It’s impossible to determine who invented lipstick because evidence suggests its use began thousands of years ago. Much of the early history of lipstick is still subject to debate. However a few facts have become clear.
There is evidence that Mesopotamian women used some form of lipstick. This would mean lipstick (or at least its predecessors) originated almost 5,000 years ago. Precious stones were crushed and applied on the lips. The women of the Indus civilization (3,000 BCE) painted their lips red. Exact what liquid formula they used is unknown.
The ancient Egyptians combined red-purple dye, bromite mannite and iodine. These substances were mixed and applied on the lips. Cleopatra used lipstick made from ants and beetles. The red extract was placed on her lips.
An assessment of the history of lipstick indicates this mixture was popular. However, the use of lipstick was reserved for Egyptian royalty and the wealthy.
It wasn’t until the 16th century that the lipstick became commonplace. Lipsticks in most European countries were made from beeswax and red dyes. Thanks to Queen Elizabeth I, black became very fashionable in England. Under Queen Victoria, the lipstick was frowned upon but stage actors still wore it.
The Modern Lipstick
The modern lipstick was showcased in Paris in 1884. The lipsticks were encased in silk and made of castor oil, beeswax and deer tallow. By the 1920s, the black lipstick was back in fashion. Silent films often featured actresses donning black lipstick. T
he history of lipstick in the 1930s was marked by the invention of the push up tube lipstick. It was released in the United States and immediately became a hit.
By the middle of the 1930s lipstick became available in various colors. During the 1940s the rotating push up lipstick was invented. Its use in movies helped popularize it among women. By the end of World War II, lipstick had become one of the most widely used cosmetics.
Ingredients: Past and Present
Lipstick today is made from various ingredients. There are now organic types composed of castor oil, beeswax and various natural oils. To many, the history of lipstick seems to have gone full circle.
These organic lipsticks are very similar to the ones used by Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century. Other lipstick varieties are made of color pigments, wax and emollients.
Aside from the various ingredients mentioned earlier other materials have been used. Arab texts described lipsticks that were solid and set in molds. However there is not a lot of information on lipstick ingredients in the Medieval Age. It was not allowed by the Church.
During this period the lipstick was looked upon as an incarnation of the Devil. Women who wore it back then were considered prostitutes. It was only when Queen Elizabeth I’s reign began that the lipstick came into widespread use again.
The history of lipstick has been noted for various innovations in ingredients and contents. Today there are wax free types available. While other cosmetics abound, the lipstick remains far and away the most popular in westernized countries.