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The History of Lipstick

juliehewett Admin

Posted on February 17 2016

War paint: the art of preparing oneself for battle by creating a fierce appearance, transforming ones natural canvas with the power of paint. Whether the goal was to camouflage, intimidate or symbolize who you were, one thing was certain: the true power was the paints ability to make one feel that they had the strength within to take on whatever life threw their way. So, with the traditions of ancient civilizations, the use of makeup was born. Today, we rise from our beds, readying ourselves to fight the battle ahead and slay each obstacle. Gazing into the looking glass, a majestic warrior is revealed, standing beautifully and powerfully as the last touch of war paint is added to the canvas:

"red lipstick from the blood of all the boys who’ve failed and tried.” 

-Flatland Calvalry

Lipstick has long been a part of life around the world. It’s use dates back many many moons, to a time when people had to use whatever natural materials available to create rare lip stains that are today a rather commonly worn item. In 3500 BC using crushed white lead and rocks, Sumerian Queen Shub-Ad, of ancient Ur created the first recorded lip color in history.  Knowing what we do now, it would be safe to say that beauty is pain, but could you imagine using substances that were toxic or poisonous just to give a hue of color to your lips? Though it seems absurd, such ingredients were often utilized in the recipes for lip stains throughout the ages. Though this was not the case of the Mesopotamians who combined tallow and wax with crushed gems, minerals, and jewels for their lips in 3000 BC, giving them tint and shimmer.

Years later in Egypt, lipstick was worn by royal and noble people as a symbol of social status, made of red ochre, and resin or gum for longer lasting wear, in orange, blue black and magenta hues. In 50 BC Egypt, the famous Cleopatra VII began wearing lipstick that contained an ingredient that is still found in some lip colors today: red carmine dye. Carmine is given its color from the scales of crushed beetles. To this day, princess Cleopatra is well known for her red lips. Upon burial, Royals often had at least two lip shades buried with them in their tombs.

Using seaweed, vermillion, mulberries and a plant called polderos, the women of Greece’s higher classes, applied color to their lips. Again we see lipstick worn as a symbol of social status, rather than gender in Ancient Rome, where borne the upper class and those who performed in the theatre dressed their lips in homemade lip colors. These red and purple paints were made of ochre, iron ore and fucus. Those of less financial means used wine as opposed to fucus, which is much less harmful.

Lipstick made a historic appearance in the time of Queen Elizabeth in 1500 AD.  She can still be seen in paintings with crimson lips against a pale, white face. This crimson was derived from cochineal, gum Arabic, egg whites and fig milk. It was believed by she and many others at the time that lipstick had the power to ward off illness. 

In the 1800s, Sears debuted the first catalog to contain rouge, which was made of carmine. Actresses began to wear this rouge to darken their lips. This made their lips stand out more in black and white movies. 

It was in the 1900s that lipstick began to hold the standing that it has today. It was also a symbol of women’s emancipation and rebellion. Red rouge was spotted by feminist activists at rally’s and even applied in public so as to appall men. Guerlain, a French co, made the first stick rouge, and it received wide success. Some American recipes called for crushed bugs, beeswax and olive oil. Up until 1915, lipstick was kept in silk paper, when the first metal push up lipstick tube was invented by Maurice Levy.  Soon after, major cosmetics companies started to sell lipstick tubes as well. The first swivel lipstick tube, which is what we commonly see used today, was created in 1923, by James Bruce Mason Jr. Not long after, war in the 1940’s made lipstick a cosmetic in high demand. It was said to improve women and soldier morale during the war and was highly encouraged. The Marines had a lipstick that matched the red in their uniforms. Widespread use lead to the development of plastic tubes as opposed to metal ones.

Hollywood stars of the 1950s inspired more women to wear lipstick and 98%of women wore it at this point. In the ’60s and ’70s we saw an emergence of lipsticks in pastel, nude, black and purple shades. M.A.C. Cosmetics, which is popular among lipstick lovers today, released their first line of lipsticks. Now, we not only have lipsticks, but we also have lip glosses, balms, pencils, liners, stains and many other cosmetics. The love of lipstick is undeniable among many generations. Presently, lipstick is work in all colors of the rainbow.


Julie Hewett’s lip cosmetics are created with healing and moisturizing ingredients such as Camellia Oil. These lip shade are made to last all day and pamper your lips at the same time. Available in an array of gorgeous colors, we have lipsticks, lip pencils and lipgloss to fit your every mood, and perfect for any occasion. Shop our line of exclusive lip colors today! 

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