Among European beauty brands, the French dominate the landscape with giants like L’Oreal and Garnier. But Italy, with its reputation for bold fashion, timeless design, and legendary beauty, has a number of brands that are making an impact.

Italian women are famous for their bold style and enduring beauty, with a love of eye-catching lipsticks, alluring fragrances, and elegant eyes. Historically, many of these timeless brands have remained a local secret, without the global presence of larger companies. However, as more of these Italian beauty & skincare products become available online, they are building a worldwide fan base, drawing attention to Italian beauty brands that have been local favorites for decades. 

Italian Cosmetic Brands

Legendary Italian Perfumery Carthusia

Legend has it that in 1380, the prior of the Carthusian monastery on Capri picked a bouquet of the most beautiful flowers on the island and placed them in water. Days later when he went to throw away the bouquet, the water had acquired a wonderful mysterious fragrance, traced to a local flower. Working with alchemists, he developed the original formula for the perfume of Capri.

In 1948, the then prior of the same monastery re-discovered the old perfume formulas. With the permission of the pope, he created the smallest perfume laboratory in the world, calling it “Carthusia.” They still make a men’s Eau de Parfum from a recipe developed in 1681.

Today, Carthusia specializes in handcrafted fragrances, made in small quantities, using artisanal methods, with rare and exotic materials. In 2018, the brand was awarded the “Best Artistic Perfumery” from the Accademia del Profumo. The company has recently launched a line of hand sanitizers, soaps, wipes, and creams designed to kill germs and disinfect without damaging skin, and lightly fragranced with the unique perfumes Carthusia is known for. 

The “MAC of Italy” Kiko Milano

Italy doesn’t just have windswept hills and ancient monasteries; it’s also famous for the bold and cutting edge fashions of Milan. Kiko Milano was founded in 1997 by footballer and entrepreneur Antonio Percassi, and is firmly rooted in Milan’s culture of fashion, art, and design. Kiko Milano merges the accessibility, affordability, and trend-consciousness of a fast-fashion brand, with a strong code of ethics and commitment to quality and transparency associated with haute beauty brands.

Kiko Milano focuses on safe and effective quality, while delivering the impactful colors and textures that are on-demand for the latest trends. Their seasonal collections are full of innovative new products designed with care, backed by in-depth clinical testing for hypoallergenic products that are never tested on animals. Their innovative online tools allow you to virtually “try on” makeup, customize your lipstick, and more. Kiko Milano has attracted a huge online following due to its fantastic quality, blendability, and affordability. 

The Luxury of Nobility with Borghese

In 1942, Marcella Fazi married Prince Paolo Borghese, joining the famous noble family and living in the famous Villa Borghese in Rome. At the time, aristocratic Italian women commissioned their own cosmetics and skin care products from private chemists and cosmeticians, in colors designed to compliment women with light hair or dark hair. Marcella envisioned a wider range of lipsticks, so that colors could be chosen to match daily clothing and seasonal changes. Her family opposed the idea of an aristocratic woman becoming an entrepreneur, but Pope Pius XII blessed her ambitions and reminded her family that times are changing. Through her friendship with American Charles Revson, founder of Revlon cosmetics, she developed a line of vivid lipsticks and nail polishes to match the fashions of the day. Based on her mud spa treatments at Terme di Montecatini, she developed one of the first skincare lines in the world. 

The Princess remained heavily involved in the company until her death at 90 years old in 2002. Borghese remains famous for its line of luxury face masks and spa treatments for the whole body that continues to get rave reviews year after year. 

Italian beauty brands are synonymous with quality, individuality, and bold style. These companies are making a greater and greater impact on the world of cosmetics and skin care, as they increasingly use online tools and social media to connect with new generations of women.