James Leslie Younghusband first established his career in women’s cosmetics with the launch of Delica Bow on 20 August 1920. I haven’t been able to find any advertising for this product from that year but later adverts refer to it as a “liquid dressing for lashes and brows”.
The obvious success of this product leads to Younghusband expanding his product range setting up Delica Lab Inc in 1923. This fledgeling company had its headquarters at 3012 Clybourne Avenue, Chicago.
The same year Delica Lab Inc. launched “Kissproof” registering its trademark for lipstick, rouge and face powder on 17 August 1923.
The great selling point of “Kissproof” was – well the fact that it was Kissproof…. plus its waterproof qualities, the fact that it was easy to apply and didn’t require retouching. All plus points in a time when makeup, especially lipstick, was still in its infancy.
The big breakthrough for the brand seems to be the 1926 decision to commission the US artist Rolf Armstrong to create the “Kissproof Girl” using the popular actress Anna Q Nilsson as its model.
With this strong, sexy, image the company budgeted $250,000 in advertising for the year 1927 alone and an iconic advertising campaign was born.
With its clever marketing ploy of using the symbols of the glamour of Hollywood and more than a smattering of Elinor Glyn type copy along with its affordable price range Kissproof grew in success each year. It’s success so great that an advert in the late 1920s could claim that 5,000,000 women used their products daily.
By 1929 Delica Labs Inc had become Kissproof Inc, recognising the success of its main product and had opened the Kissproof Inc building in Chicago.
Whereas adverts in the mid-1920s had a more overtly sexual undertone by the end of that decade they took a more practical turn – emphasising the healing and soothing properties of the product. As the 1920s ended and applying lipstick was no longer seen as such a defiant act the advertisers told the consumers that it was no longer necessary to even carry a lipstick due to its long-lasting formula.
This change of emphasis from the lips to the product was also carried over to more luxurious packaging. A new line of products in 1929 included jewelled lipstick cases made from Catalin stone in colours including “jade green, sunset reds and canary yellow” designed to add an “accent of beauty to every ensemble”.
Lipsticks came in four different sizes “automatic”, “swivel” “day and night” and “jumbo.
A bigger change to the company structure saw it sold to the founders of Edna Wallace Cosmetics and the resulting merger led to the establishment of Hopper-Kissproof Inc and a new formula. Newspaper reports at the time told the story of how actress Edna Hopper had discovered a new no smear lipstick in Paris at the mighty cost of $2.50. Spotting the potential of the product she sent it to America where Kissproof obtained the formula. The dates are a little bit confused on this subject and I am not clear whether it was Hopper-Kissproof that obtained the formula or whether this was the stimulation for the merge of the two companies. It does, however, have all the hallmarks of a company legend being born so perhaps dates do not really matter here.
After the merger and the new formulation, the product became known as “Kissproof Indelible” but the cheaper price point was maintained with a 1931 advert citing a black and red powder swivel case at 75c, a purse size cheek rouge in red and black enamel at 50c. Shades included Theatrical, Raspberry and Orange.
Kissproof was still available in the US until the early 1940s even though in 1934 the lipstick, at least, was found to contain large amounts of the heavy metal Barium and was named and shamed in M.C. Philips’ “Skin Deep” – an expose into the hazards of the beauty industry and the ingredients found in products of the time.