Despite its rocky reputation over the years, lipstick has tenaciously endured for many centuries. From Cleopatra’s mixture of crushed carmine beetles to the more health-conscious, natural ingredients in demand today, people have always sought ways to darken, paint, and adorn their lips for a more lucious look.
In early days, various lipstick concoctions were applied with a brush. Later, sometime between the eighth and thirteenth centuries, an Arab cosmetologist invented solid, perfumed sticks rolled and pressed in molds. Parisian perfumers in 1884 introduced a closer version to our modern-day lipstick. It was wrapped in silk paper and made with beeswax, deer tallow, and castor oil—a virtually impossible mixture to carry outside the home in a pocket or purse.
Lipstick, with few exceptions (such as various monarchs), was not considered respectable for anyone but actors and actresses to wear until the early 1900s, when synthetic ingredients replaced the unnatural-looking carmine dye—often considered shocking in the 1800s. Even more significantly, lipstick was first sold in metal containers with push-up tubes. The first swivel tube was patented in 1923, and with this convenient, portable packaging, lipstick could finally be aggressively marketed to consumers. The movie industry throughout the 20s and 30s stimulated more demand with the promise that with application of the right cosmetics, everyone could look like the famous stars of the silver screen. (Some things never change!).
During WWII, it was considered a patriotic duty for women to “put your face on” which finally, once and for all, allowed lipstick to take its place in society as a respectable fashion statement. Eleanor Kairalla’s 1944 patent, depicted in our Lipstick design, provides for a lipstick “so shaped that [it] may be easily and accurately applied to the lips with relatively little skill, and the lip line, that is the line of demarkation [sic] between the applied coloring matter and the untouched skin, so readily and closely controlled that any desired artificial contour in fashion…may be readily obtained.” Other objects of her patent included the ability to apply lipstick “without the use of a mirror,” and, with its “large surface of contact with the lips,” the unique shape of the lipstick could be maintained while it gradually wore down.
Trends in colors, ingredients, shapes, and finishes continue to come and go, but lipstick’s place in our modern-day culture appears here to stay, perhaps for many more centuries.