Women from all walks of life wear lipstick. Lipstick is recorded as the bestselling beauty product of all time. From the young girl allowed to put on some lipstick to the 80-year-old dabbing on some lipstick before her birthday party, lipsticks come in different colors, sizes and prices.
The craze for beautiful and attractive lips existed longer than we can imagine. History takes us all the way to 3000- 5000BC. The first recorded reference of black lipstick dates around 4000BC in Egypt.
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The art of dabbing the lips with substances however existed for as long as man was created. There is no actual evidence as to which particular group of people started to dab their lips with substances. This process has been a natural part of humans as a way of protecting the skin.
Natural juices and fats from animals were applied to the lips to protect them from harsh weather conditions. These were used by both men and women. However, women have always sorted to look and smell better. This quest made women in ancient times mix oils which were sometimes scented with colored flowers to give their lips some color. Sometimes, women scrubbed their lips with mud and crushed stones to make them soft and smooth and applied honey to sweeten the lips. This made them sexually appealing.
Since their creation, lipsticks have been a vanity product enhancing status and looks. The first mention of lipstick is associated with Egyptians, Sumerians and Mesopotamians. These three ancient civilizations were strongly connected through trade and picked up social habits from each other. A lot of competition existed between the upper-class societies. However, Egyptians showed more interest and love for the product hence took up the art of lipstick making, developing the process with time.
In Egypt , men and women wore lipstick for status purposes. Lipstick was worn by the royals and rich merchants. People who worked as servants were not expected to wear makeup especially in front of their masters. Lower class citizens made lipstick out of animal fat, crushed stones and dye.
Many of the first forms of lipstick made in Egypt were poisonous and resulted in serious illness. To create red lipstick, they extracted red dye from focus-algin, iodine and bromine mannite; this mixture even though beautiful and widely used caused sickness. The popular phrase “Kiss of Death” originated from the poisonous substances Egyptian women used to create lipstick.
Egypt soon became the household empire of lipstick manufacturing and started making different types of lipstick in different colors; their most popular being red, purple, black, blue-black and the most popular of them all, carmine.
Carmine was extracted from the bodies of cochineal insect’s pigments, a technique that is still used in today’s lipstick manufacturing. The Egyptians made their lipstick shimmer by mixing it with ground gemstones. To get the purple color, they mixed purple extracts from seaweeds or crushed beetles with scented oils and waxes. They also crushed bugs to create the crimson color adding crushed gemstones and white lead for a shimmering effect.
It is recorded that Cleopatra took good time off to make her own lipstick from flowers, red ocher, fish scale, crushed ants and carmine in a beeswax base; she used this to create her own shade of red which later became her signature look.
After a while, the trend of wearing lipstick for social status faded and the beauty product was left for women. Women of power and status wore red while young ladies wore pink lipstick to appear sweet and soft.
Lipsticks took a long time to penetrate into other parts of the world and gain acceptance; they were banned by the Catholic church; associated with impolite behaviour and indecent women, mostly prostitutes. All efforts to prevent the beauty product from establishing grounds failed and today, lipstick is the biggest selling beauty product found in every lady’s handbag.