Everyone is familiar with the brand. But do you know how the most famous cosmetics company started? Max Factor is considered the father of modern makeup and the company he built literally changed the face of cosmetics history. He built a giant cosmetics empire with its roots in the film industry. Though the business no longer operates in the US, Max Factor was a household name for decades, bringing the glamour of Hollywood stars to women the world over.
Originally a chemist, Max Factor became fascinated with cosmetics, opening his first shop in Moscow selling his hand made rouges, creams, fragrances and wigs. In 1904 he became the official beautician and wigmaker to the Russian Royal Family.
He moved his family to LA in 1908, where he opened a cosmetics and wig shop in the theater district. In the early years of film it was very difficult for actors and actresses to find make up that was appropriate for wear on the big screen. The greasepaint worn for the stage was much too thick and didn’t hold up well under studio lighting. Determined to make a mark in the film industry he worked his magic and created a special make up that would look more natural on film and not crack or cake under the hots lights of a movie set. More and more actors and actresses started showing up at his shop eager to try his new “flexible greasepaint”.
After Max Factor’s death in 1938, the company was taken over by his son where he continued the business of being the top innovator in the beauty industry.
Here’s an abbreviated list of products pioneered by Max Factor.
1914-First makeup to give more natural look on film.
1918-Color Harmony, a face powder line in many shades to allow customizing.
1925-Supreme Nail Polish, a powder that was sprinkled on the nails and buffed off to give them tint and shine.
1937- Introduced Pan Cake Makeup for color film and in 1938 a concealer called Erace.
1940-True Color smearproof lipstick
1948- Pan Stick Makeup
1971-First waterproof makeup
Because of his strong link to Hollywood, most of the advertisements for the company consisted of endorsements by famous actresses.
1940-Maureen O’Hara in RKO Radio’s “Dance, Girls, Dance” endorses Max Factor Hollywood Face Powder, Tru Color Lipstick and Rouge.
With the advent of Technicolor in films actors and actresses needed a new makeup that would flatter them in color. Many of them refused to appear in color films because the old style makeup didn’t show them in their best light. So Max Factor created Pan Cake Makeup. It was so popular workers would steal it off of movie sets for personal use. So eventually it was made available to the public and it ended up becoming the best selling foundation in history. You can still purchase it online and many women swear it gives a flawless finish, but takes some practice to apply correctly. If anyone reading this blog has used it, let me know how you liked it. I’m curious to try.
Claudette Colbert in Max Factor Pan Cake Makeup Ad 1943
Ginger Rogers Max Factor Pan Cake Makeup 1944
Loretta Young Max Factor Ad 1945
Barbara Stanwyck Max Factor Ad 1947
Lana Turner Max Factor Ad 1951