By Deanna Pai. Photos: Hannah Choi/Allure.
We're going to take a wild guess and say that if you're a frequent Allure reader, you already know a lot about Kiehl's. Everyone does. When my New York City gym starting stocking the locker rooms with oversized bottles of Crème de Corps, people immediately began swiping them. (No sweat: Equinox responded by bolting them to the counters.) It's not surprising that people love Kiehl's to the point of thievery. After all, Kiehl's Midnight Recovery Eye was a 2013 Allure Best of Beauty Award winner, and even Kylie Jenner counts on Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Botanical Cleansing Oil for hydrated skin in the winter. And that's just this century. So we're going to take it back — way, way back — to tell you what you probably never knew about this old school skin-care brand.
1. You may have never heard of their best product.
Some Kiehl's products have a cult following, like the aforementioned Crème de Corps (which I carefully ration during the winter like a squirrel with its acorns), the Blue Astringent (a favorite of Andy Warhol’s), and the Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner. But everyone's missing out on the most underrated product of them all, according to Chris Salgardo, president of Kiehl’s USA: Kiehl’s Skin Rescuer. "It's a really unique product, especially if you live in places that have drastic changes in climate," says Salgardo. He never leaves home without it. "Skin Rescuer calms the skin and gives it a glow. Whether I'm feeling dry or a little bit dehydrated, whatever it is, this helps it."
2. The brand's mascot is a skeleton named "Mr. Bones."
Aaron Morse (the son of Irving Morse, apprentice to OG founder John Kiehl's) inherited the company in the 1950s. He saw the East Village flagship as a community gathering place — like a Starbucks, but with skin-care instead of coffee. So he worked to make the place about more than just skin-care, introducing both a stack of biology books and Mr. Bones, a human skeleton, as a way to encourage learning and interest kids. Now, there's a Mr. Bones in every Kiehl’s store. "He’s our mascot even though he has no skin," notes Salgardo.
3. Kiehl's is diving into the world of customizable skin-care.
You might've read about Kiehl's new customizable skincare venture when we reported on it way back when (okay fine, it was just 2016). If not, here's the deal: You can go to a Kiehl's store, tell the consultant your biggest skin-care problems, and walk away with a customized formula made of a hydrating squalane base and two boosters (depending on what those problems are). The catch: It's only available in New York City and at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco — or it was, at least. But earlier this year, Kiehl's began expanding this apothecary service to every store in the United States. Liberty, justice, and great skin for all!
4. There's a motorcycle in every single Kiehl's store.
We repeat: In every single Kiehl's store. In 1978, Aaron Morse had a fleet of 44 motorcycles of his own collection, including vintage Harley Davidsons, placed in the flagship. "It entertained the guys while the ladies shopped — and it was also a very clever way to introduce to Kiehl’s men’s products to them," says Salgardo. (They’ve since been dispersed among the stores, with six in the flagship and one everywhere else.) It’s no surprise that they’ve made an appearance in many of Kiehl's charitable fundraising efforts, like Kiehl's annual LifeRide for amfAR for HIV and AIDS awareness, the Desert Run for amfAR in 2012, and the Texas Run for Two x Two in 2013.
5. Kiehl's never stops loving its tried-and-true products.
You've got to show some respect for your elders! That's why Kiehl's is giving credit where credit is due: To the Calendula Herbal Toner, which the brand developed in the ‘60s. It became a cult favorite and stood alone since — until recently, that is. In 2014, Kiehl's finally created a cleanser (which actually won a 2014 Allure Best of Beauty Award, by the way) to join it, and this year is adding a calendula-packed face mask. "We still put hand-picked marigold flowers in it," says Salgardo. "It's all from the success of the calendula toner."
6. They test their products in the wild.
Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream is like a puffer coat for your skin. Seriously: The brand actually sponsored the six-person team of the "Greenland First Ascent" expedition in 2005, sending them up with jars of Ultra Facial Cream. (The expedition involved scaling ice-covered peaks for the first time ever. Just FYI, we're filing this under "DO NOT TRY AT HOME.") "We sent it with them because it’s meant for both everyday conditions and the harshest conditions," explains Salgardo. He managed to one-up even that with the new Ultra Facial Deep Moisture Balm. "Last year, I actually went to Alaska with a friend to test it out," says Salgardo. "It was freezing, but my skin looked good."
7. They're the history nerds of skin-care lines.
Like, Hermione Granger-level. In 1979, the Smithsonian Institution reached out to Kiehl's to collect old apothecary bottles and antiques that could go into the museum’s collection. The total: 103 items. Then, in 2004, the Smithsonian added the Abyssine Cream, Cryste Marine Cream, and Kiehl’s Original Musk Eau de Toilette. Ever the overachiever, Kiehl’s donated another 11 products last year, including the Ultra Facial Cream and, yes, the Calendula Herbal Toner. The brand usually donates interesting products or those that have been around forever. "The cult products get a vote, too," says Salgardo.
This story originally appeared on Allure.
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