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History of Max Factor Pan-Cake Make-up

History of Max Factor Pan-Cake Make-up

Doesn't wearing Hollywood style makeup make you feel oh-so-glamorous? Credit should go to Max Factor Sr., who surely knew what women wanted! He devised the Pan-Cake Make-up that is popular even today. Take a brief look at the birth and evolution of this revolutionary makeup product of our times.
Amita Ray
Interesting Facts
  • The term 'make-up' was coined by Max Factor Sr.
  • Pan-Cake Make-up was so popular in Hollywood that starlets would usually take some of the product home for personal use.
The word 'movies' instantly brings to our minds some really gorgeous faces. We automatically relate the word actress with a flawless complexion, rosy lips, and beautiful hair. However, the beginnings of this art form were not as glamorous. With hours of slathering greasy concoctions of lard, talc, shortening, brick dust and flour on their face and spending a few good hours washing it off, this profession would seem anything but glamorous.

What made things worse was that this greasepaint would crack at the lift of an eyebrow, making the actress to look like the bride of Frankenstein (ouch!) This is when Pan-Cake Make-up came to the rescue of these damsels in distress.

Pan-Cake Make-up History

❥ With the introduction of sound in films, the noisy but super bright carbon lights had to be replaced with tungsten lights. These lights, however, were not as bright. Around the same time, a new technology of panchromatic lights were gaining popularity. The problem with using these lights was that they made skin color appear much darker than what it actually was. Apart from this, the makeup used at that time, such as grease paint, was very stiff and didn't allow much movement of the face.

❥ This prompted the development of a new type of, more flexible, makeup which not only looked good on camera but also lasted longer and would not fade away due to perspiration. The answer to this problem was developed by the Polish-Jewish cosmetician, Max Factor Sr., in the year 1914.

❥ It was the first product that combined foundation and powder in one to produce a much lighter makeup, this was called Pan-Cake Make-up. This makeup gave a natural look to the face, especially in closeup shots. Soon, actresses like Jean Harlow, Mary Pickford, Bette Davis, Joan Crawford, and Judy Garland became big fans of this makeup. The contribution of this product was so significant that it earned its maker an Oscar for innovative makeup in the year 1928, and was trademarked in the year 1929.

❥ This makeup, however, hit another roadblock, with the introduction of technicolor film. As the existing makeup left a sheen on the skin, this sheen would reflect the surrounding colors and would give a reddish or a greenish tinge to the face. Hence, the makeup had to be adjusted to overcome this problem. It took Max Factor about two years to formulate a product that would work well on screen, and finally, in 1937, this makeup was perfected. This version was initially called the "T-D", but the name was later changed to the "Pan-Cake" series. This product was sold in a cake form and was to be applied with a damp sponge. It was capable of hiding all the blemishes and gave a matte look to the face. The makeup was patented in the year 1937.

❥ The only disadvantage to this makeup was that it appeared too dark in normal light and was for stage-use only. Identifying its potential, Max Factor Sr. and Max Factor Jr. co-created a daily wear version in 1937. The makeup made its debut to the public with the movie 'Vogues of 1938' in August, 1937, and 'The Goldwyn Follies', five months later. Despite the economic turmoil, this makeup received an overwhelming response from the public.

❥ It was estimated that one of three women used Pan-Cake Make-up by the year 1940.

❥ In 2009, the current owners of Max Factor, Procter and Gamble, have confirmed that the formula developed by Max Factor Sr. was still being used.

Even after decades of improvements and development, this makeup still has an ardent fan-following and has become a cult classic!