If you have ever walked into a Kiehl’s shop, a few things may have caught your eye in addition to the neat rows of clinical looking products. Every Kiehl’s boutique has a motorcycle as well as a resident skeleton, and the white-coat wearing staffers are more than happy to give you generous amounts of samples. Here’s a closer look at the origins of this popular brand, Kiehl’s skincare products, and is it right for you?
What Is Kiehl’s?
Kiehl’s started as an apothecary in 1851, with a location on Third Avenue and 13th Street in New York – that location is still the company’s flagship store. Irving Morse, owner John Kiehl’s apprentice, is credited with expanding what the pharmacy sold to include teas, herbs and Kiehl’s branded products, such as Original Musk Oil. Over the years Kiehl’s became known for its “try before you buy” motto and for listing its ingredients on the products, which was considered unusual at the time. Irving’s son, Aaron Morse, took the company in a new direction by creating products such as Calendula Herbal-Extract Toner, Blue Astringent Lotion, Kiehl’s Lip Balm #1, and Ultra Facial Moisturizers, which are all still sold today. The company grew by word of mouth as it has never advertised, and Kiehl’s made headlines for sponsoring the 1988 Mount Everest Expedition, where the climbers took several Kiehl’s products along on their journey. In 2000, Kiehl’s was sold to L’Oreal, which also owns Lancôme, Maybelline and Urban Decay.
Today there are over 250 Kiehl’s stores worldwide. And yes, in addition to those text-heavy labels on the products, there is a motorcycle in every single Kiehl’s store thanks to Aaron Morse, who dispersed his personal collection of motorcycles among all the company’s stores. And the skeleton? That was Morse’s idea too, who decorated the New York flagship with books on biology as well as a skeleton to engage customer’s curiosity.
What Does Kiehl’s Sell?
Kiehl’s has an extensive collection of face and body products, including Kiehl’s moisturizers, masks, face wash, serums and eye creams. The company also has specific lines for babies and men, and sells fragrance. Here’s a closer look.
Facial Fuel Energizing Face Wash is a gel face wash for men, formulated with caffeine, menthol, vitamin E and extracts of lemon and orange. Kiehl’s face wash range also includes the Ultra Facial Cleanser and the Calendula Deep Foaming Cleansing face wash.
The Super Multi-Corrective Cream can be used twice a day, and is designed to helps visibly reduce wrinkles and fine lines.
Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Mask works to add a dose of moisture to the skin, thanks to calendula and aloe in a lightweight gel.
Blue Astringent Herbal Lotion is a toner designed for oily skin, and is formulated with camphor to give skin a cooling effect, along with menthol and the humectant sodium PCA.
Age Defender Eye Repair is an anti-aging eye cream for men that lifts, firms and reduces the appearance of dark circles thanks to rye seed extract and blurring minerals.
Super Multi-Corrective Eye-Opening Serum contains hyaluronic acid and botanical extracts to give the eye area a boost.
Ultimate Strength Hand Salve is a rich cream formulated with avocado oil, eucalyptus oil and sesame seed oil.
Deluxe Hand & Body Lotion with Aloe Vera & Oatmeal is a lightweight body lotion that is offered in three scents- grapefruit, lavender and coriander.
Body Fuel Deodorant & Antiperspirant is a men’s deodorant containing caffeine, vitamin C and zinc.
Cannabis Sativa Seed Oil Herbal Concentrate is a calming face oil designed to be used by anyone with acne or inflamed skin.
Rare Earth Deep Pore Cleansing Mask helps minimize pores and detoxify skin with Amazonian white clay.
What Are Some of the Most Popular Kiehl’s Products?
Some of the best selling Kiehl’s products include Kiehl’s Ultra Facial Cream, which is a rich but lightweight moisturizer that leaves skin hydrated without looking greasy.
Crème de Corps is a thick body lotion with the consistency of buttercream frosting, and contains shea butter and beta-carotene.
Midnight Recovery Concentrate is an evening facial oil containing lavender essential oil, evening primrose oil and squalane.
What Ingredients Are in Kiehl’s Products?
Kiehl’s products are formulated with plenty of botanical extracts, and the company says that 95% of its formulas contain at least one natural or natural origin raw material. Ingredients include jasmonic acid, which is secreted by plants and thought to help reduce wrinkles; beech tree extract, thought to improve skin’s firmness, the antioxidants vitamin C, vitamin E and turmeric; as well as coconut oil and cocoa butter. Many Kiehl’s products contain commonly used skincare ingredients such as hyaluronic acid, which holds up to 1,000 times its weight in water, and caffeine, a stimulant that helps reduce puffiness around the eyes.
Is Kiehl’s Cruelty Free?
Kiehl’s is owned by L’Oréal, and according to the company, L’Oréal “does not test any of its products or any of its ingredients on animals and has been at the forefront of alternative methods for over 30 years.”
Where Can I Buy Kiehl’s Products?
Kiehl’s products are sold at its stand alone stores, as well as department stores including Neiman Marcus, Lord & Taylor, Barneys, Macy’s and Nordstrom. It is also sold at Sephora and online at Walmart.
How Much Do Kiehl’s Products Cost?
Kiehl’s products are priced at a mid range level that are more expensive than drugstore products but would not be the priciest at a department store. The Ultra Facial Cream sells for $30, and Calendula Herbal Extract Alcohol-Free Toner is priced at $21. The Amino Acid Shampoo is $20, and Nurturing Baby Cream is $19. Lip Balm #1 retails for $9.50. One of the most expensive products is the Hydro-Plumping Re-Texturizing Serum Concentrate, at $78.
Do Kiehl’s Products Work?
When trying to decide if a product works, it’s important to keep in mind that everyone’s skin may react differently to the same product. One cream that leaves a person with glowing, refreshed looking skin may cause breakouts in another person, or do nothing at all, so a little trial and error is always needed when finding the right products for yourself.
That said, Kiehl’s has been around for a long time with plenty of devoted customers and has also won many industry awards. The Calendula & Aloe Soothing Hydration Mask scooped up an Elle International Beauty Award in 2018, and the Ultra Facial Cleanser won an Allure Best of Beauty Award in 2011; the magazine gave the same award to the Kiehl’s Midnight Recovery Eye in 2013. Oprah and plenty of supermodels have declared their love for Crème de Corps, and the company says it has been best-seller for four decades, with an average of 1.5 containers of the cream selling every minute.
Dig into the reviews on Sephora, and they are largely positive, with most products garnering 4-5 stars and 20,000 “loves.” The Creamy Eye Treatment with Avocado gets 4.3 stars, with reviewers praising its hydrating properties – “I have major dark circles. I’ve been using this eye cream for years. Whenever I try something new to experiment my under eyes beg for it back. Its luxurious and creamy on application and it mixes really well with concealer, keeping your eyes hydrated ALL DAY.” Those who didn’t like it said it was too thick or simply didn’t work for them– “very thick and hard blend on skin.”
The Ultra Facial Moisturizer gets 3.8 stars and over 3,000 loves. “I have been using this product for years and I always go back to it. Possibly one of the only sunscreens that doesn’t break me out, so that’s always a plus considering I have pretty sensitive skin. It is a bit greasy but most sunscreens are so I don’t really mind,” while detractors found it too rich for their skin type. “I thought that this would be a lightweight moisturizer with SPF for oily skin but this is straight up too oily. It also smells and feels like sunscreen! I was looking for something that is a good daily use, but I HATE applying sunscreen.”
What Are Some Alternatives to Kiehl’s?
Kiehl’s may not be the right choice for everyone, or perhaps you are looking for a skincare brand that is more streamlined, because a wide variety of products can be overwhelming. Consider Formulyst and Advanced Dermatology.
Formulyst’s philosophy is long-term and effective skincare. The brand wants to help its customers achieve their best looking skin, rather than covering it up with makeup. The comprehensive line of products targets everything from wrinkles to dark spots and dry skin. Some of the products designed to help improve skin’s texture include Formulyst Retexturing and Perfecting Serum. The serum is powered by gentle but effective alpha hydroxy acid (AHA) which dissolves dead skin cells, leaving behind fresher, smoother looking skin.
Formulyst’s Anti-Dark Circle Eye Cream helps reduce puffiness and dark circles with the help of vitamins, amino acids and minerals. The potent cream contains three naturally-derived ingredients – chenopodium quinoa seed extract, caffeine and butchers broom extract – that work together to help leave the delicate eye area looking smoother and brighter. When it comes to fighting wrinkles, there’s one ingredient that is the gold standard– retinol, a vitamin A derivative. Retinol is the key ingredient in Formulyst’s Anti-Aging Night Cream. What makes this formula different is that it contains a high dose of retinol but it’s also packed with ultra-soothing and hydrating safflower seed oil and jojoba to lock moisture in and soothe the skin.
If you like the simplicity of a skincare kit, consider Advanced Dermatology. This no nonsense brand offers a pared down approach to skincare. The packaging is simple and streamlined, and the products bring skincare back to the basics. The kit contains just six essential items including a daily cleanser; serum; anti-wrinkle firming treatment; night cream; day cream and an eye cream. In other words, everything you need to achieve your best possible looking skin.