Lipstick…A history

She carefully removed the cap off the tiny, sleek, silver tube. Then parting her lips slightly, she slid the red colour onto her lips- transforming them. As her lips changed from flesh coloured to a bright fiery red, her confidence became that of a Parisian socialite in 1980s France…

Lipstick. Lips. The lips have long been thought to be one of the most sensual parts of the human body. The effect of lipstick however, doesn’t just stop at the mouth… lipstick transforms a woman, infuses her with confidence, makes her feel invincible, a great lipstick brings out the goddess in most women.



Lipstick didn’t always come in a sleek little tube though, back in the 16th century and even before that, well lipstick was many things.

In ancient Mesopotamia, women applied finely crushed jewels and gemstones to their lips in an effort to decorate them. Some ancient Egyptians even used red extracts found in seaweed as lip colour, this though often did result in serious illness.

Some women even used Carmine Dye, an extract from ground up insects as a lipstick!!! Later this Carmine Dye was combined with beeswax, creating a coloured lip ointment. However lipstick as we know it still had not made its debut at this point.

In 16th century England, Queen Elizabeth I made chalk white faces with bright red lips quite popular, but shortly after, lip colouring was condemned. In fact, In England a law was passed which essentially said that women who enticed men into marriage using lipstick would be tried as witches!!!  Luckily for all women today, lipstick was still all the rage amongst actresses and once again, the craze caught on.

A French perfumer by the name of Guerlain made lipstick commercially available in silk paper packaging. The packaging however still wasn’t handbag friendly, meaning there was no such thing as a touch up.

Enter Maurice Levy and James Bruce Mason Jr. In 1915, Mr Levy invented a lipstick dispenser tube that had a little lever on the side which allowed the lipstick to be raised and lowered. In 1923, Mr Mason invented the swivel lipstick tube.

After that, well the industry pretty much boomed and hundreds of patents were issued for various aspects related to lipstick and lip colour.  Lip Gloss joined the party and well here we are!

To end off, just a few really crazy facts about lipstick:

  1. Lipsticks are sold most during gloomy rainy days. So clearly lipstick doesn’t just add colour to your lips, it adds some to your day too!
  2. Lipsticks can contain fish scales, and castor oil that provides lips with shiny film that can’t be smeared easily.
  3. “Kiss of death” a term often associated with lipstick originates from ancient times when Egyptian women would smear their lips with iodine extracts which proved to be deadly.

So there it is: Lipstick- A History. Who would have thought that there was so much behind that little tube of colour???



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