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Makeup Forever

February 24, 2014 | by


Max Factor with Renée Adorée

As John Updike wrote in a 2008 New Yorker piece, Max Factor was “the inventor of modern makeup.” Not only did this former beautician to the czars concoct the first movie makeup (it held up under hot lights) and bring commercial cosmetics to the average American drugstore, he also invented lipstick, mascara, lip gloss, false eyelashes, and foundation. Most original of all, in its way, was his invention of “Color Harmony”—i.e., the concept that your makeup should match your hair and complexion. In the early days of one-size-fits-all beauty, this was a paradigm shift, and it is memorialized in his office building at 1660 North Highland, now the Hollywood Museum, where you can still visit his original four rooms: for blondes (blue-hued; the ribbon was cut by Jean Harlow), redheads (green, Ginger Rogers), brunettes (pink, Claudette Colbert), and brownettes (peach, Rochelle Hudson).

For this was the idea: when a starlet walked into one of these rooms, she could look in the mirror and tell immediately whether she was meant to go blonde (as both Harlow and Marilyn did, in the blue room), or perhaps red, like Lucy. “For Redheads Only,” reads the sign on the door of the room off the museum lobby, and while I had always privately fancied that I might look ravishing with russet locks, it cannot be denied that the green-hued walls gave me a distinctly bilious cast. Color Harmony confirmed that, as nature intended, I was an unglamorous brownette. Read More »