By Harriet Shapiro
July 03, 1978 12:00 PM

Back in 1960, 17-year-old Adrienne Joachim opened a small cosmetics shop on a side street in Englewood, N.J. with $400 in babysitting money. Now she’s Adrien Arpel and at 36 the head of a $10 million-a-year beauty products business. Her flourishing kingdom encompasses over 400 department store outlets in the U.S. and Europe, ranging from quiet salons to main-floor counters where she offers fast facials to working women at lunch time. She is also the author of Adrien Arpel’s 3-Week CRASH Makeover/Shapeover Beauty Program (Rawson, $11.95), which has been on the best-seller list for the past 13 weeks. (Pocket Books recently paid $275,000 for paperback rights, the highest price ever for a beauty book.) These days when Arpel is not on the road promoting her book, she’s at home in Great Neck, Long Island with her husband of nearly 17 years, Ronald Newman, a manufacturer of hair products, and their 15-year-old daughter, Lauren. (Adrien invented the name Arpel for her business because she liked the sound of it.) “I like to go to sleep at 10 o’clock at night,” she confesses. “Underneath all this makeup lurks a Jewish grandmother.” Arpel talked about her career with Harriet Shapiro of PEOPLE.

Why do women buy your book?

Because it is not a beauty book geared to the already beautiful. I relate to the average woman with a commonsense, head-to-toe program she can do at home in three weeks. I am not promising a woman she will be exquisite. I am telling her she will look better.

What do you cover in the book?

The basics: skin, hair, hands, feet and nails, along with diet, exercise and aging.

Your book emphasizes inexpensive home treatments. What are some?

One of them is, don’t hold the mayo. Use mayonnaise to soften rough skin. Massage it into your face, let sit for 15 minutes, wipe off and rinse. Mayonnaise also works wonders for hair. So does warm olive oil. Wearing a plastic bag over your hair for 10 minutes, or overnight if you can stand it, forms a terrarium which keeps in the moisture.

What are some other natural remedies?

For broken-out or oily skin, you can have a perfectly good facial by combining powdered milk and strained tomato pulp in a blender. For dry, scaly skin, try adding three quarts of hot milk with eight ounces of salt to your regular bath. And a slice of cucumber makes a refreshing eye pad.

By stressing home treatment, aren’t you afraid you’ll lose retail customers?

No. I think women who can’t afford or can’t get to the salon should know how to take care of themselves. I feel confident that once these women see how well at-home treatments work, they’ll want to see what professionals can do for them.

What is the most common makeup mistake?

I call it the frozen face. Too many women tend to wear the same style and color of makeup they wore when they were happiest, most popular or just plain 25 years younger. A 45-year-old woman may have the thick brows and rosy pink lips of a 1950s cheerleader; others still build lipstick over their lipline. You see a lot of beige eye shadow with heavy brown, a look popular in the early ’60s. It’s important for a woman to update her cosmetic look, just as she updates her fashion.

Are women hesitant about new makeup?

Yes. The best-selling lipstick color here and in England is still pink. The best-selling eye shadow is light blue. Women consider them safe colors. When something new comes in, most women wait a season to see it on the street. Often a change goes from the fashion runway to kids, then discos and finally to the average woman.

Do European women take better care of their skin than American women?

Definitely. In World War II, for instance, the black market for European women was in creams and oils. American women bought cover-up products. That’s why when you see very sensuous-looking older women in Europe with young men, it always seems very chic and right. Here it seems wrong because American women look beat, like Mrs. Robinson.

What do you think about the vogue for outdoor sports?

Frankly, it’s ruining women’s skins. Women are just not educated about the sun, which any doctor will tell you definitely ages skin. For some reason people with suntans feel they look successful. The sports craze is increasing the number of sun-damaged women.

What do you do for exercise?

I’ve found a terrific way, and the equipment cost me only $1.98. I skip rope 200 times without stopping, rest, skip again and repeat. Then I usually jog twice weekly, 30 to 40 minutes an outing. Experts say you should jog three times a week, but I consider jogging a back-up to my skip-rope routine.

What else makes it tough to keep a good complexion?

Air pollution—if it wears away stone on buildings, think what it can do to the skin. Airline stewardesses have to cope with problems caused by the cold air inside the cabin that draws natural oils out of their skins. Steam heat in city apartments is also destructive. An important key is facials. They are not luxuries. They are necessities to peel off dead surface skin.

Should women wear different makeup when they apply for different jobs?

Definitely. Life-style is the key to makeup, and different looks go along with certain businesses. For example, the very precise way I would put a woman together for an IBM interview wouldn’t be the way I would do her face for an advertising agency or movie studio. For the IBM interview she should probably wear shorter hair, not too curly or frizzy, to give the illusion that she is as polished as her coiffure. Her makeup should be very conservative, middle-of-the-road lipstick, a soft, muted pink or coral. Wines or deep browns would be out.

What will cosmetics be like in the future?

There will be far less emphasis on makeup and much more on skin care. Women are too smart to believe that good skin lies in a bottle of makeup. Fast facials on the main floor of department stores—these are the cosmetics of tomorrow.

Why did you decide to set up minifacial bars in department stores?

I don’t know any busy with-it woman who can lie down for an hour with a mask on her face. There are still millions of steaming pots and total hand massages done in Europe, but for American customers I eliminated the feel-good parts and kept the skin care parts. Instead of fast food, it’s a fast face department. A half-hour minifacial and makeup costs $12.50. Women don’t want to hear some Hungarian lady say she ran through the war zone with this jar of cream used by royalty and they can try it for $87. I thought, if a vacuum can clean a floor, why not my skin?

How has the women’s liberation movement affected cosmetic sales?

In the last few years cosmetics sales have grown tremendously—away from color products and into skin care. Cleopatra eyes will never come back. The Twiggy look won’t either. Women are wearing less makeup. I think the truly liberated woman wants to put herself together so that when she’s in a competitive world, she looks as good as a guy.

So appearance still counts?

Yes, even a committed feminist like Gloria Steinem streaks her hair. Before you open your mouth to tell someone about your MBA, they’ll all notice you’re well groomed—if you like yourself enough to take care of yourself. A recent survey shows that overweight people are discriminated against when they apply for jobs.

How would you characterize the kind of makeup you wear?

I wear high-fashion makeup that fits in with my life-style—wine lips and charcoal eye shadow. I try to do a look exciting enough to have people realize I am selling makeup. I throw it all on in 10 minutes. What doesn’t hit, I don’t need anyway. I’ve never met anyone I liked who took more than 10 minutes to do her makeup.

You admit having had a nose job and that you aren’t one of the world’s great natural beauties. Why so candid?

Why not? I had my nose done when I was 15. I remember feeling that it was crooked. I kept showing it to my mother, who said, ‘If it bothers you, we’ll fix it.’ I’m a firm believer in self-improvement. If I need a face-lift one day, I’ll probably go ahead and have it.