Columbians Ahead of Their Time

"Women should use make-up to accentuate their most attractive feature. After the age of 25 or thereabouts, personality becomes an increasingly more attractive feature."

Hazel Bishop (1906–1998)
Barnard 1929
Research Staff, 1929-1935

Hazel Bishop concocted and sold the first smudge-proof lipstick, transforming America's post-war smile. A chemist who began her career as a dermatologist's assistant, Bishop found early success at Standard Oil (later Exxon) during World War II. There she determined the cause of the fuel deposits affecting the superchargers of aircraft engines. Following the war, Bishop continued to formulate gasoline by day, but by night she cooked up lipstick. For two years, Bishop tried to devise a lipstick that wouldn't leave oily pink bows on cups and boyfriends. By 1949 she found the solution—a stick of bromo acids that stained skin rather than coating it. With the help of investor and adman Raymond Spector, Bishop launched Hazel Bishop Cosmetics. Her lipstick was a revelation: Lord & Taylor sold out in one day. By 1953, Hazel Bishop Cosmetics was selling $10 million annually, but Spector bought the majority of stock and pushed Bishop out. Bishop produced later products—notably Leather Lav, a cleanser for ladies' gloves—but ultimately found other careers: during the 1970s she became a highly sought-after consultant on cosmetic stocks, and in the '80s she became the Revlon Chair of Cosmetics Marketing at the Fashion Institute of Technology. As Revlon chairman Michel Bergerac remarked when Bishop accepted the post: ''It is really quite an achievement to carve one outstanding career in a lifetime. To succeed in business, in finance, and in academics in only part of a life is truly an amazing thing.''

Bishop began her chemistry studies at Barnard College in the 1920s. She dreamed of becoming a doctor, but when she graduated, the Depression forced her to take a job instead. Bishop took a post assisting dermatologist A. B. Cannon at Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she was able to take graduate courses in biochemistry while working on Cannon's "Almay" line of hypoallergenic cosmetics. By 1942, Bishop had become director of dermatology in Cannon's labs. It is probable that Bishop recognized in those labs how rare and valuable her insights into cosmetic design were. As she once remarked: "Women have an insight and understanding of cosmetology a male chemist can never have. Does a man, for instance, know what happens to makeup under the hot beach sun?”


A fellow Barnard chemist

What's new in skin


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Columbians Ahead of Their Time

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