The Modern Beauty Methods of Max Factor

By | May 23, 2018

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circa 1930: Make-up expert Max Factor (1904 - 1996) demonstrates the technique of applying eyeshadow, using actress Josephine Dunn (1906 - 1983) as his subject. (Photo by Clarence Sinclair Bull/Margaret Chute/Getty Images)

Walk into any drugstore, shopping mall, or big box discount store and you will find an amazing variety of cosmetics. It can be almost overwhelming to choose the right brand of foundation, type of compact powder, or neutral shade of eyeshadow to complement anyone’s personal features.

Do you ever wonder where makeup got its start? Believe it or not, it began in the early 1900’s during the time of the black-and-white moving pictures. Actors and actresses of that time wore heavy stage makeup that resembled the consistency of grease paint more than anything. This product was not ideal, specifically with the powerful stage lighting, the monochromatic film, and the ever dramatic close-up scenes between the actors and actresses themselves.

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Max Factor, a Polish Jew who immigrated from Russia during a time of rising anti-Semitism, took on the challenge of creating stage cosmetics that would not only work with the black and white film and bright lights, but also give the actors and actresses a natural, flawless presentation. He disliked the makeup used in the movie industry and created the first beauty cosmetic used specifically for film in 1914. It was called “Flexible Greasepaint”, a light, semi-liquid, that complemented the actor’s appearance rather than detract from it.

In 1918, Max Factor introduced “Color Harmony” cosmetics. This particular brand of makeup enhanced the natural features of a person, particularly women, and also kept the actor’s face matte while filming. He considered all aspects of a person’s facial characteristics when he developed this unique line - complexion, hair, eyes, even structural lines and flaws.