For many stepping outside their house without lipstick is like a death nail. It almost feels like we have deprived our lips of a most precious necessity. Today lipstick is a staple of a lot of women. However, it is not just a modern day invention; it has been around for 5000 years. It is a versatile product which can be used as a rouge and eyeshadow. There is a lipstick for every occasion and every mood – bold lips if you feel like a diva or a seductress, pink is to feel cute, nudes for everyday use etc. Let’s get a little Indiana Jones and find out the evolution of lipstick.
Sustainable Sumerians (3500 BC)
Credited with the invention and wearing of lipstick. The first known coloured lips were recorded to be that of the Queen of Sumeria – Queen Puabi or Queen Schub-ad in the city of Ur. Her brightly coloured lip shade was created using red rocks and white lead that was kept in cockle shells. Other vastly used sources to extract lip shades were obtained naturally from fruits, clay rust, henna and insects. Men wearing lipstick is scoffed by some and looked upon as a revolution in men’s beauty today. However, not many are aware that men and women both wore lipstick in ancient Sumeria.
But first lipstick for the Egyptians
Fast forward 2000 years to Egypt. Both the higher and lower factions wore lipstick, it came to represent social standing rather than being gender centric. Lip paints were mainly reserved for the members of the royalty and upper class. It was the symbol of sophistication and importance.
Egyptians experimented with different shades of colours like purple and black. The lipsticks created by Egyptians derived its colours from carmine dye which was made from grounded cochineal insects. Carmine dye is used to this day in lipsticks and other products. Now their love for lipstick was so intense that they went to extremes by using harmful substances like lead and mixture bromine man-nite and iodine. These ingredients would result in serious diseases or death.
Unlike the social significance of lipstick in Egypt, there was a shift in social significance and legal patterns with regard to lipstick. The ancient Greeks disfavoured lipstick which saw an absolution from the beauty product like lip paint and facial makeup by all women. Coloured lips were reserved only for prostitutes. If a prostitute was caught without the designated lip paint and a the wrong time she would to be punished as per the Greek Law for posing as a lady. The lip paints would be made out of red dye and wine residue. Sheep sweat, human saliva and crocodile excrement too found its way in lipsticks.
However, there was a significant lipstick revival, wherein there are historical traces that pointed at lipstick being used by the elite, though the lower class working women avoided makeup. Colours for the lip paint were derived from mulberries and seaweed, roots of alkanet-like plant known as polderos and vermilion.
In 9AD Arabic scientist Abulcasis also known as Al-Zahrawi, was an Arab Muslim physician, surgeon and chemist. He is recognized with having invented the first solid lipstick. In Kitab al-Tasrif, a 30 volume encyclopedia of medical practices had a chapter dedicated to cosmetics. Known as the father of modern day cosmetology was also considered greatest surgeons of the Islamic Golden Age. He considered cosmetics a branch of medicine, which he called “Medicine of Beauty”. An accidental invention created while mixing stock for a solid perfume that could be later pressed into a mould which was the earliest antecedent to the present day lipsticks and deodrants. He happened to mix pigment and this gave birth to the first solid lipstick.
She’s a bad girl stamp by Christianity (1500s)
With the dawn of Christianity, lipstick and other forms of cosmetics were looked down upon. Red lipstick was considered Satan worship and women wearing red lips were accused of being witches. Lip salves were acceptable, however they had to be devoid of any colour. Since women are always right, they slyly added colour to their salves or pinched their lips till it coloured or rubbed the lips with various hard materials or bit them to make them appear red.
Oh Queen, why so unfair?
Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th Century England made the pale look with red lips trendy. However, this look was only restricted for the aristrocacy, actors and actresses who made an appearance on the stage. For the next three centuries only actors and prostitutes were allowed the luxury of using lipstick.
The makeup contained white lead ore, vinegar, arsenic, hydroxide, and carbonate which were applied to the face over egg whites. This was the reason for the silvery gleaming complexion. The foundation had mercury topped off with face powder which was mixed with arsenic. It Is believed that Queen Elizabeth I, too used cosmetics containing the mentioned ingredients thus being responsible for her eventual death due to heavy metal poisoning.
Oui Lipstick Commerciale
From some lip smacking food, to having enviable figures to the effortlessly chic style, the French are a lucky lot. Founder of Guerlain, a French cosmetics brand – Pierre François Pascal Guerlain initially brought back the “Liquid Bloom of Rose” from England, a liquid lipstick. In 1884 French Perfume Company Guerlain was the first to manufacture lipstick commercially. It was an original invention consisting of a stick housed in its own tube. Their lipsticks were fashioned out of deer tallow, beeswax and castor oil.
The bare lipstick found its mate
In 1915, Maurice Levy invented lipsticks in cylindrical containers which were convenient and easy to carry. The casing resembled a bullet which also impacted the way the lipstick was applied. Instead of applying the lipstick with a brush from a pot, it could now be used directly from the tube. The container did not have the swivel of the ones available today, it made the application process more easy.
It was available in salve, liquid, and stick forms and long-lasting, indelible stains were the most popular. Natural lip-gloss was also invented, which used bromo acid to create a red effect as it reacted with the wearer’s skin. Finally, flavored lipstick was also popular, with the most popular variety being cherry.
In 1923, James Bruce Mason Jr. made the twist tube that gave us the lipstick that we are accustomed to today. There were different shades like cherry, dark red, plum, browns etc. The beauty product was inexpensive and mass produced. Another invention of the period was the lip stencils invented by Helena Rubenstein that enabled women to achieve the desired cupids bow shape.
Despite the Great Depression the demand was lipsticks did not deter. The 1930s were all about elegance and matte finishes. Lip glosses soon became a favourite as it was reserved for Hollywood actresses. Lipstick was an affordable luxury during these times for the women of that period. Colours like maroon, dark reds, orange- and raspberry tones were the favoured shades.
Lifting morale with lipstick during the Warring 40s
The 1940s witnessed the Second World War. Women took on labour intensive jobs. Lipsticks were sold in plastic and paper tubes rather than metal tubes. To counter the depressing times women were encouraged to wear the reddest lip shades.
Woman latched onto bold red lipsticks influenced by Hollywood glam, red lipsticks by the It Girls of the times, Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. Alongwith icons like Audrey Hepburn and Grace Kelly saw the effect on style and beauty adopted by the women all over the world. Queen Elizabeth II went a step further and created a shade for her coronation to match her robe. Customized by her favourite brand Clarin’s, her shade was called Balmoral. An economical long lasting smudge free lipstick was introduced by Hazel Bishop. Revlon came up with their own range followed by a war for the best range of smudge proof lipstick.
Flower Power (1960s – 1970s)
Arts and pop culture were instrumental in the introduction of whimsical shades and even flavours. There was something for everyone. The shades were a great crowd puller especially among the younger consumers. Brands like Aerin and Maybelline produced some of the iconic shades of the times.
Shimmer Shimmer into 1980s
Power-dressing with bold lips were a statement of the time. Matching the lip colour with the clothes was a style statement. Red, pink and goth lips were a rage during this period.
People became more conscious during this time and veered more towards natural and chemical free lipsticks. Grunge and simplistic makeup was in trend. However, the main style during the 1990s was the lip liners – darker lip liners with light lipstick.
A whole new world – 2000s
The 2000s brought to us nudes, pink, yellow and green which were a roaring rage. We are coming to a full circle with natural ingredients to formula based lipsticks back again to natural ingredients. From using it to add aesthetic value to the look, to being reserved to highlight class, to being abolished, to being deemed as witch-craft, using as defiance, it has found a place of permanency in every woman’s home. It has carved a niche without any prejudice attached to it. We can wear whatever shade we want to declare what we feel.
The possibilities of every shade for every skin colour has been observed by brands and cater to a broad clientele that is informed and does not wish to settle for anything less. When the going goes bad or even good, just remember to pour yourself a nice sparkling wine, put on the bold shade of lipstick and pull yourself together. We have come a long way since the evolution of lipstick and it is here to stay.
Wishing all the lipstick obsessed women, Happy National Lipstick Day!