A press announcement from Max Factor sent me into a nostalgic reverie this week. Max Factor’s Crème Puff is celebrating its 60th anniversary this year, and for the first time decades is available again in New Zealand (NZ$25.99). This iconic product was created by Max Factor Jnr in 1953, for Hollywood’s entry into colour film, to create flawless-looking skin without an overly powdery finish. The formulation has remained largely unchanged today.
In a world where thousands of new beauty products launch each year, it’s comforting to return to heritage brands and products like Max Factor, Weleda, Dr Hauschka, Revlon, Olay, Coty, Old Spice and 4711 (my all-time favourite summer scent).
I have a clutch of very strong memories of my grandmother connected with the beauty products she used. The packaging, textures and smells associated with them have taken on totemic significance as the years pass.
A lover of Golden era Hollywood, she faithfully set her hair into pin-curls every evening, brushing them out and spraying with a liberal fog of Elnett hairspray in the morning, in an approximation of a Marilyn do (achieved highly successfully given she aged with naturally pure white hair).
On days when she was required to leave the house, she diligently “put on her face” (a term of phrase that always reduced us kids into fits), with Max Factor face powder and red lipstick. I can still smell both those products. The sweet, dusty tinge of the compact, dark blue, with a separate puff, it seemed to belong to a different era. The lipstick, waxy and vaguely perfumed, an item that you constantly seemed to be rubbing off cheek and forehead after she’d kissed you.
Here, we share some of the MiNDFOOD team’s own memories of their mothers and grandmothers and the beauty products they used…
Michael McHugh, Editor in Chief: “I remember my mum wearing Guy Laroche Fidji perfume, I can still see her dabbing it on behind her ears. My Dad bought it for her on one of his trips and then for years she would wear it, and then every Christmas or birthday one of us would buy it for her. The smell of Jasmin and citrus and a mix of goodness knows what always made me smile, and made a hug and kiss from her that much more special!”
Karey Walker, Account Manager (NZ): “I remember watching Mum put on her makeup, it was completely fascinating watching her draw on eyebrows, paint on lippy, carefully drawing the outlines as her mouth twisted one way and then the other. I noticed my reflection behind her in the mirror once. I was making all of the same faces as her and did not realise it. I remember my Grandma and my Mum, using Oil of Olay, I remember the pink watery texture.”
Mariam Digges, Associate Editor (Aus): “My grandma still applies an inch-thick layer of Nivea Crème to her body (and face!) each morning and night, while her signature scents were Paloma Picasso and Charlie Red. The humble Nivea must have worked, because her skin defies her age (79).”
Natasha Dragun, Managing Editor: “A lot of my memories of mum and grandma revolve around scent: Mum was addicted to Chanel No. 5, and Gram loved Yardley English Lavender. Mum passed away when I was 14; I still have my most vivid memories of her – even more so than looking at photos – when I get a whiff of No. 5.”
Carolyn Enting, Associate Editor (NZ): “My grandmother had beautiful skin and used Oil of Olay all of her life. Now, whenever I smell that scent I think of her. It’s a comforting smell that makes me think of her and all things lovely.”
Nikki Birrell, Chief Sub-Editor: “I was seven when my paternal grandmother died – I don’t remember too much about her but I do definitely remember her skin cream Oil of Ulan (Olay) which I may just have dipped into every now and then when she wasn’t looking – it seemed so grown-up and sophisticated to me then.”
Jennifer Van Beynen, Sub-Editor: “My mother used to use Oil of Ulan moisturiser. I think the cream was pale pink, and it smelled pink too. She also wore Elizabeth Taylor’s White Diamonds perfume, a round clear bottle with a band of ‘diamonds’ around it. My Oma – Dutch grandmother – told me a story of a 100-year-old woman who had no wrinkles whose secret was to rub a banana peel into her face every day. Probably not what you’re looking for but the story sticks in my memory!”