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A Complete History Of Lipsticks

The concept of lipstick dates back centuries. There have been various stages of lipstick as time has gone by, and has continued to evolve into more advanced types and styles. Now you can find almost any color or shade of lipstick you can imagine. You can personalize your lipstick preference based on many different factors, like skin tone, occasion, your mood, or outfit. What’s even more amazing about lipsticks in the present day is the nourishing ingredients included, such as superfruits and essential oils. As more lipsticks continue to flood the market, you may wonder how this makeup tool got it started in the first place. To learn just how much makeup has changed over time, check out this complete history of lipsticks.

Ancient Times

Way back in ancient civilization, makeup was more than just a fashion statement. It was a statement about status, and was worn by both men and women. It was also used for medicinal purposes. The first people who can be credited with using lipstick is the Sumerian civilization. They used natural resources like fruit, clay rust, insects, and henna to make lipstick. The Mesopotamian culture was even more glamorous and added some shimmer to their lips with ground-up jewels.

Elizabeth Taylor Cleopatra, Forehead, Head, Lip, Chin, Lipstick, Hairstyle, Eyebrow, Eye, Eyelash, White

Egyptians were also avid lipstick wearers, and often wore shades of black and purple. They used carmine dye from cochineal insects for their lipsticks, which is still used in formulas to this day. But the Egyptians also used dangerous substances like iodine and bromine man-nite.

Ase O Fuku Onna Painting, Shimada, Hairstyle, Eyelash, Human, Art

Japanese cultures also used lipstick, which they derived from tar and beeswax and resulted in a thicker formula.

Ancient Greek Cosmetics

In 9 AD, Arab scientist Abulcasis actually discovered how to make solid lipstick by chance through his invention of a solid approach to perfume application. He then used the same mold and method for solid lipstick.

Middle Ages Make Up, Hairstyle, Sleeve, Textile

Lipstick for Prostitution in the Middle Ages

As the puritanical beliefs of Christianity became more widely accepted, the church condemned lipstick and any other use of makeup. Red lips became a symbol of Satanic worship, and thus were associated with witches and sorcery. Because of this, women had to resort to stealthy ways of adding some color to their lips. They would secretly add color to the acceptable lip salves, or pitch, bite or rub their lips for some added rouge.

Queen Elizabeth 1

Queen Elizabeth in the 16th Century

Lipstick began to make a reappearance and underwent a shift in perception in England during Queen Elizabeth’s reign. She was one of the pioneers of the popular look of white skin and red lips. Throughout that time period and centuries later, lipstick was only available and acceptable for use by noble ladies, actors, and actresses on stage.

Angle, Plant, Hand, Human body, Tree, Sleeve

1884 AD

During this time, the French perfume company Guerlain was the first company to ever create lipstick on a commercial scale. They made their lipstick with beeswax, castor oil, and deer tallow, and was wrapped in silk paper.

Vintage Lipstick


Lipstick became produced in cylindrical containers for the first time ever, a concept invented by Maurice Levy.

Max Factor, Glasses, Hand, Black, Coat, Flash photography, Black-and-white, Gesture


By the 1920’s, lipstick had become accessible to the masses and was used by the everyday woman. And then in 1923, the swivel-up tube that we know today was invented by James Bruce Mason Jr. The 1920’s were also the silent era in film, and these movie stars popularized dark lippies like cherry, aubergine, and plum.

The 1920’s was also a time that saw the first wave of feminism, and lipstick became a symbol of female empowerment.

Short Hair 1930s Hairstyles, Forehead, Nose, Hair, Cheek, Head, Lip, Chin, Smile, Hairstyle, Eyebrow


During the 1930’s saw the rise of elegant and matte lipsticks, and was the first time lip glosses were introduced (at the time only available to movie stars). Lipstick was one of the luxuries affordable enough to survive the depression and still be accessible to women at this time.

Ana De Armas Marilyn Monroe, Hair, Lip, Smile, Hairstyle, Lipstick, Eyelash, Flash photography, Makeover, Gesture

1940’s and 50’s

In the 1940’s, women were encouraged to wear the reddest lipstick they could find to boost morale during the harsh climate of the Second World War. And the 50’s were a time for the glamour of the Hollywood icons like Grace Kelly, Marilyn Monroe, and Audrey Hepburn, who all popularized bold lipsticks.

Food Additive, Light

1960’s and 70’s

This era was all about drawing inspiration from art and popular culture, and the fun shades of the day were a reflection of that. This was also when Lip Smackers became widely popular.

Dynasty 1980 Alexis, Hairstyle, Eyelash, Blue, Purple, Fashion, Flash photography, Lipstick, Makeover

1980’s and 90’s

The 80’s were defined by shimmers, gloss, and the bold statement that red lipsticks made with a nice powersuit. Hot pink lips became a hit in the 80’s with the dance party era. The 90’s was the era of grunge and simple makeup. Conscious, environmental ingredients were now important, and natural formulas were a thing. Also the 90’s were the era of lip liners, and also saw the birth of now iconic brands like Mac and Urban Decay.

Rihanna Fenty Model, Nose, Cheek, Skin, Lip, Facial expression, Mouth, Eyelash, Lipstick, Human body, Jaw

2000’s and Present Day

The early 2000’s were all about shine and gloss again, and celebs like Rihanna, Christina Aguilera and Paris Hilton were at the forefront. Modern day lipsticks are a huge market and include every shade, color, and style you can even imagine. Statistics show that the average US woman spends over $3500 on lipstick over her lifetime. Lipstick is now highly individualized and is all about self-expression.