Book Review: Max Factor- The Man Who Changed the Faces of the World


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Published: 2011

Beauty cosmetics, or make-up if you will, is a multi billion dollar industry today. You have hundreds of different brands, some are very prestigious while others you can even find in the dollar store. But it has certainly not been like that for very long. Sure, women wore powders for centuries, but in reality only the elite could afford them and they were no where near the variety and quality of today. They were commonly used in theatre spectacles, but those chemical substances bear little resemblance to the finely crafted make-up that we enjoy today. And that is mostly to the plain genius and hard work of Max Factor.

Although Max Factor, the brand, is American, the man came from another part of the world; Poland. He was born there and became a wig apprentice. Due to his great skill and easy going personality he ended up being the main hairstylist and powder expert in Imperial Russian’s Tsar court. He being very well known, and respected and was paid handsomely. The real price he had to pay was pretty much his freedom. Because he was in the service of the royal family he could not start a family, and could not start his own shop which he very badly wanted. He ended up secretly marrying a girl and running away to America with her. That is where his real struggles and story began. That is your little teaser for the book, as I don’t want to give away too much!

He was such a versatile, persistent and hard working man, it’s very inspiring. He was not only a shrewd business man, but also he was the main chemist behind his products. It was his own experiments that he would depend on for creating new products. He not only specialized in make-up but also wigs. They were extremely popular in movies during the 1920s and 1930s, and he was heralded as the very best in the business at the time. He was very precise and had a strong vision of what he wanted his brand to represent; the absolute highest quality. For his wigs he only used real human hair, and would pay a handsome sum for unique hair colours. The cost was not only in the product however, it was also in the training of his employees. It took years to train up a employee to reach the standard he desired and it cost around $2000 per new employee, which was a hefty sum back then. It’s his amazing all-roundedness that is truly astounding and memorable.

Verdict: The book is very short, so don’t expect a lot of detail, but it gives a perfect overall image of this man and his business. It was a really easy and refreshing read. A real must read! The only downfall is that I would have liked to see some of the darker sides to him. He is sorted painted like this hero, but at times it seems a little unrealistic as he seemed to have no flaws at all.

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