The Company was founded in 1946 by Mrs. Estée Lauder. The flagship brand, Estée Lauder, was launched with four products: Super Rich All Purpose Creme, Creme Pack, Cleansing Oil and Skin Lotion.
Over time, five additional brands were developed internally. Aramis, a line of prestige fragrance and grooming products for men, was launched in 1964. Clinique, the first dermatologist-guided, allergy-tested, fragrance-free cosmetics brand, followed in 1968. Prescriptives, a color authority with an advanced collection of highly individualized products, was founded in 1979. Lab Series Skincare for Men, specializing in men's treatment, debuted in 1987. Origins, a plant-based line of skin care, makeup, bath/body and sensory therapy products, was introduced in 1990.
In 1993, the Company signed a global licensing agreement with designer Tommy Hilfiger followed in 1994 by acquiring a majority interest in M·A·C. (the acquisition was completed in 1998).
In 1995, the year The Estée Lauder Companies went public, the Company acquired a second makeup artist line, Bobbi Brown essentials, followed by the acquisition of luxury skin care brand La Mer and the signing of a global licensing agreement with Kiton, an Italian fashion house, for beauty products.
In 1997, the Company signed a licensing agreement with American fashion designer Donna Karan, acquired Aveda, a leader in the prestige hair care industry, and jane, a makeup brand (jane was sold in 2004).
In 1998, the Company began to sell certain products over the Internet.
In 1999, The Estée Lauder Companies created a new division, ELC Online, to manage online strategies and activities for all brands. Also in 1999, the Company acquired Jo Malone, a London-based marketer of prestige skin care and fragrance products, and Stila Cosmetics (Stila was sold in 2006). It signed a licensing agreement with handbag designer Kate Spade LLC to develop beauty products (Kate Spade Beauty was discontinued in June 2005).
In 2000, the Company acquired a majority equity interest in Bumble and bumble LLC, an upscale hair salon and developer, marketer and distributor of quality hair care products. (The purchase was completed in 2006.) It also acquired gloss.com, an e-commerce beauty website. Chanel and Clarins subsequently acquired minority interests (Gloss.com was shut down in 2007).
In 2003, the Company acquired Laboratories Darphin, a Paris-based prestige skin care company, as well as Rodan + Fields, a dermatologist-created skin care line (Rodan + Fields was sold in 2007). It signed a licensing agreement with Michael Kors, an American fashion designer, for beauty products.
In 2004, the Company’s BeautyBank division launched four brands—American Beauty, Flirt!, and good skin, sold exclusively in Kohl’s department stores. In the same year, the Company also signed a licensing agreement with Sean John, the fashion house led by Sean "Diddy" Combs in 2004 and with real estate mogul Donald J. Trump for Donald Trump, The Fragrance (Donald Trump, The Fragrance was discontinued in 2007).
In 2005, the Company signed a license with the Italian design house Missoni and with designer Tom Ford to develop fragrances.
In 2006, BeautyBank introduced Daisy Fuentes and signed an agreement with Coach to develop fragrance and related products.
In 2007, the Company acquired Ojon Corporation, a Canadian prestige hair care and skincare company that markets naturally-derived, wild-crafted hair and skin care products using ingredients found in the world's rainforests.The Company signed a global licensing agreement with Ford Motor Company to develop Mustang, a fragrance for men, also in 2007 (Mustang was discontinued in 2010). In this same year, BeautyBank launched GoodSkin™ Labs, a targeted, anti-aging skin care brand that delivers visible, measurable results both instantly and long term.
In 2008, BeautyBank introduced Grassroots™ Research Labs, a sensorial skin care experience that combines nature's most powerful ingredients with advanced science to deliver extraordinary results.
In 2010, The Estée Lauder Companies acquired Smashbox Beauty Cosmetics Inc., a dynamic Hollywood photo studio-inspired prestige cosmetic brand based in Los Angeles. The Company also closed the global wholesale distribution of the Prescriptives brand, although select products remain available for sale online at prescriptives.com.
In 2011, The Estée Lauder Companies acquired the exclusive worldwide license for the fragrance and grooming business of the Ermenegildo Zegna Group, a one-hundred year old, billion-dollar Milan-based men's luxury clothing and accessory brand. The Company announced that its Aramis and Designer Fragrances Division (ADF) will assume the exclusive worldwide license for the fragrance business of luxury fashion brand, Marni, and the exclusive worldwide license for the fragrance business of the American luxury lifestyle brand Tory Burch.