Mark Traynor: The Man Behind The Face Lift Tapes

If you’re like most makeup artists, when you hear the name Mark Traynor, the image conjured in your mind is an elastic string with tape tabs attached to both ends. In other words, the Temporary Face Lift–the beauty tool that’s been the secret weapon of professional makeup artists and celebrities since its launch 50 years ago. For anyone unfamiliar, it’s used to give the face an instant, visible lift for a more youthful appearance. This product has helped many makeup artists create the transformative beauty looks that have made them famous. It’s still so widely used today that it’s far surpassed “cult” status and instead has claimed a permanent spot in beauty history. 

On the contrary, the man who created it seems to have been largely forgotten along the way as the man and the product became synonymous. When Alcone Company acquired Mark Traynor Beauty in late 2017 after a long business partnership and friendship, we committed not only to serve its loyal customers but to continue the legacy of the brand, which also means sharing his story with you.

THE BEGINNING

Mark Traynor was a hair and makeup artist from New York City who had a multifaceted career in the beauty industry that spanned decades. Born in 1922, he was a creative child fascinated by the works of the master painters. His artistic interests evolved when he was a teenager, inspired by both a Westmore book and a trip to Paris where he met Antoine, the celebrity stylist of his day. Although he was only 15, he had just graduated high school, and this meeting helped him choose a future career path. Beauty school it was!

A young and dapper Mark Traynor

EARLY CAREER

After completing his education, his first noted career highlight was landing a job as a stylist at the upscale and very prestigious Charles of the Ritz salon. While there, he began experimenting and creating new and unique hairstyles that helped his loyal clientele grow. He eventually opened his own salon, Coiffures by Mark, and by my guesstimation this would be the late ‘40s or early ‘50s. According to an article entitled Mark Traynor: A Legend in Aesthetics , Mark held court quite fabulously in what could be described as an extremely colorful scene:

“Although his work was always artistic, original and wearable, Mark did nothing to dispel his public image as a wild and somewhat eccentric genius. At times, he tinted his blond hair an emerald green in this pre-hippy, pre-punk era. Also, he worked with a live Capuchin monkey on his shoulder. Mark garnering front page headlines with his sometimes high-fashion and sometimes outrageous hairstyles. His salon became the focal point of gossip. You might find there a Duchess sitting next to a movie star, seated next to a high-priced call girl.”

NEW DIRECTIONS

His business grew to five locations but, like most creative people, he became restless for the next adventure. He sold his salons and left for Paris on a quest for inspiration and also sought an education that focused on makeup and skin care, which he studied at an academy there. Once back in New York and armed with a thorough mastery of both makeup and hair along with being an expert colorist, he was hired as Makeup and Beauty Director of L’Oreal Paris at their New York City headquarters (then Cosmair) in the early ’60s. While there, he consulted on the development of the brand’s first U.S. makeup line and designed the looks for advertising campaigns which allowed him to further perfect his signature “chiaroscuro technique of using light and shadow” or highlight and contour as we call it today.

L’Oreal Cosmetics Color Card from the Mark Traynor Collection

Credit reads “Coiffure by Mark Traynor of L’Oreal” 1963

Credit reads “Coiffure by Mark Traynor of L’Oreal” 1965.

It was around this time that Mark Traynor became something that most of us will never be: the inspiration for an Off-Broadway musical. “Never Say Dye” was a comedy based on his experiences working in the salon world. It opened in May of 1964 at the New Bowery Theatre on St. Mark’s Place, the future ex-home of the infamous Trash and Vaudeville store. Based on the excerpt from the article previously mentioned, this show must have been very entertaining!


BEAUTY EXPERT

After L’Oreal, Mark moved on to become Coty’s Makeup Consultant. There he helped design the first complete collection of color cosmetics, The Originals, to which he brought his concepts for glowing skin, jeweled eyelashes, and face and body painting. In this excerpt from an issue of WWD from late 1967, Mark shared his vision for Coty’s Spring ‘68 look:

“Mark Traynor decided that a rain-washed flower face was the most romantic one to express Spring. Here’s how he sees it: To the pinked cheek glow, he adds eyes that are softly shadowed… the lips blooming with new warm shades but cool with frosting–and gleamed with a bit of gold.

Eyes like Flowers are really round for Spring–upper and lower lashes accented at the center rather than the ends. Traynor paints on the lower lashes–cut the upper short on the sides. The shadow for daytime is Pastel Blue and Purring Pink, and Charcoal or Midnight Blue Liner outline the entire eye. ‘Why not,’ suggests Traynor, ‘combine Celery and Lilac Shadows for the softest look.’ …. And he’s pushing the idea of Gold or Silver Shadow to highlight– while lids are contoured with Navy.”

Unlike the L’Oreal ads shown earlier, the Coty ads below are not specifically credited to Mark Traynor, but they were published during his years there and seem very similar to the creative direction described above.

Coty Originals ad, 1967

Coty Goldsilver ad, 1967

Around this time, Mark also enjoyed a successful freelance career in print and television, often working with the top “it” women of the day such as Lauren Hutton, Cheryl Tiegs and Cybill Shepherd. He had also become a bit of a celebrity himself making on-camera appearances on the popular talk shows of the day where he presented beauty and fashion trends to hosts Merv Griffin, David Frost, Mike Douglas, and Johnny Carson. On a 1966 episode of the Tonight Show, Mark referred to himself as a “Beauty Creator,” which he explained was one who consults on the client’s total look – hair, makeup and “costume.” It was easy to see why he was such a great guest because in addition to his unique, “futuristic” presentations (elaborate jeweled “hair cages,” gems on the face and body, etc.), he had a great sense of humor mixed with style and charm– in other words, perfect for television.

Makeup and styling of Richelieu’s faux pearl cap by Mark Traynor, Harper’s Bazaar 1966

He also returned to salon work at some point within the same year, as evident from the clipping from the New York Sunday News which showed Mark as “chief stylist” of the posh Hambletonian Spa in Goshen, NY. His work was also featured on cover of Salon Owner magazine and inside is a spread with step-by-step styling instructions accompanied by photos that captured his masterful hands at work.

New York Sunday News, 1966

Hair and makeup by Mark Traynor, Salon Owner Magazine 1966

PRODUCTS

Mark Traynor had a prolific entrepreneurial spirit and introduced many innovative products and ideas over the years. An issue of Harper’s Bazaar from 1964 mentioned his “made-to-order, very ingenious, pair of petits vagues–tiny hairpieces to pin prettily to the sides of the head.” On a different appearance on the Tonight Show, Mark debuted Instant Face, a product line that consisted of prosthetic noses, eyelids, chins and a variety of hair pieces. His trend prediction was that changing one’s features would become just as popular as changing one’s outfit for an evening out. Not surprisingly, I could find no evidence that Instant Face actually took off. Regardless, watching Johnny’s face altered on “live” TV was great fun!

Mark on Tonight Show
Mark Traynor transforming Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show

Mark Traynor finally hit “product gold” when he introduced his most successful products which are still offered today. The Temporary Face Lift, or Traynor Lift, was launched in late 1969, followed later by the Isometric Beauty Band. This face-lifting headband could also be used to do facial exercises, something Mark strongly believed was part of an effective beauty regimen. Harper’s Bazaar featured this product and Mark’s Face Gym on West 54th Street in their 1972 July issue:

“At the Face Gym, Mark Traynor likes his clients to use the band when carrying out facial exercises–exaggerated yawns, scowls, high oh’s of surprise and many others–all to keep the face in better shape.”

He was certainly way ahead of his time with this concept as yoga and exercise classes for the face have just begun to gain popularity in recent years. Skin care products and a full range of color cosmetics were also developed under his brand’s umbrella although none of them exist today.

Vintage promotional art with illustration by Mark Traynor

Early display and packaging for the Traynor Lift

THE HARDEST WORKING MAN IN THE BEAUTY BUSINESS

“Mark Traynor is not one to rest on his laurels.” This sentence opens the introduction of his book, A Classic Approach to Makeup for Fashion Film & Theatre. I would wholeheartedly agree as it’s been impossible to include everything he’s done in this post, not to mention that new information is still being uncovered. What we do know for sure is that Mark Traynor worked with many clients and companies, held many creative roles, and was considered an industry expert, often mentioned in magazines and newspapers throughout his career. In between running his many business ventures, he also authored four books and was the acting Makeup Director for the Wilfred Beauty Academy from 1966 through the ’80s.

Mark Traynor ad, 1977

Image from Mark Traynor’s Beauty Book

Letter from Mark Traynor to Vincent Mallardi with original photos

Alcone Company began selling Mark Traynor’s products in 1988. He would make personal sales calls to Vincent Mallardi who recalls him as a “curious, happy person” who radiated positive energy and was always in a good mood:

“He refused to have a bad day; nothing bothered him. When I would ask how he was, he’d say ‘Woooonderful Daaarling!’ … Mark said his mission in life was to make women look more beautiful–and he did. He was truly the end of an era.”

Mark Traynor passed away in 2008 after a fascinating life and career. He was an accomplished hair and makeup artist, fashion-forward innovator, beauty entrepreneur, creative director, educator, theatrical inspiration, television beauty guru, and yes– the man behind the Face Lift Tapes.

In memory of Mark Traynor

November 30,1922 – March 23, 2008

This post is dedicated to everyone who knew and loved him.

Is makeup history your thing? Then you’ll enjoy reading Welcome to The Alcone Archives!

Author’s note: Researching Mark Traynor’s career has been a project fueled by passion and the delight of continuous discovery; however, through this process, I learned that it’s very difficult to piece together the details of someone’s life when they’re no longer here to tell their story. Any inaccuracies are unintentional and are due to limited resource availability. If anyone reading this has information or would like to share memories or their first-hand experiences with Mark Traynor, please feel free to comment. I’d love to hear from you!

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Sources:

Mark Traynor’s Beauty Book by Mark Traynor with Diane Seide

A Classic Approach to Make-Up for Fashion, Film & Theatre by Mark Traynor

Mark Traynor: A Legend in Aesthetics, Dermascope Magazine (orig date July/August 1990)

Media: WWD, Harpers Bazaar, Vogue, New York Times, New York Sunday News

The Tonight Show, Carson Archives

The Mark Traynor Collection, The Alcone Archives

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