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Lip Service

May 23, 2024

Lipstick is one of the most mythologized beauty products and with good reason. These magic bullets are inherently powerful in transforming not just how we look but how we feel. And its history is as fascinating and varied as the number of shades available.


Here are some of the most impactful lipstick moments throughout time.




The idea of enhancing our lips goes way, way back to 3500 B.C. when the first known lipstick was worn by Queen Shub-Ad of ancient Ur. In Egypt, all genders would have used makeup as part of a daily routine.




During the Middle Ages, there was a shift away from makeup toward a plainer look, with the belief that women who wore lipstick had entered into a pact with the devil. In the 1700s, the English parliament passed legislation that outlawed women from altering their appearance as grounds for being tried for witchcraft or an annulment of their marriage. Yikes!




The stigma of wearing lipstick meant that English women would find covert ways to enhance the colour of their lips, sharing techniques like rubbing red ribbons onto their mouths.




When Queen Victoria declared that makeup was “impolite,” lipstick went underground. Women of means who could travel to Paris might buy a pot of Guerlain’s lip pomade.




In 1938, the U.S. passed its Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act and safety standards for lipstick were introduced, meaning there were no longer dubious, or even deadly, ingredients.




 When women were called up to work in industry during World War II, wearing lipstick was a way to maintain a familiar feeling of femininity while performing traditionally masculine duties.




Lipstick went on the move when the first tube of lipstick was introduced
in 1915. When the New York suffragettes took to fight for the vote, a set of red lips was their beauty calling card.




Coined by Estée Lauder former CEO Leonard A. Lauder during the early 2000s recession, “The Lipstick Index” describes the consumer phenomenon of cosmetics sales remaining strong during tough economic times as people reach for small treats instead of splurging on big-ticket items. Your favourite beauty product is recession-proof!




Because of its historical association with sex workers and a more mature aesthetic, red lipstick in particular has been notoriously polarizing. Consider Hugh Heffner, who disliked red lipstick so much he forbade Holly Madison and other models from wearing it.




Lipstick has played a role in defining some of the most influential film characters, from Pam Grier in Foxy Brown to Uma Thurman as Mia Wallace in Pulp Fiction and even Ursula in The Little Mermaid.




In her 2008 book, The One Hundred, fashion editor Nina Garcia pronounces red lipstick one of the pieces every stylish woman must own. “Red lipstick is much like the little black dress or your favourite pair of jeans. One size does not fit all.”




In 2011, a survey by L’Oréal found that 75 percent of women believe that lipstick makes them more confident. We’ll drink to that — with a lipstick-proof straw, of course.




During the Covid-19 stay- at-home orders, many of us took delight in wearing lipstick at home as an uplifting ritual or simply a reminder of normalcy.




"Lipstick is the most valuable weapon in a woman's makeup kit. It has the power to transform the appearance and mood of the person wearing it, and, at the same time, arouses the admiration of everybody else."

—Monica Bellucci


"If I walk outside without lipstick, I feel naked."

—Sofia Vergara


"I can't see myself without pink lipstick. I can go without it for a couple days, but if there was no more pink lipstick in the world, I'd be useless. Seriously."

—Nicki Minaj


"If I'm feeling down in the dumps, or like I need a pop of colour, I'll put on M.A.C's Lip- stick in Lady Danger. I discov- ered red lipstick when I did the Oscar season: Chanel sent me one and I realized how classic and glamorous it can be."

—Chloe Sevigny


"If you don’t wear lipstick, I can’t talk to you."

—Isabella Blow

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