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Factor, Max

makeup factor’s greasepaint products

B. 1872

D. 1938

Birthplace: Lóolz, Poland

Max Factor’s career began in Russia, where he owned a hair-goods shop, served as a cosmetician to the royal court in Saint Petersburg, and worked as chief makeup artist for the Moscow Theatre. He came to the United States in 1904 and operated a beauty products concession at the Saint Louis World’s Fair. Intrigued by the emerging motion picture industry, he moved to Los Angeles in 1908 and opened a store that sold theater cosmetics to stage actors. At that same time he founded Max Factor and Company.

The shiny, thick, unattractive greasepaint of early movie actors prompted Factor to create Supreme Greasepaint in 1914. This flexible greasepaint, which was packaged in a tube, was the first makeup ever designed specifically for motion pictures. He marketed the enormously successful greasepaint along with his eyeshadows and pencils.

Factor’s name soon became synonymous with the makeup of the stylish Hollywood actresses of the 1910s, 1920s, and 1930s. He advised stars such as Theda Bara, Clara Bow, Jean Harlow, Greta Garbo, Judy Garland, and Rita Hayworth and helped them create their signature looks. During these years women relied on movie stars for makeup styles, and Factor’s influence on the general public was significant.

His impact was so strong that he changed women’s belief that makeup was for actresses only. He was credited with popularizing the word “makeup” in everyday language. His opinion that makeup shades should complement a woman’s natural features, a concept he called color harmony, helped popularized the everyday use of makeup.

Realizing the company’s potential, Factor began marketing products to everyday women. In 1920 he developed a mass-market color cosmetic line called Society Makeup. He provided leaflets filled with makeup application tips demonstrated by stars such as Bette Davis, Myrna Loy, and Ginger Rogers.

Ever the innovator, Max Factor and later his son, Max Factor, Jr., developed many products that have become staples of the cosmetics industry. He introduced lip gloss in 1930, Pan-Cake Make-up in 1937, Pan-stik Make-up for television in 1948, a cover-up stick in 1954, and the first “waterproof” makeup in 1971. In the late 1990s, stick foundation and lip gloss experienced a resurgence of popularity.

Max Factor and Company’s current owner, Proctor and Gamble, purchased the company from Revlon in 1991. Proctor and Gamble also owns two of Max Factor’s competitors, Cover Girl and Oil of Olay. During the 1990s Max Factor’s marketing returned to its Hollywood roots. In an effort to reglamorize its image, the company cross-promoted Max Factor products with the movies Titanic (1997) and A Midsummer’s Night Dream (1999); and its European and Asian ads featured Madonna.

 

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