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Monday, 5 August 2013

"Sealed with the kiss" - the Lipstick Story

Hey, hey!
Here I am again.
Are you ready for another trip into History? (Sure you are, because this history is fun!) Even more when I'm writing about every woman's necessety.

 The history of Lipstick

According to many, lipstick does in fact date back to Mesopotamia, over 5000 years ago, where evidence suggests lips were tinted using pulverised semi-precious stones, red clay, rust, henna and seaweed. In Ancient Egyptian times the practice of lacquering one's lips was commonplace, using highly toxic bromine mannite mixed with iodine, in lieu of harmless ingredients. The combination created a deep purple shade that would later be known as the "kiss of death". During Cleopatra's rule (51 B.C - 30 B.C), the Queen wisely chose to paint her lips with a non-toxic prescription, instead, made from a mixture of beeswax blended with crushed ants or carmine, occasionally adding fish scales for shine.

1957 Dorothy Gray Lipstick Advertisement

Lipstick apparently remained popular until the Middle Ages at which time it fell out of favour with the Upper class who deemed it fit only for prostitutes and women on the lower-rungs of society. It's popularity was broadened again during the Elizabethan period when a heavily made-up Queen Elizabeth the First wore crimson lips - the perfect foil to her powdered complexion - stained using beeswax mixed with dried flowers such as roses or geraniums, or an otherwise less appealing concoction consisting of gum arabic, egg white and fig milk, blended together and tinted with gently crushed cochineal.

The new Tatoo - gives lips shimmering luster! - 1930s advertisement

In the XVII century the virtues of lipstick, or rather the virtues of the wearer, was again called into question, this time by the church, who believed wearing makeup constituted the "work of the devil". Some time later in 1770 A.D. the English Parliament passed a law that implied any woman who wore makeup was a witch and therefore must be burnt at the stake. As a result, women were forced to beautify themselves in secrecy. Even well into Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901) women took to smuggling cosmetics in from France, while others went so far as to tint their lips using damp crepe paper or ribbons, biting their lips or dabbing them with port wine. 
It did not help, of course, that the Queen herself viewed makeup as vulgar and indecent.

"I use lipstick only once a day!"

Attitudes towards makeup began to change for the better around 1850. Though the same could not be said for the health of those who regularly and enthusiastically powdered and pouted. Ingredients such as lead and vermillion were found to pose serious risks, calling for warnings against the dangers of many common cosmetics. By the late 1890's make-up was declared socially acceptable, the industry had cleaned up its act, and catalogues advertising lipstick began to appear. Popularity soared and by 1915 the lipstick tube was ubiquitous.

"New thrill - for two!"

Lipstick's newfound availability and ease of application (once again enhanced by the invention of the swivel lipstick in 1923) opened up world of possibilities for women, allowing them to express themselves in thrilling new ways. This was not lost on the flappers of the 1920s, who during prohibition thrived on dressing flirtatiously. In accordance with their boyish, slender figures, small delicate lips were the fashion. Opting for rich garnet or black lipstick with a matte finish, made popular by silent screen stars Clara Bow and Theda 'The Vamp' Bara, women painted their mouths in the shape of a heart or Cupid's bow. Incidentally, during this time of sexual rebellion, it was believed lipstick could protect the wearer against germs, thus giving it a practical use too. 

Tangee - the worlds famous lipstick - back in 1920's

The 1930s were undoubtable a bleak period. In response to the tough times, women evolved into reliable, formidable sorts, changing their appearance accordingly. Lipstick took on a reddish-brown tone, while lips were square and elongated (as seen on Greta Garbo and Marlene Dietrich) as opposed to the small, delicate shape typical of the decade prior. When World War ll broke in September of 1939, rather than being a superfluous luxury, lipstick became part of the war effort in America, treated as a way to boost morale and "disguise sorrow". As such woman were actively encouraged to wear bright red, glossy lipstick, with those in the armed forces even receiving issue of an official tube and instructions on how to apply it. Inspiring the nation were Hollywood stars Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford with their full, symmetrical lips. In response to demand by 1949 the lipstick tube, as we know it, went into production.

Rita Hayworth for Max Factor, the 1940's

Following the war, in the 1950s lips took on a larger than life appearance, with lipstick extending outside one's natural lip line. During this period women were beginning to question their roles in society, therefore Marilyn Monroe and Audrey Hepburn were both role models: Monroe representing the seductress in vivid red lipstick, Hepburn the independent, wearing a more subdued pink. A time of great prosperity, production and manufacturing were on the upswing, thus new products, formulas and application techniques were being developed.

Cashmere bouquet - Super-creamed to keep lips like velvet, in the 1950's

They say the 1960s were all about rejecting conventional forms of beauty. Little wonder the mouth was de-sexualised at this time. Drawing the focus away from the lips, sheer iridescent lipstick in soft shades such as beige, baby pink and pearl was favoured, allowing the eyes to receive all the attention. Rich with the confidence, attitude and freedom acquired during the sixties, in the 1970s the approach to lipstick was different yet again. The anarchists wore purple and black lipstick, as did the New Romantics and Glam Rockers, while those on the disco club scene, with their full, sexy pouts, wore glimmering crimson or burgundy red gloss, like Diana Ross and Jerry Hall. The feminists, on the other hand, vocal about their disdain for the symbolic meaning of lipstick, rejected makeup altogether in protest. The provocative mood continued in the eighties, with more and more men openly wearing lipstick. Both genders experimented with extreme, often garish, sometimes confronting make-up, clearly bolstered by the security of strong economic growth and optimism. Mouths were wide, while lipstick shades ranged from dark, to black, to metallic, to primary, to neon.

On the cover of French Vogue - Twiggy - it's the 1960's!

The celebration of makeup in the 1980s was just the precursor to the boom experienced by the beauty industry in the 1990s, when it became a billion dollar business. With the rise of the Supermodel, woman turned to fashion as their main source of inspiration, with models and makeup artists becoming celebrities. Seasonal makeup trends were introduced, with looks changing as swiftly and as regularly as the collections themselves. Everything from bright, to brown, to flesh-toned was in style, though matte formulas and lip liners remained popular throughout, giving lips a stronger, more defined shape; a look soon associated with the modern woman.

 RED lipstick 

Chosing your lipstick shade - according to your skintone

  • Warm Skin Tones: Orangey reds, Warm reds, Tomato reds, Brown based reds, Golden reds, Tawny reds.
  • Cool Skin Tones: Pink tones of red, Berry Reds, Blackberry Reds, Brick Reds, Blue tones of Red, Plum tones.
  • All Skin Tones: Think London bus red. A true red.

Chosing lipstick according to your hair color (click to enlarge)

 TIPS for choosing red lipstick
  1. You must try it on! And when you do try it on, don't try it on your hands please. Red lipstick is going to look much different on your hand than on your lips.
  2. If you don't know what your skin tone is just remember cool skin tones have fair complexions with pink undertones (look at your wrist - the veins are blue) and warmer skin tones have olive or blue undertones (look at your wrist - the veins are green)
  3. Red lipsticks with blue undertones will make your teeth look whiter.
  4. If you're not sure you can pull of red lipstick you can always go for a red lip stain or red lip gloss. 
  5. Who says it has to be evening to wear red lipstick? Red lipstick is fun and cheery! If you're having a bit of a grey day, swipe on some red lipstick and you will feel better, instantly!
  6. Help keep red lipstick on longer by using a lip primer. Also make sure your lips are not dry or chapped before putting on red lipstick (use lip pencil, it'll help lip color boost and last much. much longer on your lips).
  7. The secret to wearing red lipstick: BE CONFIDENT! Make you smile a little brighter. It makes me happy that's for sure.

A classic red lipstick, is that not a bare essential? 
Women for 5000 years have thought so, why are we questioning it now?

♥ Pinky Honey


  1. What a page turning (so to speak), engaging look at the history of a true cosmetic must in my make-up case. I love lipstick point blank, but am most fond of red. It took me many years to hit on my perfect red (many came close, but none until - or after - it hit the mark) in MAC's well known Russian Red. It's quite a true red with blue undertones which work well with my fair, slightly pink skin. I hope it never, ever stops being produced because I'd hate to have to start the search over again!!!

    ♥ Jessica

    1. Thank you, dear.
      Red lips may be daring to some, to me they are as much of a necessity as wearing mascara.
      I've seen MAC numerous times on your blog (I'm greatly unfortunate not to be able to shop MAC here - I if could Russian Red would be the first in my basket) :D

      Have a wonderful day.


  2. Absolutely, red lipstick is a must! My favorite is Revlon's True Red. You have a lovely blog, ciao from Italy!

    1. Hello there, darling.
      I second your lipstick choice - Revlon's red is great one.

      It's great having you here.