Inventor of the Week Archive
for a different Invention or Inventor
Inventor of Covermark®
Cosmetics innovator Lydia O'Leary turned adversity into triumph
when she created a makeup product that could help people with
embarrassing facial blemishes. Born with a large raspberry-colored
birthmark that covered half of her face, O'Leary was used
to getting strange looks on the street. After graduating from
college in 1921, she searched for work as a sales associate
at New York City department stores. Despite her qualifications,
stores rejected her from front-counter jobs because of her
Eventually O'Leary took a job painting cards. This experience
would provide the "a-ha" moment that would lead
her to create Covermark®, the first makeup product designed
especially to hide facial blemishes, and the first foundation
makeup product that would ever receive a patent.
One day O'Leary was painting a flower on a bridge scorecard
using purplish paint and she painted one petal too dark. She
touched it up with a lighter shade of the same color and it
covered her mistake perfectly. She wondered if she could do
something similar to disguise her birthmark. She immediately
went to the mirror and covered the mark with oil paint. The
wheels in her head were turning.
O'Leary began experimenting with ingredients she had at home
or could buy in a drug store, including water, zinc powder
and glycerine. She sought the advice of a chemist as well,
who helped her create new versions of the formula to correct
problems such as drying and cracking, and staying in place.
Within months O'Leary had come up with the perfect product.
She applied for a patent—and her application was denied.
The courts failed to see how her makeup product was different
from other products already patented and on the market.
O'Leary appealed the decision, and sitting before a courtroom
with her Covermark® on her face she was able to astonish
and convince the judges that she indeed had created something
new. She received a patent for Covermark® in 1932—hers
was the only makeup foundation to ever have been granted a
patent by the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). The Covermark®
invention was also significant in that it was the first product
within what has become to be known as the "cosmeceutical"
O'Leary started a company to begin marketing her invention,
hoping to help others who could benefit from it. Today Covermark®
is thriving, with products sold internationally for the face,
legs and body that are water-resistant, smudge-proof, easy-to-apply,
and have sun protection. People with birthmarks, burns, scars,
and other imperfections benefit greatly from O'Leary's invention,
which allows them to lead more normal lives with less self-consciousness
and fear of embarrassment.