Many moons ago, when I was a budding beauty writer who pinched her pennies to buy whatever concoctions all the celebrities were using, I walked into Nordstrom at Mall of America® and asked when they were going to start carrying Kiehl’s. I simply had to have the Lip Balm #1 and Ultra Facial Moisturizing Lotion with SPF 15 that I’d read about in all of the fashion mags.
Kiehl’s was a far cry from the drugstore brands I’d been using since high school. (Pro tip: Noxema and Sea Breeze aren’t okay at any age.) Yet it was just within reach for a mortgage-less magazine intern. I was ready for a grown-up beauty regimen, one that didn’t involve pressing my face into a brown paper lunch bag to see if I needed more pressed powder. And Kiehl’s had an apothecary vibe (back before everything had an apothecary vibe) that looked good on my sink and gave the impression I was low-maintenance even though I’d been practically born with a mood lipstick in my hand.
Where It All Began
The beauty gods were smiling on me that day because Nordstrom was hiring sales associates to open a new Kiehl’s counter. Was I interested? Was I interested! So began a career of glamour and intrigue. Or at least my knack for selling eye cream to total strangers.
Back then the Kiehl’s “counter” was the crown jewel of Nordstrom’s beauty department, situated under the grand escalator. It was also one of the company’s first forays into the “open-sell” concept that enables customers to touch and feel product without having to go through a salesperson—a set-up now synonymous with Sephora that most beauty retailers have since adopted.
The Mall continues to empower the beauty consumer. For someone who remembers a time without blogs—or email—the interactive nature of NYX Cosmetics, which projects YouTube tutorials featuring its products, is a far cry from the days of hopping onto a stool and letting the Clinique lady have her way with my face.
Then there’s New Brighton-based Sigma Beauty, which broke into the business by getting its affordable, professional-grade makeup brushes into the hands of influential beauty bloggers. Sigma’s flagship store at Mall of America remains its only one, a place where dedicated Gen Z fans (and their moms) make pilgrimages for contouring kits and pastel lip gloss sets.
But it’s not all about followers and fans. I’m proud to see the Mall investing in local brands like Intelligent Nutrients, whose softly-lit, essential-oil infused store is a sanctuary in a sea of cinnamon rolls and tourists. With mosquito season just around the corner, you’ll want to scoop up the organic insect repellant that smells like a dewy northern Minnesota morning.
As for Kiehl’s, it got its own outpost around the corner from Nordstrom where I now stock pile serums for my fine lines and sun spots. Like the Mall, I’m committed to aging gracefully.
Born and raised in Minnesota by surprisingly low-maintenance parents, Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s beauty columnist Elizabeth Dehn spent her awkward years buying mood lipstick and whipping up DIY facemasks before founding the award-winning blog BeautyBets.com in 2009.