10 Weird But True Facts About Lipstick

by Meghan Carlson | 2 Comments
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It is well documented that lipstick is one of my favorite things on the planet. To me, there is no better (or easier) way to update your look and lift your spirits than to swipe on a new shade of lipstick. It’s as much about feeling good as it is about looking good—actually, it’s almost all about feeling good. Lipstick is love. It’s the finishing touch that makes me feel put-together, presentable, powerful.

As such, my makeup bag full of lipsticks is bigger than some of my friends’ entire beauty collections. Red, pink, nude, coral, burgundy, and blush; crème, matte, sheer, and glossy—lipstick is my Pokémon, and I’ve gotta catch ‘em all.

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It’s even down there in my bio! I literally can’t live without lipstick—but only because I choose not to. Life is too short for bare lips. If you put that on a t-shirt, I would wear it—along with my “Lady in Red”-covered lips.

So today is very much an actual holiday in my eyes, and I’m celebrating in the only appropriate way: by wearing one of my favorite hot-hot-hot pink lippies, and sharing these fun facts about the history of ladies painting their lips—it’s a lot longer, and crazier, than you might expect.

1. The issue of who “invented” lipstick is highly debated—because it happened so long ago. As early as 3500 B.C., the ancient Sumerians were using crushed gemstones, clay, henna, and seaweed to decorate their lips and faces. The ancient Egyptians were also fans of the practice, extracting red dye from ants and beetles to tint their lips, and topping it with a pearlescent finish using fish scales. Yum!

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2. Ancient Egyptian women loved their lipstick so much, they were buried with it. Well-to-do Egyptian women used wet sticks of wood to apply their homemade lipstick, and when one of them died, it was not unusual to include at least two pots of lip paint with her in the tomb. Love your priorities, ladies.

3. Men in ancient Rome wore it, too. Roman men wore different shades of lipstick to indicate their social status and rank. But ancient Roman women were still the main consumers of lip color, with the wealthiest among them keeping specially trained slaves for the purpose of styling their hair and keeping their lips perfectly painted at all times.

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4. Queen Elizabeth believed her lipstick would ward off death. In the 1500s, Queen Elizabeth popularized red lipstick in England, and is said to have made her own, using a mixture of cochineal (red insects), tree sap, egg whites, and fig milk. (The Queen was a DIY-er!) Elizabeth even ascribed to a popular idea at the time: that lipstick was magical and could help ward off death, applying it often when she became ill. It’s said that Elizabeth was wearing a half-inch layer of her loyal red lippie when she died.

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5. Applying it in public was a BIG no-no. French actress Sarah Bernhardt caused a huge scandal in the 1880s when she was seen applying red lip rouge in public. Gasp! She allegedly called her lipstick her “stylo d’amour,” or “love pen.” What a boss.

6. Lipstick has long been a symbol of female empowerment. Suffragettes in the United States adopted red lipstick as one of their symbols of female rebellion and emancipation, often wearing it at rallies in a pointed attempt to unify themselves and scandalize the men.

7. It was almost outlawed in Kansas. In 1915, the Kansas legislature attempted to pass a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for any woman under the age of 44 to wear makeup, because it “created a false impression.”

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8. The term “generation gap” was coined because of lipstick. By 1920, approximately 50 million (mostly young) American women were wearing lipstick on a regular basis, encouraged in part by the fashionable movie stars and flappers of the day. The divide between young and old was so severe that the term “generation gap” was actually coined to describe the disparity between the generation of daughters who embraced lipstick, and their mothers who still thought it was indecent.

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9. We’d rather brighten than brush. By 1950, statistics showed that 98 percent of American women wore lipstick—more than even brushed their teeth! (96 percent.) In 2004, a survey showed the number of American lipstick wearers had dropped slightly, to 81 percent.

10. You’re’ not alone if lipstick gives you a mood boost. Lipstick sales increased during the economic downturn—and they also tend to go up on gloomy or rainy days.

Tell us on this most sacred of holidays: how much do YOU love lipstick?

  • Sera Hall

    Women in slave/concentration camps (not just form WWII, but going as far back as Ancient Roman slave traders) who may have looked very sickly and sallow from starvation/imprisonment would prick their lips or fingers and use the blood to make them look more robust & healthy.

  • cool guy

    I did too! LOVE it.