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5 Iconic Cosmetics

Max Factor Pan-Cake
Max Factor advises actress Dorothy Mackaill on her makeup, circa 1930.
Max Factor advises actress Dorothy Mackaill on her makeup, circa 1930.
Margaret Chute/Stringer/Hulton Archive/Getty Images

The company MAX Factor is responsible for many innovations in the world of cosmetics -- the company produced the first lip gloss, the first eyebrow pencil and is even responsible for the widespread use of the word "makeup" ("cosmetics" was the common term at the turn of the 20th century). But it's in the film and television industry that MAX Factor made its real impact.

In the early years of film, actors used the thick layers of makeup they would have used if they'd been on stage. While the audience couldn't see the cracks form in the foundation, movie-going audiences could. In 1914, MAX Factor produced a thinner form of greasepaint, available in several shades, that made the perfect foundation for the silver screen. A few years later, however, Technicolor came along, and the makeup again proved inadequate. Actors would often have a red or green glow on their faces, a result of the grease paint's reflection off costumes or other fabrics on the set. In 1937, the company introduced yet another foundation, Pan-Cake, so called because it came in a pan in the form of a cake. Pan-Cake covered skin imperfections, but its finish was transparent, so the world was spared the image of Scarlett O'Hara looking green in her homemade curtain dress.

Immediately, film critics noted the advances in makeup technology in 1930s films such as "Vogues of 1938" and "Goldwyn's Follies" [source: Procter & Gamble]. Just as quickly as Pan-Cake became the standard for movie makeup, it became the standard for normal women everywhere. That's because actresses would often take Pan-Cake home with them after a day on the set, and women, eager to wear what the stars did, demanded that it be made available in stores. As a result, Pan-Cake became the fast-selling item in the history of makeup [source: Tannen].