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ociety says that beauty is immeasurable and that all humans are beautiful in their own way. However, about 100 years ago society had quite a different view of beauty. The fewer facial flaws a person had the more beautiful they were considered. This ideology even created a device that apparently “measured” the beauty of a woman based on how “perfect” her face was based on some parameters decided by Max Factor. But who was Max Factor?

You may recognize the name from the famous makeup line of products “Max Factor”. This is because, during the early 20th century, Factor became the most sought-after makeup artist, even before being a profession. Born Maksymilian Faktorowicz in Congress, Poland, Max Factor eventually relocated to Moscow and worked as a wig manufacturer. Factor moved his family and company to Los Angeles, California, after arriving in the country in 1904 because he saw a chance to serve the expanding film industry by offering custom wigs and theatrical makeup. Along with marketing his own cosmetics, he quickly took on the role of Leichner and Minor’s West Coast distributor. Leichner and Minor are two of the top producers of theatrical makeup.

Factor applies lipstick to Hollywood star Louise Fazenda. 1924. (Source: Rare Historical Photos)

A very interesting fact is that he actually came up with the term “makeup” for such beauty products. Before this, the world referred to beauty products as cosmetics. In 1920, Max Factor gave in to his son’s suggestion, and officially began referring to his products as “make-up.” Until then, the term “cosmetics” had been used, because “make-up” was considered to be used only by people in the theater or of dubious reputation—not something to be used in polite society.

His work soon became quite acclaimed and as the businessman he was, he came up with an invention to measure the beauty of his customers, named the Beauty Micrometer. Placed on and around the head and face, the beauty micrometer uses flexible metal strips which align with a person’s facial features. The screws holding the strips in place allow for 325 adjustments, enabling the operator to make fine measurements with a precision of one-thousandth of an inch. The solution to the imperfections found was to apply corrective makeup in order to adjust for the “perfect beauty”. You can imagine that this made Max a fortune as he would very rarely get someone that would get a perfect score using the device.

Max Factor and his assistant measuring the beauty of a woman (Source: Rare Historical Photos)

Despite Max wanting to have the product become a worldwide phenomenon and be sold to millions, it never became popular. Only one beauty micrometer is believed to exist. It is featured in a display at the Hollywood Entertainment Museum. We are all beautiful in our own certain ways and beauty will never be defined by the perfection of measurement.

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