beauty facts

History of Lipsticks

We all know and have seen lipsticks. And most of us use lipsticks regardless age or gender. But did you ever think when would the first ever lipstick was created? Who would have used lipsticks in the first place?

Well I am here with the answers!!! Let’s read about the history of something so common and popular.

There are evidence of people using paint or similar things to decorate their lips. The history of lipsticks runs as far as 5000 years. The ancient Sumerian people who lived 5000 years ago might be the first people to use lipsticks. There are evidence of them using crushed gem stones to decorate their lips. The women in Indus valley (modern day Pakistan and northern India) who lived 3000 years ago had used Ochre (a clay pigment) to decorate their lips.

The famous Egyptian queen Cleopatra, who lived more than 2000 years ago had used crushed bug to create a red color that she used to decorate her lips.

Elizabeth Taylor as Queen Cleopatra

But they were not a lipstick as we know it. The first evidence of lipstick was found in China. They have used lipsticks made with beeswax to protect their lips. After decades during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD) scents were added to them to improve its state.

The use of lip paint in different cultures

The ancient Egyptians wore color to show off their social status. So in ancient Egypt both men and women could be seen wearing lipsticks according to their wealth.

In ancient Greece only prostitutes and courtesans were allowed to wear paint on their lips. But later in 700-300 BC the upper class had started painting their lips.

Young Aboriginal girls from Australia painted their lips using ochre during their puberty rituals.

So it is fair to say that the painting lips had been around the world since the ancient times. We still do not know whether people painted their lips after being inspired by some other culture because these lands are separated by water and the according to the historical evidence the first ship believed was build in 1500 BC.

Lipstick during the middle ages

With the advance of religions specially Christianity the beliefs of purity emerged. And the society was controlled by the church. So during these times the church had restricted to wear lipsticks or make up of any kind because the red lips were a sign of worshiping Satan. And women who were caught wearing a red lipstick were assumed as witches.

Queen Elizabeth I

During the 16th century when the queen Elizabeth I was ruling red lips got more attention. The queen wore a bright red lips and pale white face, which soon became a fashion trend. But not everyone could follow that trend. Lipsticks and other make up were restricted to only the nobles and actors or actresses. But for a long time in 19th century lipstick was considered not suitable for a respectable woman in England. Still in 1800s lipstick were mostly worn by prostitutes.

At the same time women in US were also wearing lipstick. Their lipsticks were made using the carmine dye, which extracted from a bug just like the ancient Egyptians did.

Carmine color and Cochineal bug

But the carmine dye was so expensive and the color of carmine was considered as unnatural. So wearing lipstick was frowned upon and Women were only wearing them in home but not in public. In 1890s carmine was mixed with oil and wax which diluted its color and it was considered more appropriate. By the early 1900 American women decided that lipstick was acceptable and started wearing them in public.

During the 1920 the flappers started wearing lipsticks as a part of their liberal lifestyle. Lipsticks during the lunch was acceptable but not at the dinner. A decade after lipsticks had become a symbol of adult sexuality and young girls started wearing lipsticks yet their parents saw it as a rebellious action. So many young girls were prohibited of using lipsticks.

Read about make up trends in last century

Evolution of Lipsticks

The first lipstick manufacturer was Guerlain, a French perfume company. In the 1884 they began producing lipstick commercially. The first lipsticks were not a stick like. They came in a tin and a brush was used to put the them on.

Lipsticks that sold in a cylindrical containers were invented by Maurice Levi in 1915. But since 1911 lipsticks in metal cylinders were available in Europe. The first swirling tube was invented in 1923 by James Bruce Mason Jr. During the WWII metal tubes were replaced by the plastic. At that time lipsticks were hard to find as main ingredients such as petroleum jelly and castor oil were unavailable. WWII made more women join the work force. So women began contributing in scientific researches as well, which caused the invention of the first long lasting lipstick. It was invented by an organic chemist in New York called Hazel Bishop.

Famous Lipstick Shades in Each Decade

In the early 20th century lipsticks were made in few shades. But with the time the number of shades created increased. The movie stars helped setting new trends in the beauty industry, which soon common people followed.


The dark red lips were in trend during the 1920s. “Cupid’s bow”, inspired by the Clara Bow was a must and dark berry colored lipsticks were used.


The trend in this decade was “rosebud” lips. The cupid’s bow was flattened and shades of rich reds, maroons, and raspberry tones were popular.


The lips trend was to support the WWII. Women outline natural shape of the lips and filled them with cherry red lipsticks to support the troops. Apart from that a plump fuller lip was in trend and orange shades, coral shades and pink were among the favorite choices.


Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn, and Sophia Loren were the most influential people during the 50s. The most desired shade was red. It looked good on everybody and became so popular and iconic.


The 60s were all about pastel shades. Pale pinks Nude shades were most popular during this time.


The 70s makeup was more natural because of the cultural and ethical improvements in the society and sub cultures.


The colourful world of lipstick came back into the spotlight during the 80s. The slogan for the 80s could be more the better. Lipstick colours included cherry red, orange, fuchsia(bright shade of pink) and even purple.


During the 90s brown lips were popular. Most of the times the lips were lined in much darker colours.


Super glossy, pinky lips were in trend during the early 2000.

It is 2021 and wearing lipsticks have been reduced because we are trapped in a pandemic that caused us to wear masks whenever we are in public. So let’s hope for a day when the masks will be thrown away and finally we will be able to wear our favorite shades of lipsticks.

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