The act of painting the lips is as old as humanity itself. Read our brief history of lipstick and it's impact on society through the ages
When Queen Victoria demonized lipstick by saying that only “women of questionable morals”, meaning prostitutes of course, wore lip colour or make up in general she may have not been aware that this tradition of adding colour to your face and especially your lips had been going on for some 5000 years before. In fact, the earliest evidence of woman and man colouring their faces and bodies date back to Ancient Mesopotamia. The enduring power of lipstick may have taken a few knockbacks throughout history but it has always come back stronger and more relevant than before. The lipstick industry alone is worth more than 8 billion pounds globally with a healthy year on year growth percentage growth rate. Lipstick is BIG business and the stakes are high.
Lip and face colouring was used in ancient times mainly for ceremonial purposes, priests decorated themselves to honour their Gods and beliefs and to carry out rituals and customs. Hunters would decorate their faces and bodies as an early form of camouflage to better blend in with their surroundings and to give them any advantage possible in the hunt. Undoubtedly, women and men also used this early form of make-up to make themselves more attractive to the opposite sex. By the time of the Pharaohs, both men and women wore distinctive eye make up as well as rouge. It was from Egypt that lipstick and the painting of the lips and face made its way to Europe, making its way into Greek and Roman life. However the outlook was not always so bright for this simple but highly evocative product. As Christianity took a hold throughout Europe, lipstick was frowned upon as the Catholic Church condemned the use of cosmetics. To strengthen their condemnation of the act of make up they made a connection between red lipstick and the worshiping of Satan himself! As society in Europe turned to religion a simpler, more pious outlook on life was favoured and lipstick was all but forgotten about.
Lipstick didn’t make an appearance again until the reign of Queen Elizabeth I in the 16th century. Elizabeth created a new and unique style for herself which the ladies of the day quickly also adopted. An almost ghostly look of stark white faces with brightly coloured lips. This must have been some look topped off with her deep red curls. This fashion and the seeming resurgence of lipstick and other makeup products sadly only lasted for the duration of Elizabeth’s reign, some 44 years. Soon after lipstick would enter another dark period in its history.
By the time James I had taken over the reins from Elizabeth on her death in 1603, makeup and lipstick in particular were seen as only used by low class women and prostitutes. Lipstick was marginalised once again and would remain so for almost 300 years until the industrial revolution of the late 19th century with its production capacity and ingenuity brought lipstick back into fashion as a consumer product for all classes of women. As things progressed and with the lowering of prices through mass manufacturing and endorsements from celebrities of the days in advertisements and fashion magazines lipstick launched into a new sphere of a must have fashion item for all well to do ladies of the day.
Even though our earliest evidence of face and body makeup may only be from 5000 years ago it wouldn’t be unreasonable to think that humans have been adding colour and ‘makeup’ to their faces and bodies from the start of humanity itself. The first human to crush a brightly coloured berry or beetle between their fingers and then smear the colourful liquid on their face was no doubt one of the earliest humans to walk this planet. And so It’s incredible to think that an idea that old is still going strong today. After many trials and tribulations and many reincarnations, the act of adding colour to the lips to entice and attract, or indeed for any other reason, is still going strong today, possibly more than ever! Lipstick is a daily part of the lives of millions of women around the world from all classes and walks of life. From female judges who wear lipstick when residing in court to politicians and women of high rank. Lipstick is worn by London escorts to heighten arousal and build self confidence as it is by women from a variety of professionals and from all walks of life and social standing. These days lipstick and makeup in general is a multi-billion pound industry and certainly shows no signs of abating.