The history of lipstick is long, varied and fascinating! Starting in prehistoric times people have darkened, painted and adorned their lips with dyes, pigments, plant roots, pencils and rouges.

Five thousand years ago in ancient Mesopotamia, the first true form of lipstick was invented. Women painted their lips to enhance their beauty with the dust of finely crushed semi-precious jewels.


In ancient Egypt, women used red ochre, carmine, and other dyes to create a variety of many shades including black. The most famous Egyptian beauty was of course Cleopatra, who adorned her lips with a deep red pigment made up of beeswax blended with crushed ants or carmine. On top of the deep rich color, she added a layer of fish scales for a shiny sparkly effect! Egyptians also were known to use a combination of bromine mannite mixed with iodine, which created a deep purple shade. Unfortunately these harmful and toxic metals caused illnesses and sometimes lead to death and thus these lip lacquers were eventually known as “The Kiss of Death”.


It wasn’t until the 16th century that lipstick became widely used. Queen Elizabeth I loved make up. She was a trendsetter and created the look of a chalk-whitened face and contrasting blackened lips. Elizabethan lipstick was created from bees wax and plant dyes. Her lipstick recipe included cochineal, Arabic gum, egg whites, and fig milk. Elizabeth’s court also invented the first lip liner by mixing plaster of Paris with red pigment and leaving it to dry in the sun.

By Victorian times, culture and fashions changed. The Catholic church considered make up to be the devil’s work and deemed all makeup unacceptable for the well-bred lady. Woman with painted faces were now seen as unladylike. In fact only prostitutes or actresses on stage were commonly seen wearing makeup.

In 1884, French cosmetic company Guerlain produced the first commercial lipstick. It was made from deer tallow, castor oil and beeswax. It was packaged in silk paper and applied with a brush. The famous actress Sara Bernhart wore this lipstick in public and is credited with helping to popularizing lip color to society.

By 1912, fashionable American women had come to consider lipstick acceptable, though an article in the New York Times advised on the need to apply it cautiously.


In the 1920s and ’30s during the age of flappers and actresses in silent films, dark lips brought back the popularity of lipsticks. The first lipstick in a push up tube packaging was invented during this time, making lipstick easier to apply and carry. In 1923, the first swivel-up tube was patented by James Bruce Mason Jr. and women started to wear lipstick for photographs. Photography helped make lipstick acceptable among women and Elizabeth Arden and Estee Lauderbegan selling lipstick in their salons.

In the four years from 1929 to 1933, industrial production in the U.S. declined, but sales of cosmetics soared. This was eventually known as the lipstick effect, which means that during hard times, consumers stop spending money on large ticket items like cars but are willing to splurge on little luxuries like lipstick. The reason for this is that despite hard times, women looked for little ways to feel beautiful and luxurious.

During World War II, metal lipstick tubes were replaced by plastic and paper tubes. During the war, lipstick was scarce because some of the essential ingredients to make lipstick, like petroleum and castor oil were unavailable.


By the mid 1940’s and 1950’s Hollywood ruled and glamorous movie actresses continued to inspire the world’s fashions. Lipsticks sales grew and became an all-important everyday accessory for the well-groomed woman. The rotating twist up lipstick case was invented during this time period.


At the end of the 1950s and the early 1960s Max Factor created a popular lipstick color called Strawberry Meringue. This started a trend of unique lipstick colors, which include lavender, white, pale pink and peach. White or nearly white and frosted lipsticks were the trend in the 1960s.


Today lipstick is still the best selling cosmetic product on the market. Styles and shades continue to vary with fashion and new formulations are invented everyday, but lipstick is here to stay! Looking for innovative lip products or formulas? Contact us today to browse our library and use our turnkey services to customize a lipstick to your brand!

No Comments
Leave a reply