Arden was born Florence Nightingale Graham in Woodbridge, Ontario, where she lived until she was twenty-four years old. Joining her elder brother in New York City, she briefly worked as a bookkeeper for the E.R. Squibb Pharmaceuticals Company. While working there, she spent hours in their lab, learning about skincare. She then worked for Eleanor Adair, an early beauty culturist, as a "treatment girl." In 1909, Arden formed a partnership with Elizabeth Hubbard, another culturist. When the partnership dissolved, she coined the business name "Elizabeth Arden" from her former partner and from Tennyson's poem "Enoch Arden."
Read Elizabeth Arden's FBI file. In 1912, Arden travelled to France to learn beauty and facial massage techniques used in the Paris beauty salons. She returned with a collection of rouges and tinted powders she had created. In an era when it was only acceptable for stage performers to wear makeup, Arden introduced modern eye makeup to North America. She also introduced the concept of the "makeover" in her salons.
Arden collaborated with A. Fabian Swanson, a chemist, to create a "fluffy" face cream. The success of the cream, called Venetian Cream Amoretta, and corresponding lotion, named Arden Skin Tonic, led to a long-lasting business relationship. This revolutionized cosmetics, bringing a scientific approach to formulations.
In 1915 she married Thomas J. Lewis, a banker, thus becoming an American citizen. The same year she began international operations. During the 1920s and 1930s, Arden was constantly competing with Helena Rubenstein and Dorothy Gray. Opening salons across the world allowed Arden to compete in other markets besides the U.S.. By the end of 1930's, it was said that "There are only three American names that are known in every corner of the globe: Singer sewing machines, Coca Cola, and Elizabeth Arden." A fact proved by Heinrich Harrer in his book Seven Years in Tibet, where he stated that it's possible to buy Arden's product even in Tibet.
During World War II, Arden recognized the changing needs of the American woman entering the work world. She showed women how to apply makeup and dress appropriately for careers outside the home. She created a lipstick called Montezuma Red, for the women in the armed forces that would match the red on their uniforms.
Arden's drive for success cost her marriage to Lewis. They divorced in 1934. A second marriage to a Russian prince only lasted 13 months.
Although most of her commercial success was in cosmetics, she also pioneered restorative musical exercises based on yoga. She started a fashion business in 1943 with notable designers like Charles James and Oscar de la Renta on staff. She was on the cover of the May 6, 1946 issue of Time magazine.
Arden is also notable for creating foundations that matched a person's skin tone; creating the idea of the "Total Look" in which lip, cheek, and fingernail colors matched or coordinated; and she was the first to make a cosmetics commercial shown in movie houses.
She would use the name Maine Chance for her exclusive resort and health spa on Long Pond in Mount Vernon, Maine, catering to such clientele as Mamie Eisenhower. At one time, the resort and its operating farm produced much of the food for the spa and was a significant employer in the town. Arden used the name Maine Chance Farm for her thoroughbred horse racing and breeding operation in Lexington, Kentucky. In 1931 she had bought her first horse at the Fasig-Tipton sales at the Saratoga Race Course and in the nineteen forties and fifties she built Maine Chance Farm into a major force in American Thoroughbred horse racing. In 1945, Star Pilot and Beaugay were the Eclipse Award colt and filly champions, and her stable was the leading money-winner in the United States. In 1947 her colt Jet Pilot, trained and ridden by future Hall of Famers Tom Smith and Eric Guerin won the Kentucky Derby. In 1948, she also acquired the great filly Busher as a broodmare from a spectacular auction conducted by Louis B. Mayer. Busher was not only inducted into the Hall of Fame, she ranked #40 in Blood-Horse magazine List of the Top 100 U.S. Racehorses of the 20th Century. In 1954, her filly "Fascinator," won the Kentucky Oaks. For her contribution to the racing industry, in 2003 Elizabeth Arden Graham was posthumously inducted into the Canadian Horse Racing Hall of Fame.
In recognition of her contribution to the cosmetic industry, she was awarded the Légion d'Honneur by the French government in 1962.
She died in New York City in 1966 and was interred in the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Sleepy Hollow, New York under the name Elizabeth N. Graham. Her estate was worth $30 to $40 million dollars (US) and she had over a hundred salons worldwide.
Her cosmetics company continues to trade today, and was bought from Unilever in 2003 by FFI, a New York company. They changed their name to Elizabeth Arden, and are listed on the NASDAQ (RDEN). The current 'face' of Elizabeth Arden is Catherine Zeta Jones. They also hold the license to the Hilary Duff fragrance "With Love," and Britney Spears fragrances, "Curious" and "Fantasy" and "Midnight Fantasy" ; Elizabeth Taylor's "White Diamonds," "Passion," "Forever Elizabeth," and "Gardenia"; the latest succes has been the launching of Mariah Carey's own parfum "M by Mariah Carey".
In 2006 Elizabeth Arden acquired the fragrance portfolio from Riviera Concepts. The newly acquired brands include Alfred Sung, the Hummer fragrance franchise, Cynthia Rowley, Lulu Guinness, Bob Mackie, and Badgley Mischka.