Long-lasting lipstick was one of the first modern cosmetics of its kind, one that took advantage of advances in chemistry and was designed with improved customer experience in mind. The product was the brainchild of entrepreneur, inventor, and chemist Hazel Gladys Bishop, who demonstrated throughout her life that an exceptional combination of persistence, resilience, and intelligence makes success possible in a variety of fields.
Born in Hoboken, New Jersey, on August 17, 1906, Bishop completed a bachelor’s degree in chemistry at New York’s Barnard College in 1929 and took graduate courses in the evenings at Columbia University. In 1935, she took a job as an assistant in a dermatological laboratory at the College of Physicians and Surgeons, where she worked with leading dermatologist, Dr. A. Benson Cannon, who, with Bishop’s help, would later launch the hypoallergenic cosmetics line known as Almay. Seven years later, in 1942, she began working as an organic chemist for the Standard Oil Development Company, designing fuels for airplanes during World War II. In 1945, she joined the Socony Vacuum Oil Company, where she did similar work until 1950.
Bishop, inspired by her experience working with Cannon, had been conducting experiments of her own in her spare time with the aim of establishing her own business one day. This drive came from her mother, who always told her that having one’s own business was the best route to an independent life. Bishop’s personal experience as a woman in the workforce at a time when women were just beginning to take on full time work outside the home gave her a lucrative idea. She thought a smudge-proof, long-lasting lipstick that wouldn’t come off on coffee cups, shirtsleeves, and the like was something that professional woman needed and would appreciate.
She began working with staining dyes that would actually stain color into the skin, mixing them with oils and molten wax. When she had the mixture she wanted, she molded it and singed it smooth and glossy. The product was ready for launch by 1949. In 1950, she raised some capital and established Hazel Bishop, Inc. to manufacture "Lasting Lipstick." She enlisted the help of advertising pro Raymond Spector to help her launch the product in exchange for stock in her company. He helped her form the idea of calling it “kissable” lipstick, an idea that proved successful. Bishop’s Long-Lasting Lipstick was an immediate success, and rival cosmetics companies soon followed her lead with copycat products. By 1953, the product was making Hazel Bishop, Inc. more than $10 million per year.
Bishop served as president of the company until 1951 after an unfortunate dispute between her and Spector resulted in a lawsuit and the loss of her position. A settlement came in 1954. By then she had moved on, however, to form Hazel Bishop Laboratories, with the aim of developing consumer chemical products. Among her successful results were a leather cleaner called Leather Lav and personal care and other cosmetic products such as solid-stick perfumes.
In 1962, Bishop left this business to run on its own and tried out yet another career. She joined the Wall Street brokerage firm of Bache and Company and found success as a financial analyst. Later, she joined the firm Evans and Company and for a decade served as a respected consultant on cosmetics and pharmaceutical stocks. Finally, in 1978, she left Wall Street to enter academics, accepting an invitation in 1980 to take on the role of Revlon Chair of Cosmetics Marketing at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, where she helped the school launch its Cosmetology, Fragrance, and Toiletries program. With a great many speeches and association and club memberships, she helped to drive home the point that chemistry was of utmost importance when it came to the development of new cosmetics. She died on December 5, 1998 in Rye, New York at the age of 92.