This week Max Factor asked me to don my detective’s hat* (can’t find it, but I will locate it in time for Friday’s vlog, promise) and do some beauty research to celebrate 60 years of their pressed powder, Creme Puff. Have you heard of Creme Puff? I have to admit that I hadn’t, despite it being one of Max Factor’s consistent all-time bestsellers. But since delving into their archive of vintage beauty ads (and also doing quite a bit of Googling) I have discovered that Creme Puff has an incredibly loyal (and incredibly large!) fan base. There’s a real sense of it being a beauty secret that has been passed down through the generations – people using it because their mothers did, and perhaps their grandmothers too.
With that in mind, I rang my own Mum to see if she knew what Creme Puff was. ‘Creme Puff? Max Factor?’ she said, ‘ah! My Mum used to use that, I still remember the smell!’ I asked her if she knew what it actually was and she was quite indignant with me, as she sometimes is when I ask her slightly patronising beauty questions in my “I’m an authority on this” tone of voice. ‘Of course I know what Creme Puff is,’ she said. ‘It’s a pressed powder. It was the only pressed powder – if you said you were off to powder your nose at a dance, you were using your Creme Puff. I wrote about it somewhere on my blog, I think.’ (Off I go in my detective’s hat, smoking a Sherlock Holme’s pipe, to look up where she wrote about it…It’s here on MyMumSays.)
Mum got quite nostalgic about it all – it’s amazing how beauty products do that, isn’t it? Oil of Ulay, cold creams, certain fragrances… I asked Mum if she had any anecdotes about Creme Puff and she did – unfortunately. I’m dithering on whether or not to tell you, to be quite honest. ‘Nana used Max Factor,’ said Mum, ‘and one day she was caught short crossing the fields on her way to St Bees. She had to wipe her bottom with the powder puff.’ (Please do add your own anecdotes below for my amusement, if you have any.)
Look at these brilliant old adverts – I wish that our adverts were like these today. So upbeat and uncomplicated, it makes me want to travel back in time and wear pointy bras and red lipstick! Here’s one from Vogue magazine in 1954:
and here’s another from the same year:
I love all of the exclamation marks – At Last! The makeup that keeps its promise! Note, also, the price: $1.25 for the compact plus $3.75 for the refill – five dollars. Sixty years later and with a huge amount of inflation, the Creme Puff still only costs £5.99 in the UK. I can’t find the US price (which would have been useful) so if anyone is in the US can they please pop it in the comments below? This next advert is my favourite:
It’s obvious that women’s makeup concerns haven’t changed much in sixty years – the words sheerest, radiant, feathery-light and natural crop up here as they would in any modern advert for complexion products. I particularly like the passage, ‘Lasts like a makeup base…yet never gives a mask-like effect. Flatters like powder…but never gives a “chalky” artificial look‘ – this sounds like something straight out of one of my own reviews! I’ve been reading up about Max Factor (it would have been Max Factor Jr who was in charge by 1953) and he really was at the forefront of lots of discoveries when it came to cosmetics. He was a bit like Willy Wonka, but with makeup. According to Wikipedia (take this with a pinch of salt, then) Max Factor Jr created a “kissing machine” to test out his new smear-proof lipstick! Way ahead of the game…
This week I’m going to be investigating how Creme Puff has managed to stand the test of time and I’ll be posting up a video with my findings on Friday. I have been trying out a couple of the shades (Translucent and Golden, which is one of two new shades to celebrate the 60th Anniversary) and I’m really impressed! It’s not cakey, it’s not chalky, it just has this instant airbrushing effect on the skin when you use it with a good, large brush and a light hand. Heavy handedness equals heavier coverage, as you’d expect, but still no dryness or cakey finish. I can definitely see why people return to it again and again – it does the job very nicely. Which was pretty much what Caroline Barnes (makeup artist for Max Factor) said to me when I asked her for my video why Creme Puff had stood the test of time. ‘Because it works,’ she said. (I’ll have to pad out the rest of the video with elevator music.)
There’s a radiance to Creme Puff that I find quite surprising considering the formula has barely changed since 1953 – it makes me question whether some brands are fibbing about all of their scientific advances and whatnot! I’ll discuss this further in my video, along with some footage of Caroline giving me the most perfect ever foundation base and using the Creme Puff to create a 3D, luminous finish. Make sure you’re subscribed to my vlog channel if you don’t want to miss it – you can find it here!
Here’s the latest incarnation of Creme Puff; same insides, different dress. A nice, golden, sleek compact. You can find it at Boots.com and Superdrug.com priced at £5.99 – it’s advisable to test out the shades before purchasing as some are not quite as you’d expect!
*this post has been sponsored by Max Factor as part of my work as a Beauty Detective. (It’s an official title, I’ll have you know. I’m going to add it to my name along with “MA”, if I do indeed pass my MA. Ruth Crilly, MA, BD.)
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