One of the most recognizable names in the beauty world, and the first to start manufacturing makeup on a large scale for regular women, Max Factor is rightfully credited with defining the makeup industry as we know it today. He was born in Poland as Maksymilian Faktorowicz in 1872 the official date given, although its veracity remains unclear. Somewhat unhelpfully, Max Factor (like Elizabeth Arden) claimed that he didn’t know it himself!
Max’s family was large he was one of ten children and poor. He and his siblings started working from a young age: He was nine when he was first apprenticed to a wigmaker and cosmetician. At fourteen he got his first paid job as a wigmaker, makeup artist, and costumer for the Imperial Russian Grand Opera. He worked there until he was eighteen, when he had to do obligatory military service. Next he moved to Moscow, and started selling his own cosmetics and wigs. It wasn’t long before these caught the attention of the court of Czar Nicholas II; while this had financial benefits, it also meant that Max was entirely at the beck and call of the court. In Max Factor’s Hollywood, he’s quoted as saying of the time, I had no life. A dozen people were always watching me, following me. I could see no one on my own. I was allowed only to make the court handsome. I had nothing for myself.3 The situation wasn’t sustainable especially as he had secretly married, against the rules of the court, and had a growing family and in 1904 Max decided to immigrate to the United States, to escape the stifling restrictions of working for the czar, and the disturbing growing anti-Semitism and pogroms. In a detail that seems almost too fantastic to be true, he is reported to have painted his face with yellow makeup in order to look unwell, and after being sent to a spa to get better, he made a dramatic escape, along with his family.
Max Factor’s House of Makeup store in the heart of the theatre district of Los Angeles in 1917.
Some of Max Factor’s early consumer-facing packaging played up the brand’s theatrical and Hollywood beginnings with their drama mask markings.
Max Factor was particularly successful at bringing his makeup products and popular Hollywood stars together in a mutually beneficial promotion of the makeup, movies, and actresses.