her work. Launching a business devoted to women’s skin care in 1959 with $400 she had earned from baby-sitting, Arpel is now president and CEO of Adrien Arpel, Inc., an enterprise with approximately 500 salons across the United States and Canada. Her mother, Ada Stark, of Polish extraction, was born in Montreal, Canada, and her father, Samuel Joachin, of Russian heritage, was born in the United States. Her parents met and married in the United States. Arpel has an older sister, Marilyn.
Arpel graduated from high school in 1959 and attended Pace University. She married Ronald Monroe Newman in New York City in 1960. The couple has one child, Lauren, who now works in both of her parents’ businesses.
Arpel describes herself as becoming an entrepreneur as soon as she left high school. When she was very young, she regarded cosmetics as a kind of magic. She decided to venture into the facial and cosmetics business after receiving conflicting advice from staff selling cosmetics in department stores. None of the salespeople could detail the ingredients in their products or could explain how these products might improve the customer’s skin. Arpel concluded that these saleswomen were selling cosmetics without being sufficiently knowledgeable about their products. She realized that there was a need in the cosmetics marketplace for a business that would educate the consumer, helping her understand how to care for her skin, and what products she needed to use at home. She decided to provide customers with a licensed cosmetologist who understood the most beneficial ingredients in skin-care products. A licensed cosmetologist could counsel women in nature-based products in a comfortable setting. Adrien Arpel also pioneered the concept of the makeover, now widely available in the cosmetics and skin-care business.
Arpel felt her busy clients would best be served in a convenient, private salon in a department store. Thus, she began offering her salon facials in major department stores, such as Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, where she was also the first to provide a place for her clients to sit in a cosmetics department.
A clever marketer and a creative product developer, Arpel has developed a niche market for the professional skin-care expert. She sells her own brand of skin-care products and makeup, which are used during the salon treatments. Arpel’s marketing strategy is to encourage customers to try her products before they buy them and to educate them in their own skin care.
From age eighteen, Arpel was determined to succeed in business. She is part of a large informal network of female executives who are friends as well as colleagues. She also has a true partnership with her husband, who runs a successful display business.
Arpel has written several beauty books and has won many professional industry awards. Bloomingdale’s honored her in 1987 as a legend in the cosmetics industry. On November 17, 1988, Pace University praised her “high level of professional success and concern for the well-being and advancement of the community and the exemplary representation of the ideals and mission of Pace University.”
Although Arpel is not a formally observant woman, she is very conscious of her Jewish heritage. She cherishes the value of a close family and considers the emphasis on the centrality of family as part of her Jewishness. She and her husband are close to their daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. They see each other often, take trips together, and celebrate the major Jewish holidays as a family.
Allen, Margaret. Selling Dreams: Inside the Beauty Business (1981); Arpel, Adrien. Interview by author. NYC, July 20, 1995; “Adrien Arpel—A Legend in Aesthetics.” Dermascope (July/August 1986): 3–4; Bergman, Joan. “Bloomie’s Loves Arpel.” Stores 69 (May 1987): 116–117; Gallani, Bess. “Salons Treat Clients to Feel of Luxury.” Advertising Age 56 (February 21, 1985): 18+.