NEW YORK — Georgette Klinger, the skin care innovator who gained acclaim for her upscale, European facial treatments more than 60 years ago, died Friday morning from natural causes at Lenox Hill Hospital in Manhattan, according to her daughter Kathryn Belton. Klinger was 88.
Klinger, who has been called the “Dean of Skin Care,” arrived in the U.S. in 1940 from her native Czechoslovakia with aspirations of offering her skin care knowledge to Americans. Klinger, who studied biology and skin care there, grew up learning the hardships of problem skin.
“She had an allergic reaction to makeup — a prize she won in a beauty contest,” said her daughter.
So began her quest for perfect skin.
In 1941, Klinger opened the first Georgette Klinger salon, at 509 Madison Avenue, with the financial help of several friends who believed in her natural skin care approach.
Dutifully, she concocted formulas daily for facials, using natural and fresh ingredients. Soon after opening, a successful facial for a beauty editor — followed by a glowing write-up — put her on the map.
Among her innovations, she was the first to formulate a skin care line specifically for men more than 30 years ago. In 1975, she built a retail store within the new, expanded Georgette Klinger flagship at 501 Madison Avenue. In the Eighties, Klinger discovered the benefits of combining collagen and elastin, spurring a new approach to skin care formulation. Soon after, research, development and production facilities opened in New Jersey.
Klinger also was known for being a true aesthete, being careful to always look her best and to offer beauty advice at a whim.
“She was one of those people who would give a lipstick and beauty advice to anyone she could, even to the stewardess on a plane,” without being prompted, said Belton.
Ultimately, nine Georgette Klinger salons opened in cities across the country, including Dallas, Washington D.C. and Los Angeles.
In the Eighties, Belton took the helm of the company. Klinger, who lived on Park Avenue, continued visiting her two Upper East Side locations every day.
“She was really a pioneer and innovator,” said Eileen Paley, Klinger’s senior vice president of marketing and product development. “What I find unique is that some employees have worked for her as long as 39 years. These people are so loyal to the company and a lot of that is due to the way she treated and trusted them, the same way she made time to see each client,” Paley said.
Astrid Bedrossian worked with Klinger for 35 years. She recalled many characteristics about her boss, who she described as dedicated to perfection, as well as to her pet poodle, Pushka, which she carried everywhere she went.
In 1998, the company was sold for an undisclosed amount to The Pyle Group of Madison, Wis.
Since the acquisition, the company has launched the Virtual Perfection skin care line; a new salon format, which has rolled out to several locations, including Palm Beach and 501 Madison; new packaging, and a company Web site. Last year, it acquired four Greenhouse Spa locations.
Services were held Sunday at Campbell Funeral Home in Manhattan. In addition to her daughter, Klinger is survived by two grandsons. Her husband, Jacobo Eisenberg, died more than 30 years ago.