Wednesday, 6 November 2013

Guest Post: Scarlet Pout - The History of Red Lipstick

Hey Everyone,
Today I have a interesting guest post from Selina Torres  who writes on behalf of Glisten, a new skin care company. When Selina said she was looking to guest post about the history of the red lipstick I jumped at the chance, it is different to my usual style so I hope you find it as interesting as I did.

Vivid red lips send a strong message. It is a message of confidence, sophistication, charisma and sexuality. Always wanting to look a bit different from our peers, we decorate our faces hoping to be more distinguishable to the opposite sex and to express individuality or a political statement. The scarlet pout is no exception. Here I will examine the intriguing history of the phenomenon that prompted Shakespeare make the following point in Hamlet “God has given you one face and you make yourselves another.”

Ancient Mesopotamia, 2500 to 1000 BC
Women used crushed semi-precious jewels to decorate their lips and to accent their eyes. What pains they went to be beautiful! This is where the history of lipstick officially starts, but it is speculated that humans may have used berries to stain the skin since the beginning of our species. An interesting finding is pointed out in Skin: A Natural History, which is that people may have painted their bodies even before they started covering up with clothes based on archeological findings.

Egypt, 2000 BC to 100 AD
Cleopatra used crushed carmine beetles to color her lips red. Ancient Egyptians also used red clay, rust, henna, iodine, seaweed, and bromine mannite (a poisonous compound made from alcohol sugar and a halogen element). Cosmetics were a status symbol for both men and women, as well as used for medicinal purposes. The poisonous element in the lipstick wasn’t used for long, but it really adds a special something to the old saying, “beauty is pain”.

Medieval Europe
Lipstick was banned by the church because it was believed to be Satanic. Reserving lipstick for prostitutes, it was never worn by ladies with class. The pope ordered that all cosmetics be banned except for light pink colors as long as they looked natural. The light pink symbolized innocence for a woman, and was therefore acceptable.

England 1500’s
Red lips set perfectly in a pale white face gained popularity largely due to Queen Elizabeth I. She made a bold statement that influenced many women to wear red lipstick with pride.
Queen Elizabeth I sat for a portrait with her signature look
France, 1600s
Louis XIV, the king of France, as well as King Charles II of England, loved to wear blush and lipstick. Carmine and grease were common ingredients found in the lipstick of the 17th century.
King Louis XIV
Men and women everywhere were heavily wearing lipstick and taking inspiration from the theatre and the king. It was common to see a man with a full beard walking down the street sporting a cherry pucker.

England, 1700s
Made from beeswax and red colored plants, only the upper class women (and male actors) wore it which made it quite the status symbol. A change came for the worse when a new law passed in 1770 that prohibited women to wear make-up before their wedding day, else the ceremony be annulled.

France, 1884
Perfume makers in Paris made and distributed the first commercial lipstick. The lipstick was made from deer fat, castor oil and beeswax and wrapped in silk paper. By the 1890’s lipstick was being used in the feminist rebellion as a symbol of non-conformity and control.

Connecticut, 1915
Maurice Levy invents the first modern lipstick in a metal case that resembled a bullet. Before this, application was messy and lipstick couldn’t be carried in the purse.

Tennessee, 1923
The first tube was made that swiveled up when you twisted the bottom. During the 20s lipstick was chiefly worn by flappers and symbolized independence.

USA, 1930s
Elizabeth Arden inspired companies to start making different shades of lipstick. At the same time, red lipstick came to be known as the symbol of being a woman in tune with her sexuality. Still not completely mainstream, a study in 1937 found that half of teenagers fought with their parents about wearing lipstick.
An original lipstick advertisement for Guerlain lipstick in 1937
USA, 1940s
Teen girls were pressured to refrain from wearing any make-up in the 40s. They were told that men preferred a natural look, and that lipstick is meant for prostitutes. Are you sensing a theme here?

Marilyn Monroe made her mark on the world of beauty as the blond bombshell with bold red lips. Deep red hues become more popular, and it was common to use a lip liner to extend the border of your lips. The goal was to create a soft and feminine look while accentuating voluptuous lips.

 After the 50s, red lipstick became accepted in mainstream culture (wavering slightly in the sixties as white and light pink lipsticks were all the rage).

1970s to today
The scarlet pout remains a symbol of confidence and adulthood. There is something about wearing a red lip that that is so natural and empowering. Each woman should have a shade that goes perfectly with her skin, and makes her feel feminine and beautiful. My favorite is Bali by Glo-minerals. It represents so many things, but the most important is the history behind it. Think about it, wearing red lipstick no longer says anything about your profession (whatever that may be).



  1. This was so fascinating, red is a colour that really doesn't suit me (in my opinion) xx

    Beautyqueenuk xx

    1. Ah no. I thought that for years but I've started wearing it now I think its about colour choice, I think there is definitely a red shade out there for all of us! :) x

  2. I LOVE red lipstick! I think Marilyn Monroe is my biggest influence rather than Queen Elizabeth I.
    Love this guest post.

    1. Its always good to have guest posts that are different to the usual. I never do any historical type posts so I thought this was really interesting. Glad you like it! :) x


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