The History of Pro Cosmetics
A LESSON IN MAKE-UP HISTORY FROM JOE BLASCO
As a professional make-up artist for over 40 years, I am confident in telling you that make-up artists will always use a variety of products, not just one line. Even as a cosmetics manufacturer, my make-up case contains not only Joe Blasco products, but also Ben Nye, Bob Kelly, Bobbi Brown, MAC, Max Factor, RCMA, Stila, William Tuttle and numerous other professional and society-oriented brands. A make-up artist selects products based upon the amount of experience, expertise and knowledge that they have acquired during their career, as well as the requirements dictated by the job at hand. Sometimes, in fact more and more these days, a make-up artist must satisfy the requests of the individual stars and celebrities to whom they serve. However, no make-up artist should be afraid to explain to a performer why he or she chooses a specific product for a particular job, especially if the job requires a product that is different from the one requested by the star. Knowledge and confidence is of primary importance when dealing with the strong and dynamic personalities of celebrities and media performers. Product cost can also be a consideration, but should not take priority over the need for quality goods.
There are many fine cosmetic products which are intended for professional use. Many products which were developed for society use by commercially-oriented cosmetics companies have been shown to also be adaptable to motion picture and television use, particularly lipsticks, eye shadows, eye and lip pencils and various other products which fall into the category of “accent” colors. An “accent” color is usually a color product other than a flesh-toned base, highlighter, shader, neutralizer or concealer. “Accent” products are used as the most important part of the “decorative” application process, once a perfect foundation has been applied. Depending on the film or television process and the lighting involved to illuminate the subject, the base color may vary from very light to very dark and usually will contain an olive (yellowish-green) undertone. Pink bases, grayed-beige bases and orange bases are generally avoided by experienced professionals. Creating a very natural appearance is of ultimate importance.
The “foundation” is comprised of the base application, coupled with neutralizer, concealer, highlighting, shading and a neutral “no color” setting powder. Sometimes, cream cheek color is preferred by the professional make-up artist and therefore is applied as part of the “foundation” process, immediately after the base application. Even though cream cheek color is technically considered an “accent” color, as a cream, it must be applied over a cream base prior to powdering. If cream cheek color is not included as part of the “foundation,” then normally a dry cheek color will be used, which then is considered a corrective part of the “decorative” process, which follows the completed, powdered “foundation” application. Some newcomers to the field will confuse the word “base” with the word “foundation.” The “base” is one, or a mix of several, flesh-toned products. This is what we old-timers use to call “ground color.” The “foundation” is the end result of the proper application of the several products mentioned above, which will correct, enhance and contour the flesh-tone and facial shape. Usually, the base is applied immediately upon the moisturized skin. An exception to the “What do I apply first?” question is answered by carefully analyzing whether the skin color and condition may require a neutralizer or concealer prior to the application of base. The reason newcomers innocently confuse and/or interchange the terms “base” and “foundation,” is because, unless they have had professional make-up instruction, their knowledge is usually being derived from, or influenced by, the marketing terminologies employed by society-oriented cosmetics companies. These companies, more often than not, will use the term “foundation” to describe what is professionally known as either “base color” or “ground color.”
Originally, the professional make-up companies during the late 1800s and early 1900s were the Leichner Company and the Stein Company. These two companies were the forerunners of professional make-up products for the theatrical stage and served as inspiration to Max Factor and the many others who rapidly followed. Whereas Leichner and Stein were predominately intended for theatrical stage usage, Max Factor refined the cosmetics manufacturing process in order to produce cosmetics which would be suitable for motion pictures and eventually, for television.
Max Factor was the professional make-up company of preference during the 1920s, 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s, and well into the 1970s. In fact, my career in Hollywood began as a traveling make-up representative for the Max Factor Company in 1966. This is after I had already worked at ABC and NBC television in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for four years, predominantly using the Max Factor theatrical products. During the mid -1970s, Max Factor began to discontinue its theatrical products. Since then, Factor has begun to manufacture and advertise many of its current cosmetics as being acceptable for “professional” and “society” use. I do find that to be true. Max Factor Sr., the founder of the Max Factor Company, collaborated with the great Jack Dawn, the original Head of Make-up for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, in creating the Max Factor lining colors (similar to my Creative Colors today) and the panchromatic base colors for use in black-and-white film. In the make-up museum, which is a part of Hollywood make-up school, I had on display, during the 1970s and 80s, the original contract actually signed by Jack Dawn and Max Factor Sr.! To my great dismay, since that time, the contract has been either misplaced or, sadly, stolen. Recently, my make-up school, the Joe Blasco Make-up Center in Hollywood, moved to a larger facility and I am currently in the process of searching through the rubble of our fifteen storage lockers to hopefully locate this fabulous piece of make-up history. This contract was given to me in the late 1970s as a gift from the famous make-up artist Harry Thomas, who was the make-up artist for the original Superman television series, Ed Wood’s original Plan 9 From Outerspace, the original Voodoo Women, the original Little Shop of Horrors, The Neanderthal Man, Night of the Blood Beast and over five-hundred other motion pictures which were produced during the 1940s, 50s and 60s.
Joe Blasco Cosmetics
Another professional make-up company, which successfully made a transition into the society market during the 1940s and 50s, was the House of Westmore. This fine line was originally compounded for George Westmore and his very talented make-up artist sons, who worked at their “House of Westmore Salon” on Sunset Boulevard in Hollywood. The original Westmores also headed up the make-up departments of many of Hollywood’s prestigious film studios: Wally Westmore at Paramount, Perc Westmore at Warner Bros., and Bud Westmore at Universal International. Today, another very talented and famous Westmore is Mike Westmore. Mike is the genius behind the make-up for the current Star Trek series of films and newly produced TV spin-offs. He was also the make-up artist for Raging Bull and numerous other well-known film and television productions. Frank Westmore, one of the original brothers, wrote a very informative book concerning the Westmore dynasty titled “The Westmores of Hollywood.” I feel this book should be required reading for all make-up artists and students of make-up artistry.
My longtime friend and teacher, Richard Corson, who is the author of nine editions of the book Stage Makeup, introduced me to a wonderful professional line of make-up known as Mehron. The Mehron line, although originally intended as a line of products for the live stage, is another shining example of a professional line of products that has gained great acceptance within the motion picture and television communities.
A wonderful make-up artist, by the name of Kiva Hoffman, was one of the men behind the formulation of a portion of the original Alexandra deMarkoff cosmetics line. Founded during the late 1950s and early 1960s, this line became famous for its very highly pigmented liquid bases, excellent at providing natural-appearing opaque coverage on mature skin. Although originally intended for use as a society make-up, these fine products were widely used by make-up artists in both film and television. Mr. Hoffman, another of my teachers, did the make-up for the original television series, The Untouchables, among hundreds of films and other television shows.
During the early 1960s, Vincent J-R Kehoe, a very talented make-up artist, photographer and writer from New York, who wrote several books on the art of make-up for motion picture and television, created a wonderful professional line of products called RCMA ( the Research Council of Make-Up Artists). This line is still available today and is used by many professional make-up artists, including myself. In fact, during the late 1960s, I worked with Vincent J-R Kehoe’s son, Tyler Hillman, as a make-up artist and as the west coast representative for the RCMA products.
Another addition to make-up history during the late 1960s and early 70s involved a very accomplished New York wig maker and make-up artist, Bob Kelly. Mr. Kelly created an extensive and quite excellent line of make-up that is compatible for motion picture, television and the live stage. I can recall working at ABC Television during the early 1970s and being very impressed with the wide variety of colors offered by the Bob Kelly line.
At 20th Century Fox, the Head of Make-up, Ben Nye, aside from being a genius make-up artist, was also a consummate cosmetic chemist. He, like Kehoe, created his own line of products. These Ben Nye products were originally used at the Fox studio and then became widely utilized throughout the motion picture, television and stage mediums. Ben Nye’s line is now expertly headed by his son, Dana Nye, who has built his father’s company into what many consider to be the world’s most extensive and highest- quality line of products for the live theatrical stage. This excellent line, however, as Ben Nye Sr. had intended, is much more than simply stage make-up. It is, and has been, also perfectly suited for use in motion pictures and television since the mid-1960s. Ironically enough, I also had the wonderful opportunity and privilege of working alongside the great Ben Nye! In fact, it was Ben Nye Sr. who taught me the exacting art of cosmetics chemistry and manufacturing!
During the mid-1970s, William Tuttle, the Head of Make-up for Metro Goldwyn Mayer, also created his own line of cosmetics products, which were immediately accepted by most professional make-up artists worldwide.
Each of these men were pioneers in their fields. As a professional make-up artist, I had the unique opportunity of working directly for most of these men. Subsequently, I had the chance to use all of their products throughout my career. The knowledge that I derived from these great pioneers, through their teachings and through the use of their cosmetics, has stayed with me and is now being passed along to my many students, trainees, and apprentices.
Because of the success of cosmetic lines, founded by professional make-up artists, film studio executives in Hollywood saw the possibilities of making great profits from marketing their own “celebrity” cosmetic lines to the general public. With this in mind, these moguls approached their make-up department heads with the idea of manufacturing and marketing cosmetics, which the studios would publicize as their own. These lines would be publicized as being used in their films, on their stars. For example, executives at Universal International, whose make-up department was headed by Bud Westmore, contracted a laboratory to produce private label cosmetics that they called “Cinemateque.” These cosmetics were briefly sold at the make-up show at the tour given of the Universal lot. “Cinemateque” rapidly failed. At Warner Bros., Gordon Bau and George Bau created an exquisite line of cosmetics called “Warnercolor Cosmetics.” Unfortunately, this was also short-lived and proved incredibly unprofitable for the studio. I, while visiting Ben Lane, a later make-up department head on the Warner Bros. lot, can remember seeing large storage bins filled with thousands of units of finished and beautifully packaged containers of “Warnercolor” products that were never marketed. To the best of my knowledge, neither “Cinemateque” nor “Warnercolor Cosmetics” ever became available to the general public. I am fortunate to have several pieces of “Warnercolor” products in the museum of my make-up school in Hollywood.
During the early to mid-1980s, there emerged several very talented make-up artists whom were sponsored by celebrities and/or marketing companies, as well as a few celebrities themselves, who wished to have their names placed on cosmetic products. These artists and celebrities began to market their own “private label” lines. Most of these lines failed, with the exception of perhaps one or two. Those that were successful became so because of their unlimited financial backing and unique marketing strategies, that usually utilized the home shopping television channels to acquire clients. Some of these companies made millions of dollars and then just seemed to fade away almost as rapidly as they appeared.
I personally began to formulate the Joe Blasco line of professional products, in my own laboratory, from the knowledge gained through the experience of using all of the aforementioned products, as well as many other lesser-known professional and better-known society lines. The Joe Blasco Cosmetics line began as an extremely extensive line of products intended for professional use. However, because of its unique formulation, which is quite different in its percentage of pigmentation saturation than the others, my product was also discovered to work exceptionally well for everyday society-wear. I actually began developing my products during the mid-1970s, shortly after William Tuttle launched his line. As did the others, the Joe Blasco line rapidly gained recognition from many top professionals in motion pictures and television. However, the uniqueness of the line has enabled it to make a successful transition from professional use in the entertainment industry to use by women off-screen as well. Joe Blasco Cosmetics are now available throughout the world in professional make-up stores, beauty salons, beauty supply stores, as well as in spas and major department stores.
Starting during the mid to late -1980s, after the success of my line and the success of all of the other lines which I have mentioned, several other companies, known mostly as society cosmetics manufacturers, then began to create products which they marketed dually for professional and society use. These companies, although they may not have had a Max Factor, a Vincent J-R Kehoe, a Bob Kelly, a Ben Nye, a William Tuttle, or a Joe Blasco, have indeed succeeded in penetrating both the professional and society markets. They have done so through creating products which are of similarly high quality as the professional products mentioned above, products which came many years before them! A little known fact is that most of these new companies are all actually owned by one or two conglomerate cosmetics manufacturing corporations. This is much unlike the original make-up companies, which were founded by well-known and experienced individuals, who had worked, for decades, as pioneers in the field of professional make-up artistry! These new companies simply followed the format of their predecessors, but with the advantage of greater capitalization and marketing tools.
I am flattered that the Joe Blasco line, along with the other fine professional lines mentioned above, has been closely watched and followed by so many other companies. I am equally pleased and proud of the fact that my professional line of products is now sold shoulder-to-shoulder with those society cosmetic products in department stores throughout the world!
Every cosmetic line has its good points and its bad points. What one make-up artist may consider a fault, another may consider an asset. That is the beauty of the art of make-up (no pun intended). A knowledgeable and experienced make-up artist will be able to understand the unique characteristics of each product line and will be able to judge their value to the make-up profession, as well as to the general public. There are many wonderful professional and society-oriented lines of cosmetics to choose from. A true artist should never limit herself or himself in any way.