Celebrate National Lipstick Day: A History of Lipstick

lipstickIt seems like something many women celebrate everyday, but this Saturday is technically considered National Lipstick Day. Today, lipstick types and shades vary wide and far but are still often considered the symbol of bold women.

As packaging manufacturers, we understand the array of personal preferences that factor into your favorite lipstick selection. Some look for metallic applicators, while others opt for those that are easier to maneuver one-handed while on the go. These are certainly indicative of the type of society we live in — one where women don’t need to choose between a professional lifestyle or personal appearance. We can master both.

The History of Lipstick

Perhaps the most iconic of all lipstick shades is red, and it actually has a pretty interesting history.

CleopatraAncient Times- Lipstick was actually invented by Sumerian men and women who would crush gemstones and white lead, then use the powder to paint their lips and eyes. They weren’t the only ones to use dangerous ingredients in the name of beauty. It’s said that Egyptians would crush bugs to create a red lip paint, which was normally a sign of status. Cleopatra allegedly created her signature scent out of flowers, crushed ants, beeswax, and carmine.

Middle Ages- During this period, the Church contended that painting your face was a sin, and as a result the use of lipstick became very uncommon. Instead, it was normal to see paintings of the devil wearing lipstick or painting it onto others as a sign of his influence.

Queen Elizabeth I

Elizabethan Era- As you’re probably aware, Queen Elizabeth I ignored the Church’s opinion when creating her signature look — pale white face with bold, red lips. Unfortunately, at this time lead was still being used to create homemade lipstick so for many it was actually a slow-moving poison. After the queen’s death, lipstick was again considered taboo by the Church.

Early 1900’s- Some of the first to publicly use lipstick in the United States were the suffragettes, making a statement about women’s freedom. In 1915, inventor Maurice Levy was the first to introduce to market a lip color in a sliding metal tube, boosting its popularity. Soon, movie stars like Clara Bow were seen wearing lipstick creating the hype that still lives on today.

Rosie the RiveterWorld War II- You may not have realized that lipstick became a symbol of patriotism during World War II. Ladies were encouraged to look their best in order to do their best — a message of defiance to our enemies and a way to boost morale. Red lipsticks were given patriotic names and produced along with the country’s essentials. Consider Rosie the Riveter, a factory worker still donning bright red lips at a physically demanding job.

1950’s-1970’s- After the war, lipstick ads appealed to women looking to include a bit more sexuality in their look unlike the pre-war darling and angelic looks. Marilyn Monroe and Lauren Bacall both famously sported lip rouge in the ’50’s, eventually giving way to iconic ’60’s models like Twiggy. In the ’70’s, lip colors tended to shy away from red (sometimes viewed as old school) for more natural hues.

Present Day- As we mentioned at the top of this post, lipstick today is all about personal preference. Some days women wear nude, others a dramatic red, and still others non-traditional colors like blue or orange. Women choose based on mood or outfit choice, rather than the current trend. If anything, this tells us that lipstick has moved beyond trend status and is now ingratiated in everyday life.