French Foundation

After hearing and reading so many positive reviews on a certain Bourjois foundation from Ruth and Lily and others, I just had to try it. Remarkably, this was my first Bourjois purchase. For some inexplicable reason I’ve never explored this line before. Well, better late than never I say.

The history of the company is fascinating. Bourjois is a private company independently owned by the Wertheimer family since 1917. (A little interesting aside, the Wertheimer’s also own Chanel. In 1924, Coco Chanel approached Pierre Wertheimer, who was then the owner of Bourjois, to help her develop her famous perfumes. A business deal Chanel later bitterly regretted—read the sordid details here. Estimated wealth of the Wertheimer fortune: $20 billion). Bourjois was originally launched in Paris in 1863 at a time when France was the world’s second leading economic power.

Joseph-Albert Ponsin was the company’s first creator; he was part actor and part genius cosmetologist. Unimpressed with the greasy face paint for the stage, he began preparing makeup and perfumes for actors and actresses in his home. The first products were waxy makeup sticks in many colours, with names like Jealous and Lovesick. The slogan on the makeup boxes was Supplier for the Theatre, but as the range was refined and expanded, it was soon replaced with Special Manufacturer of Products for Feminine Beauty.


In 1868, Ponsin entrusted his entire activity to Alexandre-Napoléon Bourjois. Monsieur Bourjois made the company eminent and successful by expanding the brand beyond the theatre, and made it an international sensation. In 1863 Bourjois created and developed the baking process for their little pots of rouge to achieve a very fine and silky powdered texture with a soft, transparent colour. In 1879 they became widely available to the public. The first shade was Cendre de Roses, still a bestseller to this day. Bourjois sells over 3.5 million iconic little pots worldwide each year.


Another of the company’s star products was Poudre de Java Illuminating Face Powder. Created in 1879, it was designed to lighten the skin and leave it silky-soft. Women immediately adopted this beauty ideal, and in 1897 two million boxes were sold worldwide. The product information was translated into five languages. To celebrate their 150th anniversary, Bourjois reissued a vintage-inspired edition of its first historical bestseller.

Original Bourjois Java Powder
Limited Edition 150th Anniversary Edition Bourjois Java Powder
150th Anniversary Edition Bourjois Java Powder

Bourjois created The Ladies Friend makeup kit in 1890 which was meant to help simplify beauty and make life easier for women. The kit included a small midnight blue cylindrical box containing lipstick, powder, a puff ,and kohl for the eyes. Bourjois also designed an ultra-thin version. Both designs were elegant and avant-garde.

bourjois_the_ladies_friendbourjois_the_ladies_friend (1)

By 1898  there were 700 (!!) products in the Bourjois range — makeup for eyes, cheeks, lips; rice powder, blush, perfume, toothpaste, polishes, hair lotions, Indian tablets which were the precursor to mascara, even a Hungarian Pomade to help arrange a gentleman’s moustache. There were some simply delightful offerings: Perfume Extracts for the Handkerchief, and Perfumed Sachets to put inside Slippers. Each Bourjois item was produced and marketed with great attention to detail, all of which was elaborated in their sales catalogue. Products were exported worldwide, and often won medals at international exhibitions for their quality and innovation.


In 1912, the famous Pastel Blushes were created. The manufacturing process was revolutionary: a mixture of powder and water was shaped and placed in round moulds, dried and then polished by hand before being put into little round pots of printed cardboard. There were a variety of shades and effects, adapted to individual styles and fashion preferences.


By 1920, Bourjois had become the largest and most successful cosmetic and fragrance company in France. Mon Parfum was created in 1924, and Soir de Paris was released in 1928. The amber, floral and spicy scent of Soir de Paris, designed by Ernest Beaux (the Russian-French chemist and perfumer who also compounded Chanel N°5 !), came in a sculptural midnight blue bottle.

In the United States, the name Soir de Paris became Evening in Paris and was extremely popular—it was an affordable perfume, but it was also an image, a romantic dream, and a way that the luxury of the bourgeoisie became accessible to the growing middle classes of the thirties.


After more than 150 years in the cosmetics business, Bourjois is still creating glamorous and exciting beauty products.

Bourjois Advertising | Model: Elena Shilnikova
Bourjois Advertising, 2012 | Model: Elena Shilnikova

Bourjois Healthy Mix Serum Foundation

A gel-based, light-weight, luminous foundation. On the Bourjois website it states that it is made from a vitamin-rich fruit therapy formula for an even complexion and an instant anti-fatigue result! The exclamation mark is theirs, not mine. Bourjois knows we want to look not only younger, but also rested. Today’s woman is active and busy, but tired. Very, very tired. I’m liking those elegant women in the vintage ads more and more.

Although I must admit to having a preference for unscented products, this is not without a fairly strong fruit fragrance (made with “litchi, goji berries and pomegranates”). This base provides light to medium coverage, looks like skin not a mask, is not cakey, blends flawlessly, has a beautiful dewy finish. It is easy to apply being a thicker gel formulation rather than a watery texture like many other foundations, it is also long lasting (Bourjois claims 16-hour coverage). Ideal for normal to dry skin types, light but buildable coverage, looks natural and healthy Definitely, and happily, not matte: it gives a healthy glow and radiance to the face. Feels like you are not wearing foundation at all. Mine is the lightest shade: 51, Vanille Clair, which is a perfect match, but the shade range is limited (only five).  Price: $28 CD.


I’ve been reaching for this every day.

Hello, Bourjois. Where have you been all my life?

Bourjois (website here); Healthy Mix Serum Foundation available online at BeautyBoutique (here). Mine purchased in store at Shoppers Drug Mart. Java Rice Powder (here); Vintage Bourjois ad (credit here); Vintage Powder Tin Photo (credit here).