How Kiehl's Has Kept it Real Since 1851

·Senior Editor

Photo: Keate

164 years ago, what we know now as Kiehl’s opened as a small apothecary in New York City. It focused on homeopathic and herbal remedies, essential oils, and above all else, keeping their local community happy, healthy, and looking and feeling their best.

Related: This Really Works: Kiehl’s Men’s Oil Controlling Spray

With an expertise in chemistry and a penchant for charity, the brand remains a prominent leader in the skincare world, despite their refusal to advertise. It's gained attention through countless creative collaborations with artists, celebrities, and do-gooders who share in the brand’s enthusiasm to innovate and support important cultural, societal, and environmental causes. And also because their products really work. Have scaly, thirsty hands? What lotion trumps their Ultimate Hand Salve ($15). If you’re seeking styled hair with moisture that isn’t greasy, Creme with Silk Groom ($16) has been an industry mainstay since the ‘80s. And when you’re totally out of hostess ideas, there isn’t a woman alive who’d turn down a luxurious bottle of Creme de Corp ($11).

Whether you are a die-hard Kiehl’s addict or not yet acquainted with the brand, you’ll want to take a gander at the fascinating and philanthropic history that has the Yahoo Beauty staff waiting with anticipation to see what it cooks up next.

Related: The House of Creed’s Royal History

Pear Tree Corner. Photo: Kiehl’s

1851: Brunswick Apotheke opens in New York City

The doors open to the brand’s permanent East Village home on the corner of 3rd Avenue and 13th Street. The location was known as Pear Tree Corner, after governor Peter Stuyvesant planted one there in the mid-1600s. It was later destroyed, and replaced again in 2003.

1894: Apprentice John Kiehl buys the store and changes the name to Kiehl Pharmacy

As the neighborhood transforms from farmland to a more urban setting, he creates skin and hair treatments for locals.

1921: The first Kiehl’s brand products hit shelves

Irving Morse, John Kiehl’s apprentice, takes over the pharmacy, but keeps the name. He broadens the medicinal offerings to include teas, herbs, tinctures, honeys.

Inside the apothecary. Photo: Kiehl’s

1950: Irving Morse’s son, Aaron Morse takes over and expands

He launches grooming products for men and women, and in the 1960s, he launches a line of men’s shaving products.

1963: Kiehl’s Original Musk Oil ($35) launches

It’s still carried and adored today.

1964: Kiehl’s Blue Astringent ($18) hits shelves

Recently the brand launched a limited edition version with photographer and artist Christopher Makos, the man who taught Andy Warhol how to use his first camera. Warhol himself loved this blue stuff back in the day!

Late 1960s: Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner ($21) launches

Calendula petals are still hand-inserted into every bottle.

Original Musk Oil. Photo: Kiehl’s

1970s: The Morse family entices their customers with lots of free samples

A practice Kiehl’s is still known for today. 

1971: Lip Balm # 1 ($7) arrives

The cold weather aid continues to keep dry, parched lips at bay for decades.

1975: Kiehl’s opens their first beauty counter

The West Coast can finally get their fix at the Neiman Marcus in Beverly Hills. The brand maintains a low profile with very selective locations.

1978: An in-store museum? Why not!

In order to get more men interested in the shop, Aaron Morse displays his own vintage Harley Davidson and Indian motorcycles in the New York store.

The storefront. Photo: Kiehl’s

1979: Kiehl’s enters the Smithsonian

Aaron Morse’s pharmaceutical company has some serious bragging rights. They created the first fluoride treatment, helped develop penicillin, and supplied the government with an aloe vera cream to treat radiation burns, among other huge successes. The Smithsonian Institution’s Public Health and Pharmacy collection honored his contributions, and featured 103 Kiehl’s products, which are now part of their permanent archive.

1991: Jami Morse, Aaron’s daughter creates a baby line

After taking over the company in 1988, she teams up with a doctor for a pediatrician-tested line of baby products. The lip balm is still available and rumor has it some new baby items may be in the works.

1996: Magic Johnson designs a bottle of bubbly

Bath bubbles, that is. 100% of the profits from Kiehl’s Magic’s Elixir Foaming Relaxing Bath are donated to the Magic Johnson Foundation.

1997: Kiehl’s Hand Care for a Cure launches

100 % of the profits are donated to amfAR (American Foundation for AIDS Research).

1997: Equine products arrive

As a well-known horse rider, Jami Morse’s daughter, Nicoletta, inspires shampoo, conditioner, and grooming aid for horses.

2000: Kiehl’s is acquired by L’Oreal USA

Brand spreads while maintaining its intimate, indie feel. 

2003: 1,000 customers join a waiting list for the Abyssine Collection

The brand’s first anti-aging collection launched in 2004, but over-eager fans couldn’t wait.

2004: Kiehl’s Original Musk Eau de Toilette ($43) arrives.

The scent continues to be popular amongst women and men.

2006: Kiehl’s partners with NRDC on www.clickforgreenland.com

After sponsoring a team of explorers to visit the remote peaks of Eastern Greenland in 2005, the brand continued to raise awareness about the effects of global warming.

February 2008: Kiehl’s heads backstage at New York Fashion Week

As the exclusive sponsor of Derek Lam’s Fall 2008 show, skincare becomes increasingly important for enhancing the skin of models on the runway.

October 2008: Brad Pitt helps launch “Aloe Vera” Biodegradable Liquid Body Cleanser.  100% of net profits go to JPF Eco Systems, supporting global environmental initiatives.

KAWS x Kiehl’s. Photo: Kiehl’s

December 2009: Kiehl’s partners with street artist KAWS

For the first of an ongoing tradition of limited edition charitable holiday goods, KAWS designs labels for Creme de Corps with 100% of net proceeds going to RxART, which uses art to heal in pediatric hospital rooms.

April 2010: “Friends of Kiehl’s” create label art

Julianne Moore, Jeff Koons, Pharrell Williams and Malia Jones decorate limited bottles of Acaí Damage Protecting Toning Mist with 100% of net proceeds benefitting the Rainforest Alliance.

August 2010: Kiehl’s inaugural LifeRide for amfAR begins!

To generate increased awareness and support for HIV/AIDS, Kiehl’s sponsors a six day motorcycle ride from San Diego to San Francisco with 100% of net proceeds from a Limited Edition Ultra Facial Moisturizer SPF 15 ($19) to benefit amfAR.

December 2010: Artist Jeff Koons creates limited Creme de Corps labels

100% of net proceeds worldwide benefit The Koons Family Institute, which combats all forms of child exploitation. The partnership reemerges in December 2011.

Jeff Koons x Kiehl’s. Photo: Kiehl’s

July 2011: Kiehl’s opens Spa 1851 in New York’s Upper East Side

The offer a range of skin, body, and hair treatments for men and women in a cool space with an apothecary feel.

March-April 2012: Desert Run for amfAR

The five-day motorcycle ride from Las Vegas to Los raises $25,000 for amfAR, and debuts a new custom Kiehl’s chopper. 

April 2012: Recycle and Be Rewarded

This in-store program lets customers to exchange empty Kiehl’s bottles for free products. Florence Welch, Mark Ruffalo, Rosario Dawson, and Spike Lee limited edition label art for Kiehl’s Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Masque ($23) with 100% of net proceeds to benefit Recycle Across America. 

December 2012: Legendary Pop artist Kenny Scharf partners with Kiehl’s for the 4th annual Limited Edition Creme de Corps Holiday Collection, with 100% of the net profits up to $200,000, to benefit children’s causes worldwide. Scharf designs Kiehl’s first fully wrapped Kiehl’s product, a 16.8 oz. Creme de Corps entirely wrapped in his art. 

March 2013: Kiehl’s donates $50,000 to DonorsChoose.org

Proceeds from the purchase of the limited edition Powerful-Strength Line-Reducing Concentrate ($58) go directly to the school of a customer’s choice to help students in need.

December 2013: A barbershop opens in NYC’s Hell’s Kitchen

It becomes a haven for shaving, grooming, and spiffing up gentleman in the brand’s hometown.

January 2014: Kiehl’s goes to Brooklyn

Its sixth New York location opens in Brooklyn Heights. For more locations worldwide click here.

May 2014: The brand goes outer limits

Kiehl’s looked to space for innovation, using Aerolite (an insulating material used in space exploration) to control oil on the skin. To celebrate the brand sent its Oil Eliminator 24-Hour Anti-Shine Moisturizer for Men ($24) into space, on a specially built rig.

August 2014: The 5thLifeRide for amfAR

Last year’s ride went from Harley-Davidson’s headquarters in Milwaukee to New York City. The brand has raised over $1,025,000 for amfAR and donated around $3,000,000 overall to support HIV/AIDS awareness.

December 2014: Kiehl’s launches it’s 63rd store.

Bethseda, Maryland becomes the next lucky city.