1909-1956 : The first steps, constructing a model

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The first steps, constructing a model

L’Oréal d’Or

© L'Oréal Archives/Jean-Claude, All rights reserved

L’Oréal d’Or

© L'Oréal Archives/Jean-Claude, All rights reserved

In 1909, Eugène Schueller, a young chemist with an entrepreneurial spirit, founded the company that was to become the L’Oréal group. It all began with one of the first hair dyes that he formulated, manufactured and sold to Parisian hairdressers. With this, the founder of the group forged the first link in what is still the DNA of L’Oréal: research and innovation in the service of beauty.

1909

  • The birth of L’Oréal

    © L'Oréal

    Eugène Schueller graduates from France’s national chemical engineering school Ecole Nationale Supérieure de Chimie de Paris in 1904 and goes on to create the company that will later become L’Oréal, Société Française des Teintures Inoffensives pour Cheveux, on 30th July 1909.
    As a young chemist in 1907, Schueller demonstrates his capacity for new ideas by creating his first hair dye formulae under the name Oréal, using a blend of harmless chemical compounds. The dyes are an outstanding breakthrough at the time, providing a subtle range of colors in contrast to other methods on the market, which use henna or mineral salts but produce a bright, somewhat artificial look. Schueller files for a patent (n°383920) on 24th March 1908.
  • Partnership with

    © L'Oréal

    The first issue of La Coiffure de Paris is published in October 1909, featuring contributions from doctors, writers and chemists. Eugène Schueller is part of the Editorial Team and heads the science column, breaking new ground with an article on hair coloring in which he is the first to recommend patch tests. Schueller buys the magazine in 1912.

1910

  • First demonstration room for hairdressers

    © L'Oréal

    Through his determination and ambition, Eugène Schueller succeeds in convincing Paris hair stylists to use his dyes. Schueller is brimming with ideas for the new company and brings in representatives to sell his products throughout France. He also sets up a hair-coloring school on Rue du Louvre in Paris, which he personally oversees, using a former hair stylist from the Russian Court to demonstrate his ideas. Quickly grasping that his success is closely linked to that of hair stylists, he sets out to forge a special bond with the profession, which grows stronger over time.

1920

  • L’Oréal, a global business

    © L'Oréal

    With the war finally over, a new age begins. Around the world, women are working, earning money, growing more concerned about their appearance and seeking ways to prevent grey hairs from revealing their age. Oréal hair dyes are a great success, even beyond the borders of France, breaking new ground in Italy in 1910, Austria in 1911 and the Netherlands in 1913, even reaching as far afield as the United States, Canada, the UK and Brazil.

1925

  • L’Oréal d’or

    © L'Oréal Archives/ Jean-Claude, All rights reserved

    A talented Jack-of-all-trades, Eugène Schueller continues to turn his hand to a host of endeavors, making celluloid, varnish and plastics (even setting up a company in Russia!). His successes in industry only serve to strengthen his belief that research and innovation form the cornerstone of growth and success. Schueller continues to innovate in the beauty industry, unveiling L’Oréal d’Or, a groundbreaking hair-lightening product creating golden tints and lending an even more natural look to blond hair.

1928

  • Buyout of Monsavon

    © L'Oréal
    © loupot, Paris 2009

    Eugène Schueller takes over the company Savons Français, which was founded in 1920. The company’s production site, located at Rue Martre in Clichy, would later become L’Oréal’s headquarters. Eugène Schueller begins to put plans to modernize the business into action, focusing on improving quality and restyling the advertising campaign of the famous Monsavon brand.
  • O’CAP, the start of hair care

    © L'Oréal /Rudomine/DR

    (O’Cap hair lotion: lather and wash without water). With people still washing their hair relatively infrequently, this foam hair wash, drawing its name from the French term for hair lotion, Eau Capillaire, puts shampoo on the market, reflecting the premises of an educational approach held dear by Eugène Schueller: a campaign to gradually make the French more aware of personal hygiene issues.

1929

  • Immediate results… with Imédia

    © L'Oréal
    © loupot, Paris 2009

    In a bid to offer ever more subtle, lasting hair colors, Eugène Schueller seeks to develop an organic coloring solution able to penetrate the hair fiber, drawing on a patent registered a few years previously for a group of fast-penetrating dyes known as paradiamines. Imédia enjoys sudden, dazzling success, enhanced by an innovative new packaging solution unveiled in 1931: while competitors market their products in large containers with a high risk of oxidization, Schueller breaks the mold by packaging Imédia products in individual doses to enhance safety and comfort for both hair stylists and end customers.
  • Platinum blonds' secret: L’Oréal Blanc.

    © L'Oréal /DR

    Eugène Schueller is quick to realize the value of one of his first bleaching solutions, claiming: “This little bottle holds a huge industry! One day, millions of brunettes will want to be blonde.” The world of cinema was to prove him right. Hollywood stars, led by Jean Harlow—who headlined in the film “Platinum Blonde”—launched the new trend, with blond seen as the most seductive color of the time. L’Oréal Blanc bleaching powder was a huge success among top hair stylists, even giving rise to the “Platinum Blonde” club, formed by enthusiastic consumers!

1931

  • The pioneer in advertising

    © L'Oréal
    © loupot, Paris 200

    Not content to simply create new products, Eugène Schueller turns his talents to developing promotional events and inventing new advertising strategies. In 1931, he has the idea of draping a sheet over the face of a Parisian building to create a giant billboard for O’Cap hair lotion. In 1932, with radio advertising still in its early stages and commercials read from start to finish from the continuity studio, Schueller is the first to air a commercial that is sung rather than spoken. Thus the “jingle” was born.
    Schueller believed there were two types of advertising: publicité d’attaque, designed to raise interest, and publicité de rendement, designed to maximize sales.

1933

  • A new foray in the press:

    © L'Oréal / Arik Nepo, All rights reserved

    To encourage women to focus more on care products at a time when the beauty and personal hygiene industry is helping women enjoy greater freedom, Eugène Schueller publishes Votre Beauté, the first monthly women’s health & beauty magazine. The chemist-cum-manufacturer adds a further string to his bow through his work as a publisher, journalist and layout artist, all the while seeking how best to meet women’s real expectations, lifestyles and needs. The result is a fresh approach to thinking about appearance.
  • Dopal, the first soap-free shampoo

    © L'Oréal / Vitez Studio, All rights reserved

    Shampoo—taken from the Hindi word “champo”, meaning massage or to knead—has yet to become an everyday product. Not surprising given that shampoos made by hair stylists, using black soap boiled in water mixed with soda crystals, hold little appeal among consumers. L’Oréal finally gives those in the industry a real shampoo without soap (fatty alcohol sulphates) that is considerably gentler on the hair and sold in 1L bottles. Known as “Dopal”, the product range is still sold today as “Dop”.

1934

  • 62 people work in this research center.

    © L'Oréal
    © loupot, Paris 2009

    Widely sold in France, Dop is quite simply the first “modern” shampoo for the masses. Not only a major product innovation—“nothing to dissolve, nothing to heat”, with a ready-to-use formula that is gentle on the hair—but also a symbol of a new approach to household hygiene in France. Above and beyond promoting his shampoos, Schueller is especially keen to promote a gradual shift in French thinking on personal hygiene.

1935

  • The Ambre Solaire pin-up

    © Harry Meerson for L'Oréal

    1935: Women are now enjoying greater emancipation and are revealing more skin. Gone are the days of sober dress and pale skin; the sun tan is now the hallmark of health and a modern outlook. In line with this new trend, Schueller develops a skin-protection oil called Ambre Solaire. The new solution reflects a complex blend of innovative ideas including a warm, amber color, attractive scent, easy-to-hold wavy bottle design, and a pin-up to die for... The product release date is also perfect, with the French people preparing to take their first paid holidays in 1936. This was the start of the “leisure” age, with Ambre Solaire as its first icon. The rose and jasmine perfume of 1937 would soon become synonymous with holiday air.

1938

  • An original wage redistribution policy

    © L'Oréal / DR

    Eugène Schueller always believed that insufficient purchasing power was the source of economic imbalance between production and consumption. It was this belief that gave rise to his original idea of “proportional salaries”, which made wages proportional to changes in company sales. This meant the true start of an employee profit-sharing scheme, which has since been extended to employees the world over. Its success far exceeded forecasts, with 2,000 companies applying “proportional salaries” in 1947.

1939

  • L’Oréal is christened

    © L'Oréal
    © ADAGP, Paris 200

    On 4th April 1939, the Société des Teintures Inoffensives pour Cheveux officially changes its name to L’Oréal, with premises at 14 Rue Royale in Paris, still the company’s head office today.

1940

  • L’Oréal invests in training hairdressers

    © L'Oréal

    L’Oréal is now marketing increasingly sophisticated products and the number of women’s hair salons is booming. Holding onto his firm belief that L’Oréal’s success is tied to that of hair stylists, Eugène Schueller aims to cement a lasting partnership with the profession. Hence the move to set up the Ecole Technique des Arts et de la Coiffure, a school for hair stylists providing technical training, business development assistance, customer-loyalty tips and more. L’Oréal confirms its position as the preferred brand for hair stylists.

1942

  • Revolution in the soap industry

    © L'Oréal
    © ADAGP, Paris 2009

    After acquiring soap-making firm Monsavon in 1928, Schueller revealed a stroke of genius in a highly competitive market by adding 6% milk content to the Monsavon formula for improved softness and enhanced image. Not content to rest on his laurels, Schueller seeks to speed up the manufacturing process. With the help of engineers, he develops a mixing unit to produce soap uninterruptedly: more vats, more storage, more coal; but all with a perfect cadence for production in complete safety. The saponification process, detailed in three patents between 1942 and 1943, quickly wins over the soap industry. Monsavon is sold in 1961 and its plant at Rue Martre in Clichy turned into offices later to become L’Oréal world headquarters.

1945

  • The first cold perm: Oréol

    © L'Oréal /DR

    A certain Coco Chanel gives fresh impetus to the fashion for short hair, held up in curls by a perm. Unfortunately, conventional perms require heating hoods and electric rollers, both of which take up space in the salon and are somewhat uncomfortable for customers. With the launch of Oréol, a “cold perm” featuring an active acid ingredient and a setting lotion, L’Oréal revolutionises the practices of hair salons and offers women far more natural curls.

1947

  • Dop has France singing!

    © L'Oréal

    As the man behind the trend for using songs to advertise on radio in the thirties, Eugène Schueller is closely involved in the growth of the road-show radio talent contests that pave the way for popular broadcasts. In a bid to continuously enhance exposure for brands while pursuing the personal-hygiene campaign to raise awareness, Schueller creates the concept of sponsored programs, such as the Crochet Dop, travelling around France from 1947 to 1957 and attracting up to 50,000 people a day! Podiums are bedecked in Dop brand colors and products handed out to the public while the crowd cheer for their favorite singers by chanting “Dop, Dop, Dop, il est adopté par Dop!” Through sponsoring, street marketing, and a mix of conventional and new media, Eugène Schueller lays the bedrock of modern advertising.

1951

  • Imédia Crème D: Bleach and color your hair in one step

    © Harry Meerson for L'Oréal

    New strides in coloring. No more need to bleach first: the new Imédia Crème D formula lightens and colors hair at the same time, speeding up the whole process while caring better for hair fibers.
  • The Berlingot Dop

    © Photo Lorelle / L'Oréal

    What is small, colorful, scented and sold individually in large glass jars? The answer is not sweets, but the “Berlingot Dop”, small, clear plastic packets containing just enough shampoo for one usage, reflecting Eugène Schueller’s bid to combine a sense of cleanliness and fun. The Berlingot Dop is an outstanding success, particularly among children.

1952

  • Régé Color, direct coloring

    © Harry Meerson for L'Oréal


    L’Oréal creates a new color service for hair salons with Régé Color direct dying solutions, innovating on two fronts: the new formula allows the dye to sit on the surface of the hair fiber with the color fading after 6 to 8 shampoos while the fresh retail approach provides products designed for professionals but which are extremely easy to apply, allowing hair stylists to sell the same products to their customers. The resale system marks the start of a very long career and signals L’Oréal’s commitment to offering hair stylists real business-development potential.

1954

  • A major step in L'Oréal going global: headed for the USA

    © L'Oréal /DR

    After three years’ market research in the USA, the world’s largest cosmetics market, L’Oréal decides to cross the Atlantic. “Cosmetics for hair”, shortened to COSMAIR, becomes the exclusive representative for L’Oréal hair products in the United States, marking a major international milestone in company growth.
  • The campaign for clean children

    © L'Oréal
    © ADAGP, Paris 2009

    Hygiene is the main thrust of Eugène Schueller’s grand campaign. However, rather than repeatedly reminding parents of the need to get clean, he opts to appeal directly to children through a series of major awareness-raising campaigns in primary schools entitled Journeys des Infants Proper's (Clean Children Days), featuring lessons in personal hygiene on the blackboard and educational games to make personal hygiene fun, along with handouts of Dop shampoos and Monsavon soaps. All with a view to making the baby-boom generation smell nice!
  • Taking over pharmacies.

    © L'Oréal /  Bill Werts, All rights reserved

    As part of its bid to steadily gain a foothold in all distribution channels, L’Oréal, signs technical agreements with the Société hygiene Dermatologique de Vichy in 1954. In the wake of success with hair salons and perfume stores, L’Oréal thus cements its position among pharmacies, with Vichy eventually joining the L’Oréal fold in 1980.

1955

  • Plix: sustainable hair-setting

    © L'Oréal / Patrick Mollard, All rights reserved

    Plix marks a new departure in hair design that allows women to try styles not possible without a hair-strengthening solution.
    Plix is the key to perm solutions. Subsequent formulae based on the same concept are highly popular among hair stylists and women.
  • Colorelle, the first coloring shampoo

    © Pierre Derly for L'Oréal

    With Marilyn Monroe and Brigitte Bardot now the new screen stars, women around the world are seeking ways to look like their idols. Always with a view to winning over women and as part of the quest for more subtle, natural hues, L’Oréal creates its first colour-enhancing shampoo: Colorelle