The origins of lipstick reach back as far as 3000 B.C., where Ancient Mesopotamian would use crushed gemstones to adorn their lips. Ancient Romans, the upper-class more so, also tried out a few lip concoctions. Men and women wore it as an indication of social status. Both cultures experimented with henna, red clay, and iron oxide (rust).
In Egypt, Cleopatra VII, adored red lips. The first Egyptian lipsticks utilized dye extracted from the seaweed, iodine, and bromine mannite (a.k.a. poison), but due to its deadliness was later altered to ants and carmine in a base of beeswax. The frustrating part is that carmine is still used in cosmetics today, despite being carcinogenic and toxic.
Lipstick became seen as unfit for the upper class during the mid-1500s, as people considered it only a mark of prostitution. Queen Elizabeth I, however, renewed its popularity as she donned crimson lips, a bold contrast against her pale complexion.
In 1650, the British Parliament attempted to ban the use lipstick or as they called it “the vice of painting.” At the time, makeup was considered a deceptive tool of women using it to lure men into marriage. In the end, the bill did not pass but a bare face was still coveted more over a made up one.
During the 1800s, lipstick formulations included carmine dye (taken from cochineal insect scales) and was coveted by starlets on the silver screens. Actresses were frequently seen adorning rouge lipstick so their lips could be more prominent in black and white films. The term “lipstick” wasn’t actually coined until 1880 in this time period.
In 1915, Maurice Levy invented the first metal lipstick tube. Prior to this, lipstick was originally wrapped in silk paper, small pots, or paper tubes, which made it difficult for taking it in the go and application.
This innovation led to the mainstream introduction of lipstick as major cosmetic companies began to start selling it. And in 1923, James Bruce Mason Jr. from Nashville, Tennessee patented the first swivel-up tube.
During World War II, all cosmetics except for lipstick were rationed. Winston Churchill decided to keep lipstick in production because he felt it helped to boost morale.
By the 1950s, 98% (compared to about 80% from the mid-2000s) of U.S. women wore lipstick thanks to vixens like Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, and Rita Hayworth bringing it into the forefront of beauty. Lipstick continued its reign as new hues like pastels and nudes become trendy in the mod 60s and 70s. It continues to be a makeup bag essential today.