POPSUGAR Celebrity

Kiss and Tell: Wild History of Lipstick

Jul 29 2014 - 5:00pm

Lipstick is probably the most provocative of cosmetics. It's bright, it draws attention to your mouth, and it's loaded with connotations of sensuality and femininity. It shouldn't be surprising, then, that lipstick's been around for about as long as people have been adorning themselves and that some form of it has existed in almost every culture. But rouge's journey from prehistory to the present hasn't been as smooth as a cream formula. In fact, lipstick's been dangerous, vilified, and controversial. So to see how this makeup-bag staple has changed over the centuries, keep reading.

Source: Imaxtree [1]

Ancient Sumeria

The first recorded lipstick devotee, Ancient Ur's Queen Schub-ad, enhances her lips with a reddish formula made from lead and iron-rich rocks.

Ancient Egypt

Egyptians are wild about lipstick and use red ochre, carmine, and other dyes to create a variety of shades, from tangerine to pink to black — proving that the black lipstick trend is nothing new.

Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, lipstick is considered a cosmetic exclusively for prostitutes. Ladies of the evening redden their lips with formulas containing everything from red wine to mulberries and seaweed.

Ancient Rome

Roman ladies have such complicated toilettes that they require an ornatrix, or manager, for their teams of cosmetic slaves. Their lipsticks of choice are deep purple-reds. Men also wear lipstick as much as women, and different shades come to serve as social status indicators.

The Medieval Middle East

In 1000 CE, famed Moorish cosmetologist Abulcasis invents the first solid lipstick using specially shaped molds.

The Aztec Empire

The Aztecs grind up cochineal beetles to make vibrant dye, but they also use cochineal to paint lips and faces a deep shade of incarnadine.

Tudor England

Queen Elizabeth I loves lipstick, and her personal recipe consists of cochineal, gum Arabic, egg whites, and fig milk. Elizabeth's court also invents the first lip liner by mixing plaster of Paris with red pigment, then leaving the stuff to dry in the sun.

Early America

Even the first first lady, Martha Washington, is fond of a cherry-colored pout. Her personal recipe sounds a little like a particularly gross tinted lip balm. It's made with beeswax, lard, sugar, almond oil, alkanet, raisins, wax from sperm whales' heads, and balsam.

Early 1900s

During the women's voting movement in America, suffragettes wore red lipstick as a sign of power during protests. Beauty brands like Elizabeth Arden even created special shades to support the cause.


With the advent of World War II, female factory workers have income of their own. Lipstick sales take off and the product loses any remaining associations it had with "low-class" women. Even patrician actresses like Bette Davis and Katharine Hepburn wear scarlet lips.


In a study, the Campaign for Safer Cosmetics finds that a third of brand-name lipsticks it tested have more lead than is legal. Cosmetics companies dismiss the claims and insist their products are tested and safe. And the controversy rages on.


In a recent poll of the most iconic beauty trends [2], Marilyn Monroe's red lipstick came out on top. The crimson trend won over the smoky eye and false lashes.

Source URL