Have you ever been a little curious about the history of lipstick and just exactly when it was that women recognized the allure and power behind tinted lips?
Believe it or not, the origin of lipstick can be traced as far back as some 5,000 years ago in a city called Ur, once a coastal city near the mouth of the Euphrates on the Persian Gulf.
During this period, semi-precious stones were finely crushed to be used as decoration on the lips.
According to noted lipstick history, ancient Egyptian women extracted the purple-reddish color from iodine and bromine mannite for use in lip tinting. This ultimately led to serious illness and oftentimes death subsequently coining the phrase ‘the kiss of death’.
The Role of Beetles in the History of Lipstick
The history of lipstick also writes that Cleopatra’s lip color was crafted from red cochineal beetles, that when worked with a pestle, produced a strong red color pigment.
Even today, these beetles are farmed, harvested, dried and crushed to produce a red dye called ‘carmine’.
Carmine provides the pink, red and purple coloring to foods such as ice cream, yogurt, candy, and fruit drinks.
Henna, a flowering plant native to tropical and subtropical regions of Africa, southern Asia, and northern Australasia, was also one of the preferred substances in history used to dye the lips as were the pearlescent properties of some fish scales to provide shimmer.
Fast forward to the Islamic Golden Age, which occurred between the 8th and 13th centuries, where an Arab cosmetologist invented the first perfumed stick rolled and pressed into a mold known as lipstick and much unlike what we see today.
Queen Elizabeth the Trend Setter?
Quite the trend setter; she made fashionable, cosmetically enhanced white faces adorned by deep red colored lipstick.
It was during this period that lipstick in Europe was organically made from beeswax and plant materials.
The use of lipstick, however, was not always supported and in the mid-1600’s “painted faces” were viewed by some as the ‘devils work’. About 100 years later, England’s parliament passed a law making seduction by lipstick, when used for the purposes of gaining marriage proposals, a punishable act of witchery.
In 1884, history’s first ‘modern’ lipstick was introduced by perfumers in Paris and was made with deer tallow, castor oil and beeswax and wrapped in silk paper. This became the first noted manufacture of lipstick as previously it had been made in the home.
Life Imitating Art
The lipstick craze really became popular during World War II when it became glamorized in Hollywood films.
In the 1940s, Hazel Bishop, who at the time was working as an organic chemist designing fuels for airplanes, worked in her spare time on a smudge-proof, long-lasting lipstick that wouldn’t come off on coffee cups and shirtsleeves… something she thought the professional woman needed and would appreciate.
In 1949 she had a product that was ready to be marketed. It took until 1950 for her to raise enough capital to establish Hazel Bishop, Inc. and begin manufacturing ‘Lasting Lipstick’.
She secured the assistance of an advertising pro to help launch her new product in exchange for company stock. The product name was changed from ‘Lasting Lipstick’ to ‘Kissable Lipstick’ immediately becoming a success.
Of course, copycat products followed but Hazel Bishop, Inc. went from making in the mid-$40,000 its first year to more than $10,000,000 by 1953. This was huge by today’s standards.
Wax played an important role in the history of lipstick because it was used for maintaining the shape of lipstick itself. It is still used in lipstick manufacture today.
Today’s versions are much improved with the addition of olive, mineral and castor oils, cocoa butter, petrolatum and lanolin plus moisturizers like Vitamin E, aloe vera, amino acids, sunscreens and collagen.
To provide a broad range of color, different types of dyes and pigments are continually used and improved.
We Wouldn’t Have It Any Other Way
The evolving history of lipstick has made it a worldwide mainstay of the cosmetic industry and a consumer staple.
As a billion dollar industry, this market continues to be driven by innovation including new color pallets and ingredients targeted to specific skin types as well as providing unique formulas that concentrate on the varying needs of us as individuals.
You might also like:
Filed under: Lip Basics