Say goodbye to old friend, Max Factor.

Posted on June 22nd, 2009 by Gina

The Beauty Calibrator

When the late Max Factor came to Los Angeles in 1910, makeup, which was only worn on stage or by women of ill-repute, “was made of ground brick dust mixed with Vaseline or lard,”  according to his biographer.  So, no more bitching about your foundation, sister.  Later, Max Factor created and controlled arguably the most well-known cosmetics line in the world.  So it is with melancholy that we should bid farewell to the company that Max Factor built, as P&G announces that they are discontinuing the brand in the US this year.

Ironically, 2009 is the 100th anniversary of the founding of his company, and the publication of a biography of his life and work:  MAX FACTOR: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World, by Fred E. Basten.  Basten worked for the company for many years as a PR guy and talked the family into full access to his archives, letters, pictures, family and friends.  It is a readable bio with fun photos and the remarkable story of a talented man who escaped from under the nose of Czar Nicholas II’s pogrom, into a country just inventing movie pictures.  It was his formulas for stage makeup, wigs, false eyelashes, and of course, the pictured “Beauty Calibrator”  that made him famous in the 1920’s Hollywood, but his mass production of pancake makeup made him a household name in the 40’s and beyond.

I have mixed feelings about the man who might be responsible for the eyelash curlers, concealers, hair dye, eyebrow shapers and countless lipsticks I have wasted my money on, but I admit some nostalgia.  After all, he helped make me what I am today.  Expensive.

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A short history of cosmetics

150BC Romans use yellow eye shadow.

The Romans preferred to use gold-colored eye shadow which was made from saffron and painted onto the area around the sides and under their eyes. Then they used powdered wood ash to color their eyelids black. This gold color was quite significant at the time because they saw themselves as the rulers of the Mediterranean.

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