Haute Historian: Pucker Up Or Kiss Off. Max Factor

October 31, 2011 • Haute Historian, Magazine

It’s a trend that spans generations and touches each nation around the globe. It’s an indicator on how the economy is fairing and enhances a woman’s appearance. The use of cosmetics has been traced back as far as Mesopotamia 5000 B.C. and was used for the very same reasons today; to improve one’s look and offer a hint of sexual appeal.

Prior to modern times, to create a rosy mouth, women would apply crushed semi-precious stones and others used harmful plant and insect extracts, which generated the term ‘kiss of death’. While today’s tube of lipstick color isn’t nearly as harmful, it was only in 2007 that high traces of lead were found in many popular brands. And while advances in the science have garnered improvement in cosmetics, much like any fashion trend, trends in cosmetics have also changed over the years. During the 19th and very early 20th centuries, make-up was only acceptable on actors and actresses. Men wearing make-up were considered effeminate and women were wanton. But, thanks to Maksymilian Faktorowicz, later shortened to Max Factor upon his arrive to Ellis Island, it became acceptable for every day women to wear a bit of color on their faces.

Max Factor began his career making cosmetics for stage actors. He created his fame when he was able to transform stage cosmetics, which often caked and cracked on the skin, into a thinner, lighter ‘grease paint’ that could be used for motion film actors. Factor not only created the products that the actresses wore, he also applied them and was able to make color adjustments that suited each of the stars, helping them look their best. A few of the women Factor worked with during his career were Joan Crawford, Julie Garland, Jean Harlow, Bette Davis, and Claudette Colbert. He even gave Clara Bow her bow lipped look, a look that many flappers would mimic. Factor was mentioned in many film credits and even had a few cameos. For his influences in the film industry, he received an honorary Academy Award as well as a star in the Hollywood Walk of Fame. In addition, Factor had a hand on a number of other innovations, including coining the term ‘make-up’. While the term was used by people in the ‘business’, it was not something said in polite society.

It was when his current clients began asking to use his products off the movie set and were visiting his beauty salon that Factor realized women other than movie stars could also benefit from his make-up collection. He marketed his modern make-up by letting American women know that they could look like a star with Max Factor make-up. And, thanks to his advancements in modern cosmetology, we’re still able to look as good as the movie stars. Or maybe the dab of lipstick and rogue just give us enough confidence and sex appeal to make us think we are. Either is fine with me!

1. Max Factor Ad With Judy Garland
2. Max Factor Ad With Rita Hay
3. Hollywood Walk Of Fame Star for Max Factor
4. Clara Bow

— Bonnie J Brown

Image Layout: Amy Newling

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