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History of lipstick: lipstick through the ages

  1. Nowadays the classic red lipstick is indispensable. But how and when did lipstick become a fashion phenomenon? Making the lips red goes back to ancient times, some 5,000 years ago. Since then, this way of applying our lipstick has changed quite a bit. It started with applying the colorant of crushed berries to the lips, 5,000 years later, lipstick is available in endless colors and variants. Throughout history, redness of the lips has regularly appeared in women of all walks of life, depending on the time period.

The beginning of history

  1. The oldest civilization known to have colored their lips red is the Sumerian people who lived some 5,000 years ago. Makeup was a status symbol and used by men and women. The 'lipstick' was made from natural substances such as fruit, henna and insects.

Why red?

  1. Red is seen as a seductive and sexy color, not only for lipstick, but also for clothing and lingerie. The redness of the lips probably originated in nature. For example, in female monkeys, certain body parts turn pinkish red when they are ready to be fertilized.

Cleopatra and the Ancient Egyptians

  1. The Egyptian queen Cleopatra (69 BC - 30 BC) is known to crush insects to apply a red color to her lips with the blood. Dirty idea? The current red lipstick contains dyes from lice. An ancient Egyptian papyrus scroll depicts a woman coloring her lips. Men also wore make-up during this period to accentuate their eyes and lips, a trend that we can no longer imagine.

Solid Lipstick

  1. The first solid lipstick was created around the beginning of the Christian era. An Arab scientist discovered how to make this. At first he worked with perfumes that were pressed into a mold. These perfumes got a solid shape. You could press the substance onto your skin to make it smell. The scientist then came up with the idea that he could do the same with lip dye. Natural colorants from fruit and insects were pressed into molds, creating the first solid lipstick.

The color of prostitutes

  1. In the Middle Ages especially ladies of easy morals, or prostitutes, were spotted with red-colored lips. Given the associations with prostitution, the ladies of the nobility remained far away at that time. From the pious Christian doctrine of the faith, the idea arose in the Middle Ages that decent women were not allowed to embellish their appearance. The red color could also be linked to the devil and witches would make their lips red. It was not until the sixteenth century that the red lipstick lost this negative stamp again.

Queen Elizabeth

  1. The British Queen Elizabeth restored the red lips to their good reputation in the sixteenth century. She regularly wore red lipstick, because she thought it would go so well with the white skin that was seen as a sign of prosperity during this period. Noblewomen followed the example of Queen Elizabeth and also colored their lips red.

Commercial production

  1. The French cosmetics brand Guerlain, still in existence today, was the first company to make and sell lipstick on a large scale. In 1885, this was the start of the commercial production of red lipstick. Guerlain made the cosmetic product from deer fat, beeswax and castor oil. The solid substance was wrapped in paper and sold like that.

Contemporary lipstick design

  1. Only in 1915 was the lipstick in its current form. Maurice Levy designed the signature packaging in which we buy lipstick today. The small, tube-shaped packaging not only made lipstick a lot easier to apply, but ladies could also easily take it with them. This went even less smoothly with the paper-wrapped lipsticks.

20s and 30s of the 20th century

  1. The mass production of lipstick in the 20th century made lipstick accessible to all women. Fashion icons and movie stars wore dark lipsticks in dark shades like plum, aubergine and cherry. James Bruce Mason Jr. in 1823 improved the packaging with a twist system to turn the lipstick upwards from the tube. To accentuate the shape of the upper lip, women used stencils to apply the lipstick. During the first feminist wave, red lipstick also became a symbol of emerging feminism. In the 1920s and 1930s, more and more cosmetic brands started mass production and sales of lipstick. Chanel, Estée Lauder and Max Factor, among others, developed their own lipsticks.

World War II

  1. In the 1940s many products had become scarce as a result of the war. This was also true of lipstick. The packaging of metal tubes was also (temporarily) replaced by plastic and paper. During the Second World War, cosmetics were banned in England. The only cosmetic product that women were allowed to use was the classic red lipstick. It seems that Winston Churchill thought that ladies with red lipstick kept morale high in the country. Red lipstick was also popular in Germany during this period.

Popularity soared in the 50s

  1. When iconic Hollywood actresses like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Rita Hayworth wore red lipstick in the 1950s, the popularity took off: 60% of teenage girls started wearing lipstick. Cosmetics companies saw their chance and started manufacturing all kinds of shades of red lipstick on a large scale, from pale red and strawberry red to coral red and wine red. Because Marilyn Monroe had a reputation for being sexy, red lipstick was increasingly associated with a seductive look.

Lipstick with a flavor

  1. In 1973 Bonnie Bell developed the Lip Smackers, lipstick with a flavor. Especially among young girls these tasty lipsticks became a big hit. In the 80s, lipsticks had to shine and glitter. Hot pink lips were a trend. Also the color of the lipstick was matched with the colors of the outfit.

Natural and chemical-free

  1. At the end of the 20th century, a trend developed in which people began to dislike chemicals in products and unnatural ingredients. Thus a new trend was born: the chemical-free lipstick. This was also the period when lips were first tattooed, the so-called permanent make-up.

Lipstick continues to develop

  1. Today's lipstick continues to evolve as a result of trends. Nowadays there are nude lipsticks, but also lipsticks in crazy colors like blue, black and green. There are variants with a glossy and matte finish, with and without glitter, with a modest hue and a striking color.

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