How Charles Revson built a cosmetic empire

On this day, October 11 in the year 1905, the man who built a cosmetics empire was born in Massachusetts, United States. His name was Charles Haskell Revson, the founder of Revlon, Inc.

Charles Revson
Charles Revson (Credit: Revlon, Inc.)

Charles Revson was the son of a worker in a cigar factory. He grew up in the state of New Hampshire and never attended college. At age 17, he moved to New York and found work in a dress shop. Later, he began working in a cosmetics company selling nail polish. Bored with the company, he left to establish his owned company in the early 1930’s in the midst of the Great Depression. Together with his elder brother and a chemist named Charles Lachman, he founded Revlon Inc. with a focus on marketing nail polish. Their initial capital was a mere $300.

By dint of hard work and clever advertising, Charles Revson was able to grow the company. At first, the company concentrated on selling nail polish in bulk to beauty salons which numbered over 100,000 throughout America. Later, lipstick, shampoos, perfumes and other beauty items were added in its product offering. In the 1960s, he entered the pharmaceutical industry with the acquisition of United States Vitamins and Pharmaceutical Corporation for $65.7 million. By the 1970s, the company had more than 3,500 individual products being sold worldwide. The company went public in 1996.

Charles Revson died of cancer in 1975 at the age of 68. He married three times and had two children. At the time of his death, the company he founded became the world’s second largest cosmetics company, next only to Avon. At present, Revlon has annual revenues of over $2.4 billion and with employees of over 5,700.


One comment

  1. Interesting profile. While I’ve used several Revlon products over the years, I knew nothing about Charles Revson, the company’s founder. A excellent example of achieving success from a humble beginning.

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