Wednesday, August 25, 2010

History of Lipstick

By Bidisha Mukherjee

A modern day lipstick is made up of a large number of ingredients like oils, waxes, emollients, pigments, etc. The wax gives a stabilized shape to the lipstick while the oil and fat content give it a soft yet firm texture. The emollients like aloe vera or vitamin E helps to keep the lips in well-moisturized condition. It may also have other additives like alcohol as preservatives as well as sunscreen and fragrance. Lipstick is an indispensable part of the makeup kit of millions of modern women all across the world. This is mainly because, it is an easy and inexpensive way to make a fashion statement. However, if you look into the lipstick history, you will find that the practice of using it in order to give an attractive look to woman's lips started thousands of years ago.

History of the Lipstick

Various historical records suggest that lipstick origins in ancient Mesopotamia almost 5000 years ago. It has been found that the women of the ancient Babylonian city of Ur used to mix crushed semi precious stones with a paste and applied it on the lips to add color to them. Evidence has also been found that women in Indus valley civilization applied red color on lips. In ancient Roman civilization, women who belonged to the upper class used lip colors that they manufactured at home.

In ancient Egypt too, women loved to tint their lips with attractive purple-red color. They used to combine iodine and a compound of bromine known as bromine mannite to obtain that lip color which proved to be highly toxic. For that reason, it was later known as 'kiss of death'. It is said that Cleopatra, the last pharaoh of ancient Egypt, used crushed carmine beetles, ant's eggs and henna to prepare the luscious red color for her lips. To add some shimmering effect to the lip color, extracts from fish scales were also used.

The most obvious question that comes to our mind when we are discussing about history of lipstick is 'who made the first lipstick'. The credit for developing the first lipstick or the lip color in the form of a stick is given to Abu al-Quasim al-Zahrwai. He belonged to Andalusia area of Spain and is often referred to as father of modern surgery. He created the first lipstick at around 900 A.D. He used wax to form the base to which fragrances were added and then pressed into a mold.

During the Middle Ages, the popularity of lipstick declined. In that era, lipstick was considered to be a cosmetic which is suitable for prostitutes and lower class women. Hence, women belonging to upper class stopped using it. Lipstick once again regained its popularity in the 16th century. It was the Elizabethan era and Queen Elizabeth I, England, herself used bright red color on her lips along with chalk white face powder. Once again, in the middle of the 17th century, lipsticks faced stiff opposition from an England pastor named Thomas Hall. He led a movement that strongly opposed the use of any kind of cosmetics and regarded painting of faces as ‘Devil’s Work’. In 1770, the British Parliament passed a law to ban wearing of lipstick. It stated that if a woman wears lipstick, she could be tried as a witch!

In the late 1890s, the popularity of lipstick started rising all over again. Gradually, it became a craze among women. The Hollywood film industry had a major contribution in this regard. Women wanted to have an enhanced and fuller lips like their favorite actresses and thus sale of lipstick went higher and higher. The small pot of lip color was replaced by the push up tube around 1915. Women wanted a lipstick that stays on their lips for a longer period of time. Thus the "kiss-proof" lipstick came into being. It was introduced into the market by a cosmetic company called Hazel Bishop Inc. in 1950.

From the lipstick history you must have now come to know how it evolved over a period of time to its present form. Today, one can find lipstick of a wide range of shades. Apart from the color choices, there are also lipsticks in the market with special ingredients that are essential for lip care. Like, some of them have sunscreens, moisturizers and conditioners in order to keep the lips in healthy condition.

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