Red lipstick has been one of those timeless beauty staples. Many people don’t know this but make-up and beauty products have been used since ancient times. The Ancient Egyptians were using precious stones, bug, or charcoal for beauty products like makeup, lipstick, or eyeliner.
It has been used by both noble people but also prostitutes, depending on the place and time. The history of red lipstick is a winding tale of power, death, rebellion, and bawdiness. Some smeared it on despite the stigma, while others literally poisoned themselves with toxic lipstick formulas in order to look beautiful.
Powerful women from ancient or medieval times have used it to assert their space, while others used it to build courage and flirt with the idea of coming out of their boxes, or attract men, in the case of the prostitutes.
Ancient Sumerian men and women were the first to invent lipstick. They used to make it out of crushed gemstones and white lead and painting their lips and eyes with the concoction. Egyptians like Cleopatra also added red lip paint to their arsenal, crushing bugs to create a crimson for their lips.
While lip stains were seen as signs of aristocracy in Egypt, in ancient Greece it was viewed as the mark of the plebeian — or the prostitute.
During the Middle Ages, people tended to go bare-faced, but not out of choice. Instead, the Church decided that painting one’s face was a challenge to God and his workmanship, and banned their use.
“Pictures of devils putting lipstick on women appeared often, and women frequently had to address their lipstick use at confession,” Sally Pointer, the author of The Artifice of Beauty: A History and Practical Guide to Perfumes and Cosmetics, wrote in her book. But then again, priests did offer some sympathy for husbands, creating a loophole: the use of lipstick was not a mortal sin if done “to remedy severe disfigurement or so as to be not looked down upon by [one’s] husband.” Bless.
Elizabethan Age & Victorian Era
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