Red Lipstick; a centuries-old tradition

Lipstick is worn by women (and men) everywhere to enhance their natural lip color.  Red lipstick is the most popular selling color; it symbolizes sex appeal, power, femininity and beauty.  Lipstick is not a new fashion trend (and by new I mean in the past hundred years).  People have been wearing color on their lips for thousands of years.

The ancient Egyptians wore lipstick (or stain) and they were probably the first people to do so.  The made their lip cosmetics in a variety of ways.  The very wealthy would crush precious gemstones. Cleopatra is said to have made her lipstick from mashed up carmine beetles and ants.   They would also make a deep purple dye from a deadly fungus.  The old saying “you must suffer to be beautiful” must have originated here!




England has had a unique on/off love affair with red lipstick throughout the centuries.  Before the 16th century, lipstick was banned by the church as it was thought to be an agent of the devil.  Then Elizabeth I took the throne and she brought her make-up bag with her.  She made wearing make-up fashionable.  She was fond of wearing lead-based white face make-up (deadly) with her bright red lips.  Her lipstick was most likely made from beeswax and red plants.




Then after her passing, the next generation of rulers decreed only married women should wear cosmetics.  And when Queen Victoria came to power she, being rather prudish, banned lipstick altogether.  Victoria in her youth was quite the beauty herself, so it is a shame she did not embrace red lipstick.  The first professionally manufactured lipstick made its debut by the late 1800s from Paris.  By the turn of the twentieth century, most English fashionistas were again wearing bright red lipstick.






In America, our ladies were more accepting of wearing make-up much earlier.  This may be partly thanks to Hollywood.  Silent film actress, Sarah Bernhardt, wore red lipstick everywhere she went, and (gasp) even applied it in public!  Sears Roebuck started selling lipstick and rouge in their catalog in the late 1800s.




During WWII, to save metal for the war effort, lipsticks were packaged in plastic and paper.  So, during the war, instead of giving up red lipstick for the war, women only had to give up the metal tubes they came in!  Women took over the jobs men left behind when they joined the army, but they kept their lips red!


Red Lipstick will probably never go out of fashion.  It is recognized the world over as what makes a woman beautiful.  Red is a powerful color and those who dare to wear it on their lips are just following in the footsteps of powerful women of the past.

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