Max Factor

Continue to: Max Factor (post-1945)

No other cosmetic company is so closely tied to the development of the movie industry in Hollywood as Max Factor. This Hollywood connection might explain why the stories of the early life of Maksymilian Faktorowicz (Max Factor) read more like a film script than real life. These include his dealings with the court of Tsar Nicholas II – his working for the Russian Grand Opera, a secret love affair and dramatic escape – and the loss of all of his stock and profits at the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis.

However, I can find no independent record of a connection between Max Factor and the Russian Grand Opera, or of him attending the Louisiana Purchase Exposition. According to the manifest list of the S.S. Moltke, the Factor family travelled steerage to the United Sates and Max had only US$400 in his possession when he arrived, so a less romantic possibility is that he led a relatively simple life in the Russian Empire as a hairdresser, barber and wigmaker, moved to America to escape anti-Jewish persecution, arrived in the United States without fame or fortune, and then worked his way up.

Max Factor in Razan

Above: Maximilian Faktorowicz in front of a hairdressing shop (Basten, 1995). The large sign reads ‘barber’s, hairdresser’s or wigmaker’s shop’ while the one above the doorway says ‘Entrance to Barber’s etc’.

After he arrived in the United States, Max Factor continued trading as a hairdresser, barber and wigmaker, first in a barber shop in St. Louis, Missouri, then in an Antiseptic Hair Store he opened when he moved to California in 1908. He listed himself as a barber in the 1910 American census, a wigmaker in his WW1 draft registration, and as a hairdresser in the 1920 census, even though by then he had opened his ‘House of Make-up’.

1906 Max Factor barber shop

Above: 1906 The Factor barber shop in St. Louis (Basten, 1995). It is not known what connection John Factor, Max Factor’s disreputable half-brother, had with the business.

Los Angeles

Another story that looks ‘scripted’ is that Max moved to Los Angeles in 1908 to become part of the motion picture industry. This seems unlikely as New York and Chicago were the motion picture capitals of America at the time and Los Angeles was at best a temporary filming location used by the studios during the winter months. It would not be until 1911 that the first Hollywood production company, the Nestor Film Company, would open for business there.

Max may have moved to Los Angeles for a number of reasons. After undergoing a messy divorce he had just remarried, and was perhaps looking for a fresh start; he may have wanted to get away from his disreputable half-brother, Iakov Faktorowicz (John Factor) [1892-1984], who ended up being a prohibition-era gangster; and/or he might have been attracted to Los Angeles by the new Californian oil fields discovered in 1900 and 1902 which attracted men to the state; men who would be in need of a good barber and perhaps the occasional toupee.

Whatever the reason, by January 1909, three months after arriving in Los Angeles, Max had founded Max Factor & Company and set up his Antiseptic Hair Store at 1204 South Central Avenue, near the edge of downtown. A company brochure from 1917 – containing pages of ‘before’ and ‘after’ photographs – suggested that wigs, switches and toupees were its major product lines.

1917 Before and after photographs from a Max Factor company brochure

Above: 1917 Before and after photographs from a Max Factor company brochure.

Also see the company booklet: Max Factor and Company, recognized leader in the production of artistic toupees and wigs.

Being downtown, Max was close to theatres and he made himself known to actors and actresses – who bought false beards, hairpieces, wigs and make-up – by calling at stage doors with samples of goods.


As luck would have it, 1908, the year Max Factor arrived in Los Angeles, was an important date in the history of the movie industry in the United States. That was the year that Thomas Edison set up the Motion Picture Patents Company (MPPC) – also known as the Edison Trust. Based in New Jersey, it consisted of most of the major film companies, leading film distributors, and Eastman Kodak, the largest American supplier of film stock at the time. The trust was designed to protect Edison’s patents and exert control over the developing American motion picture industry. A number of independent filmmakers reacted to the formation of the trust by moving west where it was more difficult for MPPC detectives and their agents to operate. Good year-round weather and a wide range of shooting locations helped cement a movie industry in California, so even after the MPPC patents expired in 1913, the movie industry on the west coast continued to grow.

Max did not get involved with the movie business in California in any major way until 1913, when Cecile B. DeMille rented a number of Max Factor wigs for his feature film ‘The Squaw Man’ (Famous Players-Lasky Corporation, 1914). Max Factor’s involvement with Hollywood increased rapidly after that as the film industry in Hollywood developed; by 1915, Hollywood was a major film production centre and by the 1920s it produced the vast majority of films made in the United States.


It was common practice for hairdressers in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries to sell theatrical make-up. Actors and actresses purchased wigs and false hair, and many hairdressers and wigmakers stocked greasepaint and other theatrical supplies to better cater for their trade. Since he was close to the centre of town, Max stocked stage make-up from firms like Leichner and Minor for sale to actors, singers and dancers performing in the nearby theatres and vaudeville musical halls. Increasingly, he also carried his own lines – sold under his Supreme brand – including henna shampoo, liquid white, rouge, face powder, eye make-up, cleansing cream and lip rouge (Basten, 2008, p. 22).

In 1914, he added a cream greasepaint to the Supreme range. Produced in 12 shades it was made by mixing pigments into a base of vegetable oils. Supreme Greasepaint – also known as ‘flexible greasepaint’ – has been widely touted as the first make-up developed specifically for the movie industry. According to the story told about its development, Max created it to overcome problems associated with the use of stick greasepaint in motion pictures.

As more movie people visited Max’s store, he learned that they needed something different from stage make-up, which was much too heavy. Stage make-up had to be applied one-eighth of an inch thick, then powdered. When it dried it formed a stiff mask and often cracked, which wasn’t a problem in the theater where audiences were seated far away from the performers, but onscreen, especially in close-ups, it didn’t work. Even hairline cracks were visible. What actors needed was a make-up that allowed them to show expression without cracking and something with enough tints to give them a natural look, not a mask.

(Basten, 2008, p. 23)

It is possible that Max had the movie industry in mind when he developed his Supreme Greasepaint but it should be noted that cream greasepaint (called cream-paint or flesh cream) was commonly used as a stage make-up – especially by actresses – well before 1914 (Young, 1905), and that stick greasepaint continued to be used in Hollywood movies for a long time after Supreme Greasepaint was introduced.

See also: Greasepaint and Early Movie Make-up

The ‘House of Make-up’

After 1913, the Max Factor company grew rapidly, necessitating a move to larger premises in 1916, and then another move to 362 South Hill Street in the theatre district of Los Angeles. As well as beauty parlour equipment and supplies, wigs and other hair products, make-up was now a major part of the business, so the South Hill Street shop opened with a prominent ‘House of Make-up’ sign.

1920 South Hill Street

Above: 1920 External view of the Max Factor Hill Street store in the theatre district at 362 South Hill Street (Basten, 1995). The windows are filled with Max Factor Supreme cosmetics and make-up, along with wigs and other hairpieces.

1919 South Hill Street

Above: 1919 Interior of South Hill Street with Max, Frank, and Davis Factor. Hair pieces occupy the cabinets to the left at the front of the store with make-up on the right behind Davis Factor.

South Hill Street

Above: Hill Street Store with Max and Davis Factor. Hair pieces occupy the cabinets to the left at the front of the store and there is a new display case for make-up on the right.

South Hill Street

Above: South Hill Street with Jennie Factor and unknown man. Hair still occupies the front cabinet.

South Hill Street

Above: South Hill Street. This photograph appears to have been taken at a later date. There have been a number of renovations to the store and cosmetics now occupy the front cabinet close to the door. At the back of the store was a professional make-up and hairstyling salon.


Above: Back counter of South Hill Street with Celia and Freda Factor.

South Hill Street

Above: Back of South Hill Street with Freda Factor and unknown woman who possibly did hairdressing and manicuring. This photograph may have been taken later than the one shown above.

By the time Max Factor opened the South Hill Street store, movie makers were beginning to take make-up more seriously than they had in the early days of film and, starting with George Westmore establishing the first make-up department at Selig-Polyscope Studios in 1917, many studios now had make-up offices staffed with make-up artists on their lots.

Although the Max Factor company continued to provide make-up services to movie stars and studios, its well-stocked research laboratory in the South Hill Street store also meant that Max Factor, and his growing number of employees, could formulate new forms of make-up when the situation required it. The company was therefore in a strong position to assist Hollywood when it adopted three new technologies in the second half of the 1920s: cheaper panchromatic film in 1926; sound in 1927; and Technicolor Process 3 film in 1928.

“Make-up is a dozen times more important to-day than it ever was,” he told me. “Three years ago the players were beautiful or handsome of feature, and got their jobs because of that. Some greasepaint, powder, lip-rouge and an eye pencil were enough make-up.
“Then the talkies came. The pretty boys and girls stammered, squeaked, and—experienced stage folk came along to take their places. They weren’t always beautiful—for instance, the dyed-in-the-business character people, and we had to beautify them, men and women. Others were beautiful, particularly as to coloring, for on the stage color harmony counted more than features. When color was added to pictures, it helped the stage players more than the picture people, but we had to start all over again with an entirely new type of make-up.”

(Max Factor interviewed by MacCulloch, 1930, p. 88)

Two of these innovations – panchromatic and Technicolor film stocks – required the development of new types of make-up and Max Factor had the connections, technical expertise and production facilities to develop and manufacture them.

See also: Panchromatic Make-up

Make-up Studio

Although Max Factor had acquired additional factory capacity at 2453 Brooklyn Avenue, by the late 1920s he was again in need of additional space and, in 1928, the company bought and renovated the Hollywood Storage Company building at 1666 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood. Containing over 40,000 square feet of floor space, the renovated building devoted the first floor to offices, sales, a salon and lecture room while the remainder was used for manufacturing. This extra production space was sorely needed as the company had released its Society Make-Up line in the previous year.

1929 Max Factor Studio

Above: 1929 Two views of sections of the make-up and hairdressing studio on North Highland Avenue. Although Max Factor is photographed in the studio for publicity reasons, it is clear that by this date most of the work is being done by others.


Above: 1929 Bottle labelling machinery in the factory on North Highland Avenue.

Society make-up

In 1927, Max Factor introduced its Society Make-up line. It was not the first cosmetic line the company had produced for the general public – some Supreme cosmetics had been on general sale earlier than this – but it was the first cosmetic range that Max Factor distributed nationally across the United States.

1928 Max Factor Society Make-up

Above: 1928 Max Factor Society Make-up range in a display stand.

The name ‘society’ was probably selected because of its associations with status and respectability – an idea Pond’s had also used when they began using society ladies in product endorsements in 1924 – and the word ‘make-up’ was used, rather than ‘cosmetics’, to associate the line with motion pictures and the movie stars that featured in Max Factor advertising – people used cosmetics, movie stars used make-up. Apparently Max was a little reticent about this but his sons prevailed.

To some women the new word “make-up” may only mean the application of powder, or powder and rouge, or perhaps powder, rouge and lipstick. To others, make-up may only mean the theatrical use of cosmetics. Neither impression is correct, and both have therefore resulted in the wrong use of cosmetics by thousands of women. The expression “paint and powder” and the criticism of a “painted” appearance may also be attributed to the wrong understanding and the incorrect use of make-up.

(The new art of society make-up, 1928, p. 9)

The decision to launch the Society Make-up line required some reorganisation of the company. To extend its operations eastward, a branch office was opened at 444 West Grand Avenue, Chicago, in 1927; in 1928, Sales Builder, Inc. were awarded the contract to advertise and distribute Max Factor products nationally; and, in 1929, the Max Factor & Company re-incorporated under the more company friendly Delaware legislation. The success of the line also led to the Make-up Studio on North Highland Avenue being extended and renovated, with a grand reopening in 1935.

Max- Factor Studio

Above: The renovated and extended Max Factor Make-up Studio on North Highland Avenue designed by S. Charles Lee [1899-1990] as it would have appeared when the building opened in 1935.

Leaving aside the sundries and manicure products, the Society Make-up range consisted primarily of make-up with a small number of skin creams, most of which were used to prepare the skin for make-up.

1928 Product List (Society Make-Up, U.S.) included:
Make-up including Face Powder (Shades: White, Flesh, Rachelle, Natural, Brunette, Ochre, Olive, Evening, Sum’r Tan), Rouge (Shades: No. 18, Flame, Blondeen, Carmine, Raspberry, Natural, Day), Lipstick (Shades: Light, Medium, Dark), Lip Pomade (Shades: Light, Medium, Dark), Eye Shadow (Shades: Brown, Grey, Blue), Dermatograph Pencil (Shades: Black, Brown), Masque (Shades: Black, Brown), Powder Foundation Cream (Shades: White, Pink, Rachelle, Natural), Liquid Whitener (Shades: White, Pink, Rachelle, Natural) and Make-Up Blender (Shades: Flesh, Rachelle, Natural).
Skin care cosmetics including Skin and Tissue Cream, Honeysuckle Cream, Astringent Cleansing Cream, Cleansing Cream, Lemon Cream and Face Bleach; manicure cosmetics including Cuticle Cream, Cuticle Remover, Liquid Nail Enamel, Nail Polish, Nail White, Nail Tint and Nail Enamel Remover.
Assorted sundries including a Face Powder Brush and Brillox, a hair brilliantine.

There was nothing new here, as similar items had been placed on the American market by other producers years earlier. It is not surprising then that early advertising concentrated on cementing the link between Max Factor, Hollywood and movie stars, rather than detailing the products in question. A large number of movie stars from studios such as Paramount, 20th Century Fox, Radio Pictures, Metro Goldwyn Mayer, Columbia and Warner Brothers were signed up to advertise Max Factor products for a nominal fee of US$1.00. This agreement helped the studios promote their pictures and gave aspiring actresses much needed publicity; in return, Max Factor products were associated with Hollywood glamour.

Also see the company booklet: The New Art of Society Make-up (1928)

Color Harmony

Color Harmony principles were promoted as the basis of the Society Make-up line. Women who were unfamiliar with make-up could use them to select make-up shades that harmonised with their complexion, hair and eyes. Max Factor considered color harmony to be one of the three secrets of make-up.

Make-up Easy … If You Learn These Secrets
To accomplish this effect is easy if you know what constitutes make-up; if you learn the correct method of make-up; and if you select the correct color harmony to blend with your natural complexion.
First, then, make-up requires that each feature which adds to beauty must be considered individually and as a part of the harmonious whole. The face, the eyes, the lips, the neck, the arms, the hands, the hair—each should be beautified.
Second, make-up should not be used in a haphazard fashion, but should be applied according to certain well-defined principles of art and cosmetic science.
Third, all cosmetics used must be in perfect color harmony with the individual complexion, or else they clash, producing an unnatural, grotesque effect.

(The new art of society make-up, 1928, p. 11)

Harmony Make-Up

Above: Early 1930s Max Factor window display for Color Harmony Make-Up featuring Claudette Colbert.

Given the potential colour combinations of skin, hair and eyes, colour harmonies were divided into four broad groups based on hair colour – Blondes, Brunettes, Redheads and Brownettes (a category invented by Max Factor himself).

Women could get a suggested make-up suited for their colouring by filling in a form and sending this to the company.

1930s Max Factor courtesy card

Above: 1930s Max Factor Courtesy Card. These could be mailed in for a free complexion analysis, Color Harmony Make-Up Chart and booklet.

By return mail they also received a copy of the booklet ‘The New Art of Society Make-Up’. In later versions of this booklet the hair, eye and skin colours of stars representing each of the four general divisions were described, followed by a list of the Max Factor make-up appropriate to their particular colouring. This enabled women to emulate the make-up of movie stars they perceived as being closest to them in colouring or, as was increasingly the case, to dye their hair and change their make-up to look more like their favourite actress.

The rationale given for the use of Color Harmony principles seems reasonable but the story describing its development is less so, especially when you realise that most films of the time were shot in black and white.

Dream a moment … then fly on the wings of imagination to Hollywood … It is night-time at one of the big studios … A Rolls-Royce silently and gracefully rolls up to the entrance … The star alights and hurries to her dressing room … At her make-up table Max Factor is interestedly working … There is something new tonight … The genius in make-up has developed another discovery … tonight color pigments will be harmonized in cosmetics for the first time … As the star is being made up she wonders if the experiment will be a success … The camera will tell, for the camera never lies … On the set, under the “Klieg” lights, the director marvels at her radiant beauty … Max Factor enthusiastically smiles approval … Intuitively she senses a success as the camera starts clicking … Now, later … the review of the film in the projection room … and as the scene flashes on the screen, the rare beauty of the star appears so lovely, so natural, so alluring, that Max Factor realizes the severe test of the Kleig lights has caused him to develop a revolutionary idea in cosmetics.
Thus, the science of cosmetic color harmony was discovered.

(The new art of society make-up, 1928, pp. 6-7)

As well as providing a rationale for its make-up lines, Color Harmony became important to the company for another reason. Sales Builder, the advertising and distribution company for Max Factor products, quickly realised its potential sales benefits. As they saw it, Color Harmony helped sales because it encouraged women to ‘harmonise’ their cosmetics, that is, to buy all their make-up from the one brand, rather than in an haphazard fashion. This was the make-up equivalent of the skin regimes that companies like Helena Rubinstein, Elizabeth Arden and Dorothy Gray had developed to encourage customers to buy all their skin treatment products from the one line. So, as the 1930s progressed, Color Harmony received more attention in advertising and the Society Make-Up branding diminished and was eventually dropped.

Also see the company booklet: Color Harmony Make-Up with an All Star Cast

Make-up routine

The routine suggested by the company for applying its Society Make-Up was fairly standard, the main exception being the use of a facial brush – developed by Max Factor in 1921. The Foundation Cream mentioned was more like a coloured vanishing cream than the foundations of later years.

First—Cleanse the skin with Max Factor’s Cleansing Cream, removing every sign of make-up each night before retiring. Always have the skin absolutely clean before using make-up.
Second—Close the pores and refresh the skin with Max Factor’s Astringent.
Third—Apply a small dab, half the size of a pea, of Max Factor’s Make-up Foundation Cream to forehead, cheeks and chin. The less used, the better the effect. Dip finger tips in cold water, and blend the foundation Cream into the skin until it disappears from the surface. Keep the fingers moist with water. Work away from the center of the face, using a one-way (not circular) stroke.
If Your Skin is Oily Do Not use foundation cream, but use Max Factor’s Honeysuckle Cream. …
Fourth—Apply Max Factor’s Eye Shadow lightly to the upper lid only. Blend it in very faintly from the eyelash to eyebrow.
Fifth—Pat Max Factor’s Rouge on lightly at the highest spot of the cheek, just below the cheek-bone. blend it gently into the skin with the finger tips, shading the color downward to the full part of the cheek. Blend in the edges of the rouge so as not to leave any lines of demarkation.
Sixth—Pat Max Factor’s Face Powder on profusely with a powder puff, covering the entire face. Then remove surplus with Max Factor’s Face Powder Brush. This method clears all crevices of excess powder, prevents streaking and caking. (Never rub powder on.)
Seventh—With Max Factor’s Dermatograph Pencil, shape the eyebrows, fill them in, or give them a more pronounced color and sheen.
Eighth—Apply Masque to the upper lashes by brushing upward; to the lower lashes by brushing downward. Moisten brush only slightly to prevent spotting and smearing.
Ninth—Use Max Factor’s Lipstick sparingly. Dry the lips first, and then apply lipstick evenly. Rub it well toward the inside of the mouth to eliminate rouge line where the lips meet. The moisten lips. Use Lipstick for moist lips; Lip Pomade for dry.
Tenth—Apply Max Factor’s Make-Up Blender to the neck, arms and hands. Smooth it on thinly and evenly from the neck and shoulders to the tips of the fingers, using a downward, one-way stroke (not circular); then rub into the skin until dry.
Eleventh—Impart a lustrous sheen to your hair with a sprinkling of Brillox as a final touch of perfect grooming.
In the evening, at social functions, dances and in cafes, you will find that your natural daytime make-up will be toned down by the artificial lights. Therefore I recommend a more enlivening color harmony for each type.

(The new art of society make-up, 1928, pp. 22-23)

More detailed instructions were provided on the best way to apply lipstick, rouge, face powder and eye make-up, and some basic techniques used by make-up artists to accentuate various areas of the face were also included.


As might be expected, the skin-care routines offered by Max Factor in the 1930s followed well-established procedures. Skin was ‘nourished’ using Max Factor’s Skin and Tissue Cream, and there were treatments for oily, normal and dry skin similar to those offered by other companies.

To correct a dry skin. AT NIGHT, cleanse the skin and remove make-up with Max Factor’s Melting cleansing Cream. Apply Max Factor’s Skin and Tissue Cream generously and leave on all night so that the nourishing oils will be absorbed by the dry skin. AT MORNING, refresh the skin with a facial bath of Max Factor’s Skin Freshener. Protect the skin for all day with Max Factor’s Make-up Foundation.
To correct an oily skin. AT NIGHT, cleanse the face with Melting Cleansing Cream. Apply Max Factor’s Astringent to correct the oily condition and to contract the enlarged pores which usually accompany an oily skin. AT MORNING apply Astringent again to counteract oiliness and to close the pores before make-up. Follow with Honeysuckle Cream which supplements Astringent in correcting the oily condition, and also provides a basis for perfect make-up.
To care for a normal skin. AT NIGHT, cleanse with Max Factor’s Melting Cleansing Cream. Nourish with a light application of Max Factor’s Skin and Tissue Cream. AT MORNING, refresh the skin with Max Factor’s Skin Freshener, and start your make-up with Max Factor’s make-up Foundation.

(The new art of society make-up, 1937)

Products were also developed for common skin problems including blackheads, freckles, coarse pores, oily nose, dark circles under the eyes, wrinkles, scars, suntan and freckles. These were relatively perfunctory and did not require the use of specialist pore creams, wrinkle creams and the like, commonly available from salon-based companies like Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden.

The Max Factor product line changed very little during most of the 1930s. Some new items were included, e.g., Super-Indelible Lipstick was introduced in 1933 in Flame, Vermillion, Carmine and Crimson shades; some products were given additional colours, e.g., three new shades were added to the older lipstick formulation so that it now had six shades (Light, Medium, Dark, Special Light, Special Medium, and Red Raspberry); and some products underwent name changes, e.g., the Dermatograph Pencil was renamed Eyebrow Pencil and Masque became Eyelash Make-up or Mascara.

1937 Product List (Society Make-Up, U.K.) included:
Make-up including Face Powder (Shades: Flesh, Rachelle, Natural, Olive, Brunette, Ochre, Summer Tan); Rouge (Shades: No. 18, Flame, Blondeen, Carmine, Raspberry, Day); Lipstick (Shades: Light, Medium, Dark, Special Light, Special Medium, Red Raspberry), Super-Indelible Lipstick (Shades: Flame, Vermillion, Carmine, Crimson); Lip Pomade (Shades: Light, Medium, Dark), Eye Shadow (Shades: Brown, Grey, Blue), Eyebrow Pencil (Shades: Black, Brown), Masque/Mascara (Shades: Black , Brown), Make-Up Foundation (Shades: Ivory, Blush); and Make-Up Blender (Shades: Flesh, Rachelle, Natural).
Skin care cosmetics including Skin and Tissue Cream, Honeysuckle Cream, Melting Cleansing Cream and Face Mask.
Assorted sundries including a Face Powder Brush and Brillox, a hair brilliantine.

Also see the company booklet: The New Art of Society Make-up (1937)


The first perfume sold by Max Factor was Le Parfum Max (1925) made by the French firm Les Fourrures Max. In 1933, Max Factor hired Dr. Anthony T. Frascati – known for his research into distilling perfume essences from fruits – as a perfumer and resident chemist, but he does not appear to have produced any ‘parfums’ during his time there, as the next two perfumes, Cocoanut Grove and Trocadero were released in 1938 two years after he left the company.

Frank Factor was the main ‘nose’ of the Factor family but all the fragrances sold by Max Factor up until 1954 appear to have been imported.


In 1935, Max Factor developed a liquid greasepaint called Satin Smooth Liquid Foundation matched with Satin Smooth Powder. Produced in a range of natural skin tones that were guaranteed not to change colour under studio lights, like other greasepaints it was immune to perspiration. Its adoption by the studios seems to have been curtailed by the introduction of Pan-Cake make-up in 1937.

First used as a film make-up in the 3-colour Technicolor film ‘Vogues of 1938’ (Walter Wanger Productions) in 1937, Pan-Cake’s development had been largely passed to Frank Factor after Max was hit by a delivery truck on North Highland Avenue in 1936. After some modifications to its shade range to produce lighter tones, it was released in 1938 as a general make-up in six shades: Cream No. 1, Cream No. 2, Natural No. 1, Natural No. 2, Tan No.1, and Tan No. 2. It sold phenomenally well and sales soon outstripped the combined revenues of all other Max Factor cosmetics (Basten, 1995, p. 161).

See also: Pan-Cake Make-up

1940 Product List (The New Art of Make-Up, U.S.) included:
Make-up including Face Powder (Shades: Rachelle, Rachelle No. 2, Natural, Brunette, Olive, Olive No. 2, Sum’r Tan, Flesh); Rouge (Shades: Flame, Blondeen, Carmine, Raspberry); Cream Rouge (Shades: Flame, Blondeen, Carmine, Raspberry); Tru-Color Lipstick (Shades: Orange Red, Light Red, Vivid Red, Medium Red, Natural Red, Deep Red), Eye Shadow (Shades: Brown, Grey, Blue), Eyebrow Pencil (Shades: Black, Brown), Masque/Mascara (Shades: Black , Brown), Eyelash Make-Up (Shades: Black, Brown); Pan-Cake Make-up (Shades: Cream No. 1, Cream No. 2, Natural No. 1, Natural No. 2, Tan No.1, Tan No. 2); Invisible Make-Up Foundation; Astringent Foundation; and Make-Up Blender (Shades: Rachelle, Natural, Olive, Sum’r Tan)
Skin care cosmetics including Max Factor Cleansing Cream, Melting Cleansing Cream and Dry Skin Cream.
Assorted sundries including a Face Powder Brush and Brillox, a hair brilliantine.

Unfortunately, Max Factor did not live long enough to see how successful the product became. His death in 1938 – possibly brought on by the injuries he sustained when hit by the delivery truck, combined with the stress of a death threat he received while travelling in Italy to visit the newly opened Cinecittà Studios in Italy in 1938 – meant that the company passed into the hands of the next generation.

Generational change

With the death of the company founder, management of the firm passed to the second generation of Factors and their marriage partners – including Frank Factor, Sidney Factor, Louis Factor, Davis Factor and Max Firestein – many of whom had been with the company for decades.

1934 Factor Family

Above: 1934 Frank Factor [1904-1996], Max Factor [1877-1938] and Davis Factor [1902-1991]. After Max Factor died, Frank changed his name to Max Factor Jr. and became company president while Davis became chairman of the board.

Francis ‘Frank’ Factor, who had worked most closely with his father on product development, changed his name to Max Factor Jr. to carry on the Max Factor name. With Frank as company president and his older brother Davis as chairman of the board, the company continued on much as before and even managed to release a new product – Tru-Color Lipstick in 1939 – before America entered the war in 1941.

The company made a number of contributions to the war effort including manufacturing camouflage make-up for the U.S. Marine Corps.


1905Max Factor opens a barber shop at 1513 Biddle Street, St. Louis, Missouri.
1909Max Factor’s Antiseptic Hair Store opens at 1204 South Central Avenue, Los Angeles.
Max Factor & Company founded.
1912Max Factor becomes U.S. citizen.
1914New Products: Flexible Greasepaint (Supreme Greasepaint).
1915Max Factor coins the term ‘brownette’ for women who are between blonde and brunette shades.
1916Max Factor moves to larger premises on South Broadway.
New Products: Eyeshadow and eyebrow pencil added to the Supreme make-up line.
1917New Products: Supreme Liquid Whitener released for general use; Make-up Blender.
1919Max Factor’s ‘House of Make-up’ opens in the theatre district at 326 South Hill Street, Los Angeles.
New Products: False eyelashes using human hair.
1920Max Factor begins referring to his general colour cosmetics as make-up.
1921New Products: Face Powder Brush.
1925New Products: Supreme Nail Polish powder.
1926New Products: A waterproof theatrical make-up developed for the film ‘Mare Nostrum’.
1927Max Factor opens branch office at 444 West Grand Avenue, Chicago.
New Products: Society Make-up line (distributed nationwide); Society Nail Tint, a rose coloured polishing cream; and Society Nail White.
1928Max Factor’s Make-up Studio opens, complete with salon, at 1666 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood.
Sales Builder, Inc. awarded the contract to advertise and distribute Max Factor products throughout the U.S.
Max Factor trademarks the word ‘Pancro’.
New Products: Panchromatic make-up; and Lip Pomade (Lip gloss).
1929Max Factor & Company becomes a Delaware corporation.
Max Factor receives an Oscar for make-up.
New Products: First commercial lip brush; and Sum’R Tan line of make-up.
1930International Division established.
1932New Products: Television make-up for B/W Television.

1933Max Factor opens a third plant devoted to making dry rouge, compacts, mascara and lipsticks.
New Products: Super-Indelible Lipstick.
1934New Products: Liquid Nail Enamel.
1935The renovated and extended Make-up Studio opens at 1666 North Highland Avenue, Hollywood.
New Products: Satin Smooth Liquid Foundation and Powder.
1936Max Factor hit by a delivery truck on North Highland Avenue.
Factory opened at 17 Gorst Road, Park Royal, London.
Make-up studio opened at 49 Old Bond Street, London.
1937Max Factor branch established in France.
New Products: Pan-Cake make-up; and Sun Tan Oil.
1939New Products: Invisible Make-Up Foundation; Tru-Color Lipstick; flat brushes for applying lipstick; and soft powder brushes for removing superfluous powder.
1940Max Factor & Company registers the Max Factor Hollywood trademark.
Max Factor established in Manila, The Philippines and Canada.
1941Max Factor established in Cuba.
1944Max Factor opens a buying office at 730 Fifth Avenue, New York; and a branch in Mexico.

Updated: 9th June 2017

Continue to: Max Factor (post-1945)


75 years of Max Factor. (1984). Manufacturing Chemist. January, 49.

Allen, M. (1981). Selling dreams. Inside the beauty business. London: J. M. Dent & Sons Ltd.

Anderson, K. (2001). “Go West”: The representation of Los Angeles in silent film comedy [Electronic version]. Spectactor. 21(1). 82-90.

Basten, F. E. (1995). Max Factor’s Hollywood. Glamour, movies, make-up. Los Angeles: General Publishing Group.

Basten, F. E. (2008). Max Factor: The man who changed the faces of the world. New York: Arcade Publishing.

Factor, M. (1937). Standardization of motion picture make-up. Journal of the Society of Motion Picture Engineers, 28(1), 52-62.

MacCulloch, C. (1930). Seen in their true colors. Motion Picture. 39(4), 38, 88, 104.

The new art of society make-up [Booklet]. (1928). Hollywood: Max Factor Studios.

The new art of society make-up [Booklet]. (1937). London: Max Factor Studios.

Peiss, K. (2007). Hope in a jar: The making of America’s beauty culture. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

Young, J. (1905). Making up. A practical and exhaustive treatise on this art for professional and amateur. New York: M. Witmark & Sons.