She was born in Woodbridge, Canada and after her early schooling she moved to New York in 1908 opening a beauty salon with a partner, Elizabeth Hubbard. When the partnership dissolved, she coined the business name "Elizabeth Arden" from her former partner and from Tennyson's poem "Enoch Arden."
She revolutionized cosmetics, bringing a scientific approach to formulations and most importantly bringing respectability to the field.
In 1915 she married, thus becoming an American citizen. The same year she began international operations. Although most of her commercial success was in cosmetics, she also pioneered restorative musical exercises based on yoga.
She started a fashion business in 1943 with notable designers like Oscar de la Renta on staff.
When she died in New York City, her estate was worth $30 to $40 million dollars (US) and she had over a hundred salons worldwide.