The History Of Why Women Wear Lipstick


As you are swiping on your favourite lipstick in the morning, have you ever stopped to wonder how that little stick of colour goodness came about? How was lipstick invented and why was it created? This random thought crossed my mind as I was preparing for work one day. Being sufficiently intrigued, I spent the next few days reading up extensively on this topic.

Coincidentally, it happened to be one of my most favourite topics, so it was certainly a joy to read up on it. Continue reading as I unravel the mystery behind the origins of lipstick!

The Origins

In the long prehistoric periods, lipstick were made using natural sources such as fruit and plant juices. As early civilisations started appearing, advanced manufacturing processes enabled new kinds of lipsticks to be produced.

The first reported use of lipstick dates all the way back to 3500 B.C.. The queen of ancient Sumeria in southern Mesopotamia (modern day Southern Iraq) used white lead and crushed red rocks to colour her lips. Throughout history, women used lipstick as a status symbol, and as a way to make themselves more noticeable and attractive. Lipstick use was also for medicinal purposes, to protect from natural elements such as dry wind, moisture and sun. Some even believed it could prevent illness and death!

Modern civilisations continued to evolve rapidly with technology and chemistry, with Egypt advancing the art of lipstick making by leaps and bounds. They managed to produce bright red carmine lipstick that are made from cochineal insect pigments, which is a timeless technique that is in use even today.

Lipstick as Sin 

During the European Dark Middle Ages, as Christianity and puritanical beliefs took precedence in society, churches condemned the use of red lipstick as it was associated with Satan worshiping. In order to make their lips appear redder, women secretly resorted to pinching, biting or rubbing their lips with various materials.

It was only in the 16th century when Queen Elizabeth I popularized and brought back the lipstick trend. The drastic contrast of her pale, white face with the bright red lips was popular for a period of time amongst the high class society, before it slipped from grace and was more commonly used by lower class women and prostitutes for the next three centuries.

The Rebirth

The ease of manufacturing, low prices and rise of photography during the Industrial Revolution of the 19th century enabled commercial lipsticks to be brought back into fashion. Lipsticks were also extensively popularized by many famous film actresses. Superstars like Madonna were known for wearing red lipstick, the trendy colour in the 1980s, and the public followed suit. In the 1990s, natural colours and ingredients became more common. In 1923, the famous swivel-up tube, which is still used till today by majority of lipstick brands, was invented by James Bruce Mason, Jr.

Modern Day

Lipstick colours, materials used and even its symbolization continued to change throughout the centuries, but the purpose of wearing lipstick remains the same – to express inner beauty on the outer self. Women wear lipstick for various reasons, to draw attention to their lips, showcase femininity, or even to express their individuality and unique style. The sheer versatility and variety in colour and composition makes it an indispensable makeup tool for most women today.

The lipstick shades we use, and even the way we use our lipsticks today are said to be an indicator of our personalities. It is indeed interesting to know how a simple tube like this has evolved over the years to become a fashion symbol of femininity today!

9.9 Super Beauty Day

And as we reminisce and celebrate the invention of this incredibly popular fashion item, what better way to do it then to offer some great deals for all you readers! 24 August is slated as the Super Beauty Day of our 9.9 shopping sales, so you can look forward to amazing discounts and offers of beauty products on Shopee here (and that includes lipsticks of course!) Grab all the different shades you can on this day and express your unique personalities to the fullest~

I’m not sure about you, but the next time I swipe on some lipstick, I’d probably be thinking of how an unassuming item like this could have such a rich history, and this makes me more appreciative of them.

Are you getting some lipsticks during our 9.9 sales? Let us know what shades you will be getting in the comments below!


New to Shopee? Get $7 off (min. spend $15) with code*: LIPSTICKHISTORY

*TNC Applies. Valid for new users from 24 Aug to 31 Aug only.