A Complete History Of Lipstick August 8, 2016

“The game in beauty is changing so much, if your product isn’t high tech or can’t make a unique performance claim – plump your lips, reduce your lines, look glossy, and stay on for 24 hours – you can’t go to market today. I’m not just talking about a $20 lipstick, but a $5 lipstick!”Andrea Jung

The former CEO of Avon Cosmetics sure knew what she was talking about. Makeup and especially, the one essential item in our makeup cache – lipstick has evolved with passing time. We all apply lipsticks to get those perfectly, luscious, sexy and kissable lips.

A tint of colour on your lips can change you from a simple dame to a glamorous diva. Buying lipsticks is a common incidence, though it was not always so easy. The colourful history of lipstick uses are varied as the number of lipstick colours available.

Let’s take a peek into the history of lipsticks to understand more about our favorite makeup tools

The History of Lipstick Colors:

There are some very interesting facts of lipstick history which we’d like to share with you.

Women and makeup are two sides of the same coin. Women started preparing makeup at home using natural products like minerals and fruits. Colouring lips was no exception either. There is much contradictory information as to when lipstick was first used and what the components were.


As early as 3500 BC, lipstick was made with a blend of white lead and crushed red rocks and was used and popularized by the Sumerian Queen Shub-ad. It was poisonous, but that didn’t restrict women to use and experiment with lip colors.


In 1000 BC Grecian Empire, lipstick was used by prostitutes who wore lip paint, and it was mandatory, so that the people could distinguish them from “well-bred ladies”.

Grecian women in 700 B.C., used lip colours, no matter what their rank was and made lip colours by mixing together some very strange and unthinkable ingredients: seaweed, flowers, crushed berries, red ochre, crocodile dung, and various resins.


Around 5000 years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, semi-precious jewels were crushed fine which served as lip colours for women.


Egyptians are wild about lipstick. Ancient Egyptian women used red ochre, carmine, and other dyes to create a variety of shades, from tangerine to pink and even black. So you see, black lipstick is nothing new.

They also used harmful toxic bromine mannite mixed with iodine which created a deep purple shade. These metals caused diseases which subsequently lead to death and thus these lip lacquers were known as “kiss of death”.

In the later Egyptian era, there came a beautiful queen. This beautiful and mysterious enigma is none other than Queen Cleopatra. She was a beautiful queen who stole the hearts of many with her allure and persona. She was fond of makeup.

She always painted her lips dark and sources say that the products used to adorn her lips were made up of beeswax blended with crushed ants or carmine. This mix was non toxic. She used fish scales for a shiny lip gloss.

[ Read: Best Coral Lipsticks ]


Roman ladies were owners of a huge variety of complicated cosmetics .They required an an
ornatrix, or manager, for their teams of cosmetic slaves. Their lipsticks of choice were deep purple-reds. Men also wore lipstick and different shades were used to indicate different social status.

The first solid lipstick was invented by an Arab cosmetologist Abu al-Qasim al-Zahrawi. They were perfumed sticks rolled and pressed in a special form.

In Medieval Europe, lipstick was banned by the church, saying that those who wore lipsticks were an ‘incarnation of Satan’, so cosmetics at that time were meant for prostitutes only.

Queen Elizabeth I was totally in love with makeup, lipstick being her favourite makeup product. Her lip colour recipe includes cochineal, gum Arabic, egg whites, and fig milk. Elizabeth’s court also invented the first lip liner by mixing plaster of paris with red pigment and leaving it to dry in the sun.

Moving forward to the 17th century, the instinct of the wearer was brought to question, this time by the church, who believed wearing makeup constituted the “work of the devil”.

Some years later in 1770 A.D., the English Parliament passed a law that said if any woman was found wearing makeup, they would be considered a witch and burnt to death. That didn’t restrict women from wearing makeup. They beautified themselves in secrecy.

In Queen Victoria’s reign (1837-1901), the Queen herself was averse to makeup and women took to smuggling cosmetics in from France.Others went so far as to tint their lips using damp crepe paper or ribbons, biting their lips or dabbing them with port wine.

In Early America, even the first lady, Martha Washington, was fond of a cherry-coloured pout. Her personal lip colour recipe was made with beeswax, lard, sugar, almond oil, alkanet, raisins, wax from sperm whales’ heads, and balsam.

When Lipsticks Began To Change the Game:

Around 1850, the whole concept and attitude towards makeup started to change. The ingredients such as lead and vermillion posed serious hazards to health.

In 1884, the history’s first modern lipstick was introduced by perfumers in Paris – it was wrapped in silk paper and made with deer tallow, castor oil and beeswax.

By late 1890, makeup was declared legal and catalogues with lipstick ads were distributed. Lipsticks became so popular that by 1915, lipstick tubes were found everywhere.


Lipstick became a more common makeup product and was made easier to use by the founding of swivel lipstick in 1923. The invention of lipsticks gave women a new way of expressing themselves which was thrilling at the same time.

Lipstick fashion kept changing almost in every decade. In the 1920’s, women with slender and boyish frame preferred delicate lips.

Silent movie heroines like Clara Bow and Theda ‘The Vamp’ Bara popularized matte finished rich garnet or black with a cupid bow shaped lips.


In the 1930’s, women changed their way of wearing makeup in response to tough times. Contrary to the small delicate lips in the previous decade, their lips were more square and elongated and the lip colour was a reddish brown tone. Greta Garbo represented this age.

In the 1920’s and 1930’s age, brands such as
Max Factor and
Tangee were easily available. They promised to provide women with a glamorous look.

The Great Depression actually increased the demand for lipsticks. Women couldn’t afford luxury cosmetics; they went for inexpensive
Tangee or
Tattoo lipstick tubes.


When World War II broke out in the 1940’s lipsticks became a necessity as women were encouraged to wear bright red and glossy lips to boost the morale spirit. During this period, history saw the appearance of the first tube rotated lipsticks.

Hollywood stars like Rita Hayworth, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford wore bright lipstick to inspire the nation during this period of crisis.

In the late 1940’s, Ms. Hazel Bishop, an organic chemist in New Jersey tested over three hundred experiments with different lipstick types in her kitchen, and finally invented a formula for a long lasting lip color. This lipstick type became very popular the moment it went out in public.

[ Read: Best Peach Lipsticks ]

The war between Revlon and Hazel Bishop began. Bishop’s lipstick was more of a practical lipstick as they were long lasting, whereas, Revlon was more appealing to the romanticized ladies of the elite class. Both companies ran expensive ad campaigns, although it was Revlon who finally won.


In the 1950’s, when Hollywood produced some of the most famous divas like Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor, the use of lipstick was popularized in the lives of women by these beauties.

The definition for conventional makeup changed and the actresses represented that. Marilyn’s Bright red lips stood for the seductress look, where Hepburn’s subtle pink lip was a call for independence and liberty.


1960’s was more about de-glamming the lips and playing up the eyes. Lips found a new colour; soft shades such as beige, baby pink and pearl were preferred. The ad campaigns of lipsticks in that decade reflected this.


1970’s again brought a new look. The hippie culture took over. The rebels, new romantics and glam rockers wore black and purple shaded lipsticks. Those at the disco club scene wore glimmering and glossy burgundy or red. The feminists on the other hand rejected makeup altogether and protested against lipsticks.


Each and every decade saw some change or the other in the lipstick history. In the 1980’s it was now the turn of men to wear lipstick. During this decade, lipsticks were used in a wide range of colours from black to red to metallic to neon shades. People in this period experimented a lot with lip colours.

In fact, Georgia Jagger , the daughter of Rock and roller Mick Jagger once quoted , “When I was about 12 and first started wearing lipstick, my dad would ask, ‘Are you wearing makeup?’ I would say back, ‘You’re wearing more makeup there than I am!’

[ Read : How To Apply Lipstick Perfectly ]


1990’s saw a boom in the makeup industry and with that , lipsticks became one of the most in demand cosmetic. From bright to light to flesh coloured to brown, lipsticks came in a variety of shades to suit all complexions. However the most prevalent ones were the matte long lasting ones which give lips a more defined shape associated with the modern confident women.

Sharon stone once famously quoted, “I like to drive with my knees. Otherwise, how can I put on my lipstick and talk on the phone?”

[ Read: Best Maybelline Lipsticks ]

With the beginning of the new millennium, makeup and technology developed.  This paved the way for new formulation, new composition, new colour and a new look. Matte, creamy, sheer moisturizing, every type is now available to suit your skin tone.

Lipsticks with double shade are now available in the market. These are simple lip colours with a tinge of golden or silver and are known as duochrome lipsticks.

The latest trend in lip colour is Lipsticks with Neon shade. Blue, green, purple, hot pink, orange – celebs are trying out anything and everything.

Lipsticks have become a favourite accessory of the stars and they can’t do without it. The popular faces from Bollywood are the brand ambassadors of lipsticks in India.

Not just the stars but for us too. Don’t you agree?

So, go ahead and apply that bold shade with confidence. Flaunting a perfect pout has never been easier! A small tip: opt for organic lipsticks if you can as they are gentle on your lips.

[ Read: Different Lipstick Types ]

Hope you like this article highlighting the history of lipstick colors. Don’t forget to share your experience with us.

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