Jean Ann Ford, Co-Founder of Benefit Cosmetics, Dies at 71

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Jean Ann Ford

“Jean leaves behind a makeup dynasty, a legacy of creativity and the belief that ‘laughter is the best cosmetic,'" the brand said in a statement.

Jean Ann Ford, the cosmetics guru who co-founded Benefit Cosmetics with her sister, Jane, and spearheaded its popularity among Hollywood stars, has died. She was 71.  

Ford died Jan. 17 at her home in Tiburon, California, after a battle with cancer. "It is with great sadness we share that our beloved co-founder, Jean Ann Ford, has passed away," the brand wrote in a statement this week. "Jean leaves behind a makeup dynasty, a legacy of creativity and the belief that 'laughter is the best cosmetic.'"

Twin sisters Jean and Jane, who both stood at 6-foot-1, originally moved to New York City to pursue modeling after completing their studies at Indiana University.  “Every day we would go out on audition after audition and get turned away,” said Jean in a 2011 interview with Marin Magazine. “Our big break came two years later when we booked a series of national commercials for Calgon bath beads. We were so excited. It was our dream come true.” 

With the money from that ad campaign, the sisters decided to try their luck out west. They packed up their old station wagon and drove to San Francisco, where they opened the Face Place in 1976. The makeup shop, in the Mission District, had the aim of making problem-solving beauty products; their top-seller, Benetint, a rose-hued stain for lips and cheeks, was reportedly invented for an exotic dancer who came into the store looking for a product to rouge her nipples.

The Face Place quickly became known for its quirkily named products cased in whimsical retro packaging, like Lemon Aid Color-Correcting Eyelid Primer, BADgal mascara and Dr. Feelgood Complexion Balm, and its motto, “Laughter is the best cosmetic … so grin and wear it.”

"This is a personality brand,” Jean told the San Francisco Gate in a 2011 interview. "It came as a result of making people smile.”

Over the years, the brand's products, such as Hoola Bronzer, established a cult following among stars such as Kim Kardashian, Ashley Tisdale and Kylie Minogue.

In 1990, the company was renamed from the Face Place to Benefit Cosmetics (inspired by the Italian words "bene" for good and "fit" for fitness), and the sisters went on to roll out the line in the now-defunct Henri Bendel in 1990 and London in 1996. Benefit Cosmetics is now in more than 50 countries with 5,200 doors, 2,500 brow bars and 85 boutiques around the world, and it reportedly grosses more than $500 million in sales every year.

The pair sold a controlling stake in the brand to LVMH in 1999, and later sold the rest of their shares and exited the brand in 2012.

Ford is survived by her identical twin sister and Benefit co-founder, Jane Ford; her daughters Maggie Ford Danielson and Ann Ford Danielson; and four grandchildren.