The history of lipstick began thousands and thousands of years ago, most likely in Egypt, where both women and men wore makeup on a daily basis. Red was at that time the color of queens and kings, and even Cleopatra wore it. Moreover, it seems that sometimes she made her own lip color using an egg based pigment mixture obtained from crushing red insects.
In ancient Greece, red lipstick was considered taboo, being attributed to “easy” women. However, since fashion was so prevalent, it soon made its way to elites, but the shades were much darker, obtained from seaweeds and wild fruits.
It is said, that in a certain period red lips were known as the “kiss of death” because people were trying to get the perfect shade using mercury sulfate which was toxic.
From Taboo to Trends
In the early 30’s with the advent of silent films, actress Theda Bara popularized red lipstick to every woman. She was the one who started this trend, helped by a make-up artist of the time Maximilian Faktorowicz, the famous Max Factor.
Even if the pigments were not as strong, the make-up revolution was in full force. Movie makeup was very strong, to emphasize the difference between actresses and ordinary women who couldn’t afford to purchase beauty products.
After 1950 several brands of makeup products appeared and red lipstick had become a favorite of women everywhere.
Marilyn Monroe heavily contributed to the image of red lipstick. She is remembered for her bold red lips, contrasting blonde locks and being a sex-symbol. This is one of the reasons why red lipstick is often attributed to a strong sexuality.
The 80’s-90’s period was marked by darker shades of red lipstick. While Madonna preferred bright red and burgundy shades, Courtney Love marked the “grunge” era with her wild brown and brick red lips.
This period was marked by changes and women were trying to prove that they can do more, more than being sex-symbols.
Once darker shades of lipsticks appeared, some frustrations were revealed, and the image of the modern woman began to take a new shape.
After a very long history, today it seems that the red lipstick hasn’t lost its popularity. The only difference is that now it’s available in every shade possible, from discreet to bright, like the one adored and promoted by Dita Von Teese in her burlesque shows.
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