Red Lipstick

Red Lipstick Taboos You Didn’t Know Existed

Red Lipstick Taboos You Didn’t Know Existed

The Flamboyant Evolution of Red Lipsticks

I love a red lip – red is one of my favourite colours, and I really don’t wear many other lipstick colours than red.

-Kendall Jenner


Lipstick has been painting faces for centuries. It is a part of every cosmetic make up line. Every woman wears lipstick in her lifetime- be it for a party or to look silly during school concerts.

Nudes, mattes, glossy lipsticks are often in vogue and sometimes recede in the background. Despite this the lipstick is an imperative accessory in our make up kit.

Let’s talk about lipsticks, more accurately the sensual Red Lipstick.

Red is the colour of danger, it catches the eye and is liberating at the same time. Just like the colour, red lipstick has found itself on the lips of men, women, ‘witches,’ ‘satanic devils,’ ‘suffragettes,’ Queens and even women of the night. It is safe to say that the Red lipstick has had a very colourful past, why don’t we delve into it?


A Quick Story of Ancient Lipsticks

Lipstick as a make up accessory was used in Mesopotamia 5000 years ago. They crushed gemstones (imagine how rich they were!) and applied the colour to their lips.

Red Lipstick
The Mesopotamians were the first to crush gemstones and use them as lipstick

At this point, both men and women would paint their lips and eyes. But it wasn’t safe. The gemstone lipsticks also contained white lead, which could kill a human being after a while. Still people loved their lipsticks and used it despite the danger.

This dangerous trend carried on during the times of the famous Pharaoh Cleopatra. She is known to have crushed bugs and used it as lipstick. At this point in time in Egypt, lipsticks had become a status symbol.

Red Lipstick
Cleopatra crushed bugs for crimson shaded lips

Their neighbours however weren’t really happy by the entire concept of red lips.

The Greeks believed that crimson lipsticks were worn by lowly women. Greeks went as far as to pass a law stating that all such women must wear red lips at all times. If they were seen without it, they were thought to be posing as ‘ladies’ and deceiving people! I don’t know why but it is kind of funny:)


Fast forwarded History Of the Middle Aged Lipsticks

Forget the silly Greeks, even the Church found lipsticks brash. They believed and preached that the Red Lipstick was something satanic and worn only by the ‘Satanic Devils.’ And they too turned their backs against a fantastic red pout by banning it from use.

The Church went as far as to site a woman wearing red lipstick as a valid reason for divorce! So women weren’t allowed to wear red while courting their future husbands. But what if women still persisted?

The Church declared that it need not be a mortal sin to wear red lipstick if done to correct a disfigurement so as to not be looked down upon by your husband (sic). This nonsensical acts had to end, what people needed was a Queen just like Cleopatra.

In England, Queen Elizabeth I loved her crimson shaded lipstick. She is known to have made them herself. She wore a variety of red shades with her deathly pale white face. Needless to say, people were influenced by their Queen.

Red Lipstick
Queen Elizabeth I of England wore red lipstick on her deathly pale white face

Elizabeth said the red lipstick had magical powers, very suitable for a monarch. What the lipsticks certainly were, were the real ‘Kiss of Death.’ Elizabeth’s lipstick consisted of ceruse made from lead. This white lead acted as poison, killing the person.

After her, the Church further lost their brains and claimed lipsticks to not only be misguiding for men but also a sign of black magic and witchcraft. Women were burnt at stake for wearing red lipsticks.


Victorian Times…. because the Victorians are always involved

Queen Victoria was not a big fan of make-up. She detested it saying that it was in the Victorian sense ‘impolite.’ Lipsticks at this point fell out of favour of the high class. Lipsticks were again meant only for lowly ladies.

Britain’s neighbours, the French, loved their paints. Many famous Kings of France were often depicted wearing a lot of make up and heels in their portraits like King Louis XIV.

In the Victorian Era, the french perfumers had been successful to make cake lipsticks and were selling them wrapped in silk in Europe and USA by 1890.


Red: The Colour of Liberation

Things radically changed for red lipsticks in 1912. The suffragettes in New York had all gathered for a rally wearing bright red lipstick. Thus red came to be associated with liberation.

Red Lipstick
Suffragette rally in the US

1915 and the lipstick tube was invented. The very same turn and twist packaging that makes it easy to apply the lipstick. Previously, lipsticks had to be applied using brushes. This made it a very intimate act. Applying lipstick while in a queue was taboo. This new packaging meant that lipsticks could now be carried in a pursue!

Red Lipstick
The new packaging that made applying lipstick very easy

During the Second World War when women went to work, lipstick was worn as a sign of femininity. Women had to wear masculine suits to work and tie their hair from getting stuck in machines. The lipstick was their liberation.

The cosmetic industry replied to this by selling a variety of red shades- ‘Fighting Red’, ‘Patriot Red’, and ‘Grenadier Red’ to name a few.

But this obsession with red declined as red became one of many shades. Women would now choose between pink, magenta, red and maroon. The rock and roll stars created a demand for black lipsticks. The red was all but forgotten.

Red was a perpetual favourite amongst stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor.

Red Lipstick
Elizabeth Taylor bought red lipstick in vogue again

In recently years red lips were promoted by Taylor Swift who released an album titled Red and wore matte red lipstick. It was also when Kendall Jenner pointed out that red was her favourite that most teenage girls shifted form their nude lipsticks to red using whichever shades they wanted according to their mood.

This was a brief yet flamboyant story of the red lipstick.

Tell me, do you think red lips are a sign of oppression designed by the society or a sign of rebellion to stand out in a crowd? Comment Below

Red Lipstick
Marilyn Monroe loved her red lipstick


Share this with a friend who is never without lipstick!


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Picture Curtesy- Google Images

Post Author: GiGlee Magazine

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