The fascinating history of the classic red lipstick



A cosmetic classic, red lipsticks exude confidence and power in women, but it is not the same as it is today. Red lipstick became a loud and bold symbol and has its roots back to ancient times, when only the reserved, upper class, and queens used to wear this shade, exuding their power and influence over society. However, in the Western world, it was gradually associated with actors and then escorts wearing this bold shade, rather than respectable women.

The origin of this shade as lip colour dates back to 3500 B.C. when Mesopotamia’s queen Puabi also known as Shubad used a combination of white lead mixed with red rocks to stain her lips to showcase her power. Ancient Egyptians usually favoured red ochre mixed with resin to fashion the red lip trend, but the historic and popular Queen Cleopatra, preferred using carmine, which is a deep red pigment extracted from the cochineal bugs.

Soon the shift was seen as from royals to sex workers in Greece started wearing this shade made from mulberries, seaweed, sheep swear, and crocodile excrement. However, in the Roman Empire, painting the lips red was a common practice, as the vibrant shades showcased the higher status of a woman. But, in the middle ages, this colour quickly became a sign of witchcraft as Christians considered makeup to be in opposition to their religious beliefs and teachings that focused on a woman’s natural beauty and humility, which is part of God’s design.

During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, red lipsticks were thought to possess the power of spirits. However, the queen herself adorned her lips and sparked a trend with red lipstick made from cochineal, gum Arabic, egg whites, and fig milk. But, her successor James I, feared the society which raised the voice of witchcraft casting a shadow over cosmetic products with a law passed in 1770, that women deemed to be using makeup are indulged into tricking men into marrying them, and were declared as a witch.

In the early 20th century, after centuries of authority and dominance of the male culture, the use of cosmetics, mainly red lipstick, was associated with the female rebellion. The shade was highly popular amongst the suffragettes and soon was seen in silent films with dark red lipsticks becoming extremely popular that it eventually became a style statement, representing the woman’s sexuality.

However, in the modern world, red lips have become a classic choice with popular Hollywood icons including Audrey Hepburn, Madonna, and Marilyn Monroe, making it a common choice for the woman binding a strong sense of confidence with stylish clothes and accessories, making it a bold and regal style statement.