The makeup industry is so huge, it’s hard to pinpoint just a few people whose innovations have changed the way we see and use makeup today. Makeup has been around for thousands of years (think ancient Egypt), but it didn’t always exist quite the way we know it now. It wasn’t until the 20th century that five new cosmetic companies were founded and modern makeup as we know it came to be.
Ready to take a trip down memory lane? Here are our picks of some of the most notable makeup artistry pioneers.
Special effects makeup heavyweight Rick Baker is one of the most influential special effects makeup artists in history. Originally the protégé of Dick Smith, “the Godfather of Makeup”, he’s now built a name for himself and can easily hold his own. Seriously, how can you not become a legend after doing the special effects makeup for The Exorcist and Michael Jackson’s “Thriller”? But his most notable work is the epic werewolf transformation in 1982’s An American Werewolf in London.
Before, beastly transformations occurred off-screen, but Baker’s mastery in makeup allowed the filmmakers to show the werewolf transformation in excruciating detail. His hard work didn’t go unnoticed—he won the first-ever Academy Award for Best Makeup for this film. Baker would later go on to win the most Oscars out of any other special effects makeup artist in history! He now has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—not bad at all!
Next up is the founder of one of the oldest cosmetic brands in the world: Rimmel London. Eugene Rimmel, apprenticing under his father as a perfumer for the elite, became a cosmetic and personal hygiene giant. His company became an international beauty empire that introduced us to the legendary mascaras that Rimmel’s name is synonymous with. Talk about a legacy!
Rimmel is still one of the most recognizable makeup brands in the world—a drugstore favorite that sold trendy makeup as the “London Look”. With its branding intertwined with Kate Moss to this day, this beauty company shows no signs of slowing down.
How can we not include the businessman who coined the term “make-up”? Russian-born Max Factor was closely associated with the film industry in his early years. He developed cosmetics that would look great on screen, and eventually introduced them to the public, too. The company is known for all sorts of makeup innovations such as inventing lip gloss, selling the first commercially available foundation and concealer, and packaging mascara in the tube-and-wand combo we know today.
In addition to makeup products, though, he also introduced the world to the “color harmony” theory. This principle is still used today to coordinate makeup colors with facial complexions!
The sun-kissed bronzed look popular today originated in the ‘20s in the mind of Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel. The roaring ‘20s came with new freedoms and fashion styles that were more daring than ever before. Chanel designed clothes that promoted a more active lifestyle, and promoted the suntanned look as desirable after returning to the spotlight from a yacht trip bronzed and unapologetic. From then on, that tanned look no longer signaled poverty, and the fake-tanning industry was born!
It’s almost been a century since the tanned look became fashionable—Chanel is clearly associated with timelessness. Take the brand’s other timeless vintage beauty products: Chanel No. 5 and Vamp nail polish anyone?
You can’t run a Google search on the best makeup artists in the world without seeing Pat McGrath’s name pop up again and again. Undeniably one of the most recognizable names in makeup, her ascent to popularity occurred in the ‘90s—and she’s still going strong. Working with some of the world’s greatest luxury fashion brands like Dolce & Gabbana and Prada, she became a pioneer in using textures and dynamic colors in runway and editorial makeup.
One of the most trusted beauty gurus in the world, her expertise propelled her into the position of Global Beauty Creative Design Director for Proctor & Gamble (the company who now owns Max Factor!). She was inducted into the Member of the Order of the British Empire in 2013 for her services in the fashion and beauty industry—how’s that for an impressive resume?