Although our first encounter with lipstick may have been with our mother's makeup, this cosmetic's long history didn't start there. Read on to learn its interesting roots and how to choose a lipstick best suited to your personality and complexion.
For centuries, lipstick has had a unique presence in beauty, politics and tradition. Learn about the ancient ingredients that were combined to create the very first lipsticks, how lipstick has changed over the years and some simple tips for color choice and application.
Lipstick's controversial past
Lipstick travelled a long and winding journey before becoming a regular part of the modern makeup routine. Lip coloring has been documented as far back as 3,000 B.C., when Mesopotamian women tinted their lips with a mixture made of ingredients including red clay, rust, henna, seaweed and iodine. As time passed, women would continue to get creative with lip color. Cleopatra VII, the famous Empress of Egypt who reigned from 51 to 30 B.C., mixed crushed ants and carmine with beeswax. In fact, lip color became so important that wealthy ancient Egyptians were tucked away in their tombs with pots of crimson lip color to ensure a beautiful look in the afterlife.
The modern components of lipstick weren't developed until A.D. 900, when medieval surgeon Abu al-Quasim al-Zahrwai cleverly created a mold using a wax base blended with perfume. During this time, lipstick was favored only by the middle class; it didn’t become popular with the upper class until the mid-1500s, when Queen Elizabeth I wore her signature bright red lipstick made from beeswax and crushed flowers.
In the 1770s, makeup was considered a form of deception, and women who wore lipstick were labelled as witches and accused of luring men into marriage. Makeup was outlawed throughout much of Europe – a trend that continued through Queen Victoria's reign (1837-1901). During this time, some women resorted to coloring their lips by rubbing them against dyed crepe paper or ribbons.
Lipstick finally made its lasting burst of popularity in the 1890s, thanks to the newly formed film industry – actresses needed to apply dark colors on their lips to make them stand out in black and white films. Previously sold in small pots, lipstick made its “tube” debut in 1915 and has been a staple in makeup bags ever since.
Modern-day lipstick trends
It didn’t take long for the lipstick trend to stick. Today, WebMD reports that 85 percent of women apply lipstick regularly. But, the look of lipstick has changed dramatically over the years:
- 1920s: During the flapper craze, women reached for dark, dramatic shades.
- 1930s: Although the darker shades carried on, Max Factor also introduced clear lip gloss. Many women embraced this shiny, light alternative to the heavy pigments in lipstick.
- 1940s: Lipstick was less prevalent during wartime, due to the shortage of an essential ingredient: petroleum.
- 1950s: Dark lipstick became popular once more when actresses like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor put deep, moody hues back in the spotlight.
- 1960s: During the hippie movement, women opted for light, natural lip shades including frosty, pale pink, light purple and white.
- 1970s: The punk culture introduced darker, edgier colors, like deep purples and blacks.
- 1980s: Women walked on the wild side with exotic shades of bright orange, coral, fuchsia and red.
- 1990s: Bright shades were tossed aside for more natural lips as brown and neutral hues became popular.
- 2000s and today: Although there are still seasonal lipstick trends, women today follow their own color preferences – from pale pastels to burnt browns. Typically, women tend to wear lighter, more natural colors during the day and darker shades in the evening.
How to apply lipstick
For many of us, the simple act of applying lipstick symbolizes class, sophistication and femininity. But the makeup aisle includes a diverse selection of products, styles and shades, making it tough to know where to start. From lipstick to lip liner, perfect your application with these tips:
- Lip primer: Lip primer's main purpose is to moisturize the lips, creating a foundation that allows lipstick to go on smoother and last longer. Apply lip primer, like Too Faced Lip Insurance, evenly over lips to help prevent lipstick from fading, bleeding and creasing on dry or wrinkled lips.
- Lip liner: Lip liner is a good way to create a kissable contour of color. If you have wrinkles around your mouth, using lip liner can help prevent the lipstick from bleeding into creases. Makeup artists also use the trick of applying lip liner to the entire lip to give lipstick a solid base to attach to, helping color last longer.
When it comes to choosing your lip liner, opt for a neutral color or one shade darker than your lipstick. To apply, start at the center of your upper lip and draw a line outward along the edge to the corner of your mouth. Repeat for the other side and each side of the lower lip. To make small lips appear plumper, draw the line just outside of your lips. Similarly, to make large lips appear more petite, draw the line just inside of your lips.
For a more natural look, line your lips with a colorless liner like DuWop Reverse Lipliner.
- Lip brushes: Many professional makeup artists use lip brushes to apply lipstick for a few key reasons: it's more cost-effective since you use less lip color; you have more control over the application; it makes it easier to blend lipstick with lip liner; and most importantly, the color lasts longer.
To use a lip brush, such as Origins Lip Brush, makeup artist Bobbi Brown instructs to first apply the color to the corners of the upper and lower lips. Then, fill in the rest of the lip before pressing them together to even out the color.
- Lipstick: When it comes to layering on lipstick, Bobbi Brown advises, “Apply an even layer of color over the entire lip, starting at one corner of the mouth, and keeping within the natural lines of the lips.”
To make sure texture is consistent, blot lips with a folded tissue, and then apply again. To help make the color of a crème or matte lipstick last longer, try lightly applying loose powder. And finally, to ensure an exact application, some women trim their lipstick with a razor to give it a well-defined tip.
What type of lipstick is right for you?
Different types of lipsticks have different textures, allowing you to choose a variety of looks and finishes.
- Matte: For the boldest color, try a matte lipstick. Matte formulas leave a flat finish without shine, because its many pigments deflect light. It often lasts longer than shinier formulas, but it can easily dry out lips, so it isn't ideal for women with thin or wrinkled lips.
- Crème: Crème lipstick has the same intense color as matte lipstick, but with a little shine because it contains more wax. Although it protects the lips better than other finishes, it can still be dehydrating to some lips.
- Satin: If you have dry lips, satin lipstick is ideal because it contains more oils and moisturizers than other lipsticks, but the color doesn’t last as long.
- Sheer: Sheer lipstick gives a natural look, no matter how dark the shade appears in the tube. Because it contains more oils, it's a good choice for women with dry lips.
- Gloss: To give your lips some shine, try a gloss, either on its own or over a matte lipstick. Lip gloss usually comes in light shades with a sticky transparent finish because it contains more oils. The color doesn't last long and it needs to be reapplied frequently, but it’s very moisturizing to dry lips.
- Lip stains: A lip stain is essentially a colored liquid that goes on the lips to add a hint of color. Because they don't contain wax, lip stains are usually used with lip gloss and aren’t ideal for dry lips.
Essentially, if you want a rich, long-lasting color, choose a matte or crème formula. If you’re prone to dry or wrinkled lips, opt for satin, sheer or glossy lipstick.
Lipstick shades – how to choose?
With all the seasonal trends, it's hard to pick the lipstick color that's right for you. Makeup artist Bobbi Brown suggests, “If I had to teach someone just one thing about lip color, it would be this: find a lipstick that looks good on your face when you are wearing absolutely no makeup. This is the magic color that will make your skin, hair and eyes look their best.” Not sure what shades to start with? Narrow them down based on your natural lip color:
- Pale lips: Try beige, pale pink or bright red tones.
- Medium-toned lips: Try brown, rosy pink or warm red tones.
- Dark lips: Try dark brown, plum or deep red tones.
For a neutral look, pick a shade that’s close to your natural lip color. As Bobbi Brown says, the right color “will enhance the skin tone, make the eyes look brighter and give the face a lift.”
How to make your own lipstick
If you can't find your perfect shade in the store, why not try making your own lipstick? All lipstick contains three fundamental ingredients: wax for the shape and texture, oil to retain moisture and pigment for the color. Depending on the amount of each ingredient you use, you can create a lipstick with a glossy, matte or shiny finish. Experiment with these easy recipes from Discovery Health:
- Beetroot Lipstick
- Ingredients: 1 tablespoon beetroot powder, 1 tablespoon glycerin, 1/2 teaspoon olive oil
- Method: Stir the glycerin and beetroot powder in a saucer until smooth, then add the oil.
- Very Berry Lip Gloss
- Ingredients: 1 cup of berries (cranberry, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry), aloe vera gel or petroleum oil
- Method: Smash the berries into a paste, one teaspoon at a time. Remove the seeds by passing the paste through a sieve. Slowly add the gel or oil with a dropper to get the right consistency. Apply with your finger or a lip brush.
- Basic Neutral Lipstick
- Ingredients: 1/4 cup grated beeswax, 3 tablespoons vegetable shortening, 1 tablespoon almond oil, 3 tablespoons cocoa butter
- Method: Mix all the ingredients together and heat in the microwave for 1-2 minutes or until melted. Pour the liquid into a greased pan and let cool. You can then cut the form into sticks and buy empty lipstick tubes from cosmetic suppliers.
Bottom line: Beautiful lips
Lipstick has a long, colorful history that continues to evolve as color trends change over time. While following the latest celebrity trends and runway styles are great ways to stay on top of the latest lip looks, always embrace the shades that best represent your personality.
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