Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World book review

Bella Book: Max Factor, The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World


Max Factor (born Max Faktor) is credited for being the first to produce a number of beauty accouterments, from false eyelashes to brow pencil. In a new biography, Max Factor: The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World by Fred E. Basten (Arcade Publishing), it becomes clear that his legacy is a lot more than that. After escaping a life as a kept cosmetician by the uncle of Czar Nicholas II and religious persecution in Russia to arrive in America by boat with his young family, Factor became Hollywood's go-to cosmetician (he made wigs and styled hair as well).

For average women in America, however, Factor is responsible for a lot more. Before his wildly successful greasepaints hit the mass market, the word "make-up" (his spelling) barely existed and had a negative connotation when used by women who weren't professional performers. According to the book, a bill brought before the Kansas legislature threatened to make it a misdemeanor for any woman under 44 to wear cosmetics "for the purpose of creating a false impression." Aside from the freedom to use beauty products, Factor can be credited for decisions that still inspire its use: he painted lipstick beyond the outline of Joan Crawford's lips (a trick he called "the smear") and lightened Jean Harlow's hair to platinum.

The tone of the book, written by a former assistant to the head of public relations at Max Factor, is extremely reverent (he uses lots of exclamation points), but that doesn't prevent the subject matter from being accurate and interesting to those with a fascination with all things beauty.

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