Max Factor

Max  Factor  is best  known for his  invention of specialty  cosmetics used  in the early American film  and  television industries. Beginning with  foundation products,  his innovations expanded into  the  mass  market. Factor  also developed the concept that  makeup used  should match a person’s coloring.

 Early Years

Born  Max  Faktor in  Lodz,  Poland, he  gained  recognition as  a wigmaker and makeup man  for the  Russian Imperial Ballet and  the  Grand Opera House. Immigrating to the  United States  in 1904  with  his wife Lisa and  their  three  children,  his name  was changed to Factor  at Ellis Island.  He found employment at the  St. Louis  World’s  Fair  displaying his  skin  creams. When the  film industry began  to develop,  Factor  moved  his family to Los Angeles  around 1909,  began his  company, and  became a distributor for  theatrical makeup manufacturers Leichner and  Miner. Thereafter, Factor   started  experimenting with  his  own products for movie actors.

Career And Innovations

Coining the  term  makeup to  describe his  inventions, Factor  gained  recognition with  his  innovative approach to  traditional theatrical greasepaint. In  1914,  he formulated greasepaint into  a convenient tube  for sanitary dispensing—a lighter formula specifically designed for film actors  that would  not crack when  dry. Available  in varying  shades, Supreme Greasepaint was the  forerunner of subsequent foundation products.

When actors  began  using  his product in their  social lives, Factor  launched Society Make-up in the 1920s, and developed the color harmony principle of matching makeup shades to a person’s coloring. His success in these endeavors won him a special Academy Award in 1928. Further innovations followed with Lip Gloss in 1930,  Liquid  Nail Enamel in 1934,  and  Pan-Cake Make-up in 1937  (adapted for color  film). Hollywood stars  were frequently used  in his advertising campaigns and  this  resulted in huge  returns. Pan-Cake Make-up was launched with  color advertising and became one of the fastest and best-selling makeup items  in cosmetics  history. It remains one of the most  popular cake makeup products.

Besides foundation makeup products, Max Factor, Inc. also had a strong reputation in wig manufacturing, one of the areas of Factor’s early reputation in Hollywood. The  company thereafter expanded into  clothing and perfume lines.


Max  Factor  died  at age 59 in 1938;  his  son  Frank  took  over  the  name  and  expanded Max Factor  and  Company into  the  high  fashion and  international markets.  The  innovative quality  of  the  company continued, and  known products followed: Tru-Color Lipstick (smear  proof ) in 1940, Pan-Stick Make-up in 1948, Erace (concealer) in 1954. The  company also had  an Armed  Forces  Division that catered to  servicemen’s female  dependents, advertised the  American Look,  and even produced its own  newspaper, Max  Factor Country. The  company was run  by family members until  1976;  it became a subsidiary of Revlon in 1987  and  was acquired by Procter and Gamble in 1991. In 2009, Max Factor  pulled  out of the U.S market, a reflection of the recession and competitive market.

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