The Man Who Redefined Beauty
Max Factor is one of the biggest companies in the business of cosmetics, a true empire, yet few people know the story of its founder.
Before he worked with Hollywood’s most renowned stars in the 1920’s he was born in 1872 as Maksymilian Faktorowicz, in Zduńska Wola, near the city of Łódź, to a humble Jewish family.
The prevailing poverty forced little Maks to sell sweets and oranges in the Łódź Theatre hall so that his family could make ends meet. At the age of eight Faktorowicz worked as an assistant to a dentist and pharmacist and by the time he was ten he had already been apprenticed by the most respected wig-maker in town who provided the young boy with fundamental knowledge about wigs and cosmetics.
After serving four compulsory years as a conscript in the Russian Army, Moscow was the first chapter in Factorowicz career as a professional cosmetician. A small shop was opened and in spite of low-key beginnings, the fate soon smiled upon his tiny business. Spotted by a theatrical troupe, Maks started working in the Russian Grand Opera and made up its top performers, which gained him recognition, followed by a role in beautifying Moscow’s elites and subsequently Czar’s Nicholas II royal court. In spite of being introduced to luxurious life of wealth and power, the nobility’s possessiveness left Maksymilian no time for his shop and family, leading to a life under constant surveillance and pressure. Moreover, the increasing anti-semitism engulfed the whole imperial family to a point where in 1903 Czar Nicholas II ordered a siege against Jewish people, burning down their houses and townships. This forced Faktorowicz to emigrate by sneaking away on a boat to New York with his family. ( Back then, no passport was needed. Arriving on the American coast he presented himself as Maks Faktor. The guards though wrote it down in English thus giving birth to one of the most popular names in the world of cosmetics!). After reaching coast, the Faktorowicz quickly moved to his uncle’s house in St.Louis where he spent years running a barber shop which swiftly bloomed into a successful business.
Despite that, he headed for Los Angeles in 1908, inspired by the new form of entertainment, the film industry. At the time, one-reelers were ruling in Los Angeles but a certain problem was constantly haunting its actors. The make-up they were using contained flour and pepper powder. This, as Factor described in his memoirs, made them look grisly and quite creepy and certainly needed to be improved. This marked the birth of a cosmetic giant. Max Factor set up his company in 1909. 5 years later he introduced a ground-breaking revolution in film - make-up - A grease paint in 12 perfected shade.
He then went on to expand his wig business, making them the most desirable and wanted in the city of Los Angeles. But that was not the end of Factor’s success streak.
In 1920 the word “make-up” was presented to the world of film in order to replace the word “cosmetics”. Few years later Factor received an Academy Award for the hairstyling and make-up used in the film “Frankenstein”. Having worked with Hollywood’s biggest personalities of the 1920’s and 30’s for instance Charlie Chaplin, Frank Sinatra or Pola Negri, Max Factor gained huge respect and recognition in the USA, making him the most popular make up producer in the motion picture business.
Under unknown circumstances he passed away at the age of 66 in 1938 at his home in Beverly Hills, leaving the company to his son Max Factor jr who continued his father’s work and further developed the company, which today is among the most famous in the cosmetic industry.
Cavendish R. (2013). The make-up master died on August 30th, 1938.[internet]. Available from: http://www.historytoday.com/richard-cavendish/max-factor-dies-california
Maks Faktorowicz: Polak, który stworzył kosmetyczne imperium. (2013). [internet]. Available from: http://kobieta.interia.pl/uroda/news-maks-faktorowicz-polak-ktory-stworzyl-kosmetyczne-imperium,nId,930672
- Maksymilian Faktorowicz - człowiek, który dał nam sztuczne rzęsy. n.d. [internet]. Available from: http://www.polskieradio.pl/10/501/Artykul/1245535,Maksymilian-Faktorowicz-czlowiek-ktory-dal-nam-sztuczne-rzesy
If you want to read more:
Tannen M. (1996). The Man Who Made the Faces Up [internet]. Available from: http://www.nytimes.com/1996/12/29/magazine/the-man-who-made-the-faces-up.html?mcubz=1
Updike J. (2008). Makeup And Make-Believe Max Factor’s life of beautification [internet]. Available from: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/09/01/makeup-and-make-believe