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An Industry of Progress, Part I

By: Mario Montalvo
Posted: September 29, 2011, from the October 2011 issue of Skin Inc. magazine.

Editor’s note: This article is Part I in a four-part series about the evolution of the skin care industry. Part II, which details ingredients, equipment and skin care pioneers who have shaped the industry into what it is today, will appear in the November 2011 issue.

The exact beginning of the beauty industry in the United States may often be elusive, murky, debatable or controversial, especially in regard to chronology and who did what first. Fortunately, its history has been recorded amply by historians, biographers, archivists and eyewitness accounts that continue to provide invaluable information, dates and lore.

Without a doubt, the invention of cinema stands apart as a major contributor to the growth of the beauty industry. From their crude early beginnings, Hollywood film studios created a worldwide force unlike any known before. The movies quickly moved from objects of curiosity to a medium that provided a much-needed panacea for the millions of people reeling from the devastation of a major economic depression. Moreover, the studios’ constant refinements and nonstop outpourings exposed people to a magical kaleidoscope of makeup, cosmetology, fashion, interior design, history, etiquette, dance, music and ethics; a mesmerizing reflection of the world.

Aside from groundbreaking technological innovations, one of cinema’s most early popular permutations was makeup. Black lips and stark white faces were short lived once makeup formulas were created.

Max Factor

An early trailblazer was chemist Max Factor, who arrived in Hollywood in the early 1910s. After long and arduous research, Factor developed what he coined “foundations.” One of his early attention-grabbers was the transformation of sweet, docile, silent-screen star Clara Bow into a sex symbol. Her new look was enhanced through a subsequent addition to his foundation: a combination of soft wax and pigment in a tube, which he named “lipstick.” Bow’s bee-stung lips created such a trend, that by 1923, 50 million women wore lipstick.