Estee Lauder, who turned a business selling skin creams concocted by her uncle into an international cosmetics empire, has died in Manhattan.
The company Estee Lauder founded is now worth some $10bn
Lauder died of cardiopulmonary arrest at home, aged at least 95.
Lauder put her success down to her sales technique. "If I believe in something, I sell it, and I sell it hard," she once said.
Both her sons are chairmen of Lauder's companies. Her husband, Joseph Lauder, died in 1982.
Josephine Esther Mentzer was born to immigrant parents in New York's Queens borough. Her birth date is thought to have been 1 July, 1908, though her family says it may have been two years earlier.
She was fascinated by the lotions and potions concocted by her uncle and mentor, chemist John Schotz, and began to promote them.
In 1946, she founded her business with her husband, selling her uncle's products to hotels and beauty shops.
By 1948, she had secured counter space at New York's Saks Fifth Avenue department store, and soon her products spread to other stores.
Lauder was said to be a master saleswoman, personally visiting staff in stores to offer sales tips, and pioneering the technique of giving away free product samples.
She expanded from skin creams to other cosmetics and perfumes. Estee Lauder now sells more than 70 perfumes, and the company says Lauder had a "world-renowned fragrance nose".
The company's brand names now include Prescriptives, Clinique, Origins, Aramis and Tommy Hilfiger fragrances.
In 1998, Lauder was the only woman in Time magazine's list of the 20 most influential names in business in the 20th century. The magazine called the Estee Lauder story "a chapter from the book of American business folklore".
The business is now worth an estimated $10bn, and controls 45% of the cosmetics market in US department stores, according to Time magazine. The company's products are sold in 130 countries.
Her sons Leonard and Ronald are chairmen of Estee Lauder and Clinique respectively, and some of her grandchildren also work in the company.
"Beauty is an attitude," she once said.
"There's no secret. Why are all brides beautiful? Because on their wedding day they care about how they look. There are no ugly women - only women who don't care or who don't believe they are attractive."