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Max Factor

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Max Factor

Max Factor (1877-1938) was generally known as a "makeup man." He was somewhat less well known as a "hair" man. But perfume was also among the products which contributed to his success.

A Brief Biography

Max Factor (or "Faktor") was born in Lode, Poland, in or around 1877. Unlike the birth date and birth place of his half-brother (Jacob, later known as John, also known as "Jake the Barber"), which were meticulously detailed in a federal court case, Max is simply known to have been born in Lodz, near the Russian border.

Max Factor moved his family to the United States in 1904. Prior to this date he had a business in Russia selling was involved in doing makeup and selling hand-made rouges, creams, fragrances and wigs. It is said that his clientele included members of the Russian court, the Royal Ballet and the Imperial Grand Opera.

Max, the eighth of ten children, was apprenticed at the age of eight to a dentist-pharmacist and/or a wig maker. Wigs became an important business for him and pharmacists of the day were also known to have dabbled in what, today, we would call "health and beauty" products.

In 1904, the Max Factor moved his family to the United States. From New York and Ellis Island, where "Faktor" became "Factor", The Factors moved on to St. Louis where he obtained a concession at the St. Louis World's Fair selling perfume, makeup and hair goods.

Factor's makeup attracted the attention of the theatrical community and his reputation spread. Around 1908 he moved his family to Los Angeles and set up shop near the new Hollywood film community. In addition to his own line of products, Factor became West Coast distributor for two established lines of theatrical makeup.

Wigs and hair products continued to be an important part of his business. He rented (expensive!) wigs to movie companies who would give roles to his sons ... so they could keep an eye on the wigs to make sure they didn't disappear! Hollywood glamor photographer, Peter Gowland, recalls that his mother was among the women who sold their hair to Max Factor for his wigs.

Max Factor developed a do-it-yourself wig fitting chart so that customers could order wigs by mail and be sure of getting a correct fit.

But makeup was the product with which Max Factor is most closely associated. Inventive by nature and with a background in compounding, Max Factor developed breakthrough Hollywood makeup products. His thinner grease paint replaced the older, thicker grease paint and gave actresses a more natural look. Eventually twelve shades were available.

During the 1920's with the help of his son, Frank, Max Factor began to offer his products to women outside the world of Hollywood. The company's lines consisted of wigs, false eyelashes (another Max Factor innovation), eyebrow pencils, lip gloss, pancake makeup and perfume.

The company continued to innovate, being the first to develop makeup suitable for the new color films. In 1937, the year before Max died, a patent was obtained for the Max Factor "Pan-Cake Makeup". (The "pan" because it was originally sold in a small pan.) In 1938, the year of Max Factor's death, the new makeup made its appearance in Hollywood films.

Max Factor, Jr.

Max's son, Frank, born in St. Louis in 1904, entered his father's business in 1916 as the Hollywood era was beginning to boom. Frank Factor appears to have had an important role in marketing his father's products to a wider audience. When Max Factor died in 1938, Frank — as "Max Factor, Jr." — took over the company and ran it until 1973. Today Max Factor is owned by Proctor & Gamble.

Perfumes By Max Factor

Le Parfum Max (1925)   
Golden Woods (1951)  
Electrique (1954)  
Primitif (1956)  
Hypnotique (1958)  
Royal Regiment (1969)  
Aquarius (1970)  
Miss Factor (1973)  
Geminesse (1974)  
Blasé (1975)  
Khara (1976)  
LA (1980)  
Epris (1981)  
Magical Musk (1984)  
Gentleman (1986)  
Le Jardin D'Amour (1987)  
California (1989)  
California for Men (1990)  
Le Jardin Fleur De Rose (1991)  

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Comments On This Article
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  • Lacey Prewitt, 07/17/2017. I am looking for information on Max Factor's grease paint makeup. I used it many years ago, but cannot find it anymore. I am sure that it is discontinued, but is there another makeup that might be just as good. It came in a meal tube with makeup foundation colors numbers 1, 2, 3, or 4. My color number was number 3. It was sold in drug stores. Can you help. Is it a vintage, where can I buy it. Or is is theatrical makeup. Thanks.

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