Kryolan Creates Illusions: The Body as a Canvas

The Berlin Kryolan company is a leading global producer of professional makeup. Yes, Kryolan serves the arts, but at the same time it is firmly grounded in scientific research and EMD’s pigment expertise.


Its contents are realistically sloshing around inside. "Go right ahead!" urges Dominik Langer, Managing Director of the family-owned Kryolan company in Berlin, one of the global market leaders for professional makeup.

Its product range includes not only approximately 700 colors of lipstick, eyeliners, and highlighters but also fake blood, special effects for simulating wounds, and artificial vomit. The smell coming from the just-opened container can be described as somewhere between neutral and rather pleasant. "The solid pieces are oatmeal, and if we need to we can add bread or mandarins," Langer explains. In the past, one batch was perfumed with peppermint oil at the customer's request.

Kryolan: The body as a canvas

A look inside the offices of Kryolan and how EMD’s pigments contribute to the company’s amazing work.

Masters of illusion

The peppermint oil was specially extracted by Yousef Atapour from peppermint tea he had brewed himself. "That was the only way I could make sure the peppermint oil fulfilled all the food law requirements," he says. Atapour is the head chemist of the Research and Development department at Kryolan. He is the living embodiment of the company's motto "Makeup is a science" and the enthusiasm with which the company's 160 employees regard the human body as a canvas to restyle for film and theater performances. 

The company's products are also used in many other areas, ranging from fashion shows to photo shoots and special orders — such as the one that was placed when "an older lady's favorite shade of a skin cream disappeared from the company's product range, and we had to re-create it," Atapour recalls. The head chemist's work always begins with a specific task. Sometimes he defines the task himself, but often it comes from professional makeup artists. 

These masters of illusion send their heroes through fire and water and breathtaking adventures, make actors bleed to death on the stage evening after evening, and provide detective thrillers with drowned corpses that horrify even the pathologists. In Atapour's head and in his laboratory, these images take on concrete shape.

An aquarium full of ice

The creation of the finished product often begins with a type of cream based on oil or water to which pigments and other ingredients are added. Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany is one of the companies that provides Kryolan with pigments ("Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany products are especially long-lasting and kind to the skin," says Atapour). Between 25 and 50 percent of the finished makeup consists of these creams. Atapour begins the production process by using a spatula to stir together the ingredients of his composition.

Often there are more than ten ingredients. He then adds these ingredients to the melted white basic cream, checks the result, and feeds it into a roller mill. The mill looks like a noodle machine and fulfills the same purpose: It homogenizes all of the materials in this mass. Atapour, who has worked at Kryolan for 25 years, recalls an order that required him to fill a 120-liter aquarium with a gel that looked like a block of ice. 

"The customer then filled the aquarium with fake fish," he explains. For another order, which came from a television show for children, he had to develop four real-looking artificial pancakes. Another director wanted an actor to first eat a piece of apple pie and drink a Coca-Cola, then realistically vomit — a task that was child's play for Atapour. The rolling mill has now homogenized the mixture. The smell of beeswax rises from a cream that looks somewhat like fried chicken; when it's spread on the skin, it creates the look of a deep tan. 

In addition, the cream is "micronized" — in other words, the milling has reduced the pigments' particle size from between ten and 15 micrometers to between five and eight micrometers. Now the particles' diameter is about one tenth of the diameter of a human hair. "We need micronized pigments for the high-resolution film and television cameras. Otherwise it would be possible to see the pigments' structure," Atapour says.

For many companies all over the world, Kryolan is the company of choice for supplying high-quality makeup. For many companies all over the world, Kryolan is the company of choice for supplying high-quality makeup.

For many companies all over the world, Kryolan is the company of choice for supplying high-quality makeup.

Ten tons of blood flows every year

Kryolan cooperates closely with Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. "The people in Darmstadt supply us reliably with top-quality raw materials, but that's not all," says Atapour. "They also develop special-effects pigments according to our specific wishes." In many cases, the first step is to produce a test batch in the laboratory. If the customer likes the result, the material goes into production in dimensions of up to 120 kilograms per batch. The roller mills are bigger, but the mixers are the same kind that are used in a bakery. 

The top priorities are precise implementation of the recipe ("We always have to get absolutely the same color tone. Even slightly different color tones would result in a catastrophe in a film production!") and scrupulous hygiene during the production processes. Kryolan is one of the biggest industrial employers in Berlin. Many processes are still carried out here by hand, because they are difficult to do automatically. One of these processes is the production of a palette of lipstick pastes of different colors, because each cell contains only a few grams. 

An employee carefully pours the liquid mass from a pan into a cell, uses a lighter to burst the rising bubbles, and then adds more liquid to fill up the cell. Then she fills up the next cell of the palette, which has 18 cells in all. The makeup artist mixes the color he wants for his production by selecting colors from different cells.

Kryolan is often the first option when international production companies are looking for top-quality makeup. For example, Kryolan makeup was worn by the stars of "The Name of the Rose," "Monuments Men," "Cloud Atlas," and "The Hunger Games." And many liters of the company's annual production of ten tons of artificial blood were spilled during the making of "Stalingrad" in 1993. 

Buyers of Kryolan products include the Hollywood and Bollywood “dream factories” and almost every theater in the world. Buyers of Kryolan products include the Hollywood and Bollywood “dream factories” and almost every theater in the world.

Buyers of Kryolan products include the Hollywood and Bollywood “dream factories” and almost every theater in the world.

A “very compatible” partner

But blood, pus, mucus, and other unpleasant liquids play only a small role at Kryolan, despite their shock value. In terms of sales, professional cosmetics stand in the limelight — and in many cases Kryolan is the first to know about the latest trends. 

According to Rainer Hoffmann from Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, "Because of its dedicated employees and its constant stream of innovations, Kryolan is a partner that is very compatible with our corporate philosophy at Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany. That's why it's only logical that Kryolan cooperates with us in many ways. We like to commission Kryolan to produce items such as lipstick, eyeshadow, and rouge in the colors of the fashion season after next. This enables us to open up a window to future cosmetic trends for our other customers." 

In other words, Kryolan is a customer of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany and vice versa. The two companies cooperate closely on a basis of mutual trust. But isn't the cosmetics business particularly dependent on the general state of the economy? "Yes," says Dominik Langer, who represents the latest generation of Kryolan owner-managers. "As soon as the economy as a whole approaches crisis mode, there is a noticeable increase in our lipstick sales." That's yet another opportunity to paint reality in glowing colors.

A “gold medal” for Kryolan

This family-owned company was founded by Arnold Langer in Berlin in 1945. Today Arnold Langer still works half days in the office at the age of 93.

He develops all kinds of makeup products for film and theater productions, Carnival, and Halloween. In 2012 the company was chosen as the main supplier for the opening and closing events of the Olympic Games in London. 

Kryolan has approximately 160 employees in Berlin and another 100 employees all over the world, including production sites in Poland, India, and the USA.

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