DIO, Rafaela M.

BSDC 311-J A historical feature for ENVICOM*

Read My Lips: the Lipstick's Life Story
Hidden within its rich color is a history not as smooth as cream formula. Long before today's wide acceptance, lipstick had been controversial, dangerous and immoral. A twenty-first century woman, Jane Mercado, 26 and a call center agent in Lipa, Batangas, is not completely dressed without wearing her shade of lipstick. She just can t possibly leave the house without it, Forget the mascara or the blush but not the lipstick. Somehow, the same outlook had been shared by the women of Ancient Mesopotamia in 5000 BC. Babylonians could have never left their cabins without a lip color ingeniously made from crushed semi-precious stones. But early Egyptians had better idea than powdered rocks. According to Meg Cohen Ragas and Karen Kozlowski, in their book, "The Cultural History of Lipstick," Egyptians decorated their lips with a reddish purple mercuric plant dye called fucus which stains like henna. Little did they know that it was made of iodine and bromine mannite and was potentially poisonous. Instead of turning their faces look healthier, ancient Egyptians puckered up to illness and death! Cleopatra preferred the more natural ingredients. Would you believe that a woman as elegant as this queen actually used bugs? Using a brush, she applied carmine dye a deep red pigment extracted from dried and grounded carmine beetles. The queen's make-up artist proved to be really resourceful. Crushed ant eggs were used for base coating and for shimmering gloss, a substance from fish scales called pearl essence came out effective. Despite these gross origins, carmine dye was expensive and not practical for the average Egyptian women. In the 16th century, lipstick was upgraded to a blend of beeswax and plant dye. Queen Elizabeth I helped boost the lipstick's popularity when she made blood red lips and chalk-white faces the superior fashion statement during her reign. But lipstick was not always admired. To Ragas and Kozlowski and Thomas Hall, an English pastor and author of the "Loathsomeness of Long Haire" (1653), the wearing of lipstick led to a movement declaring that face painting was "the devil's work" and that women who put brush to their mouths were trying to "ensnare others and to kindle a flame of lust in the hearts of those who cast their eyes upon them." The church must have been very influential to the state that in 1770, the British Parliament passed a law condemning lipstick. It stated that "women found guilty of seducing men into matrimony by a cosmetic means should be tried for witchcraft." And when Queen Victoria took throne in 1837, she prohibited lipstick and declared it impolite. By then, lipstick was a taboo it was recognized as vulgar and uncouth as the level of prostitutes. With make-up at the end of the fashion line, paleness hit vogue for almost a century.

Stage performers, in spite of the prohibition, were allowed to wear make-up and so, slowly, women began to be attracted to the lipstick's charm again. In the late 19th century, a synthetic form of carmine was infused into an oil and wax base, creating a lip color that looked more natural and pleasing than carmine dye. However, technically up to this point, lipstick was not yet a lipstick. Lip color was sold in tinted papers or paper tubes. Unlike today's lipstick, it was not portable and handy. Carrying it in pockets melts the paste and keeping it in handbags was just as messy. This meant that women could apply color at home but could not do touch-ups. 1883, two French men resolved the problem by adding castor oil and deer tallow making a firmer material. It was then rolled into small sticks and wrapped in silk paper giving birth to the first lipstick. Later that year, the innovated lipcolor was presented at the World Fair in Amsterdam but it did not appeal to some women. The lipsticks were called saucisses (little sausages), they were quite costly and looked much like crayons. Improvements were constant. Around 1915, lipstick started to be sold in metal containers, with various push-up tubes. The first retractable tube was patented in 1923, in Nashville, Tennessee. This packaging allowed manufacturers to package to sell, creating stylish and seductive packages for consumer goods. Lipstick owes its widespread recognition to the movie industry. Film stars painted themselves with small, dark red mouths, the most famous being the actress Sarah Bernhardt who used to call her lipstick stylo d'amour' (love pen) because of its phallic shape. And the demand for lipstick boomed as women wanted to look like Sarah Bernhardt, Louise Brooks, Clara Bow and other stars of the silver screen. In the 1930s, leaders in the industry such as Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden opened their first salons, offering a wide-range of service from facial massage to hair dressing to make-up. In the late 1940's, Hazel Bishop, an organic chemist in New York and New Jersey, created the first long lasting lipstick, called No-Smear lipstick. And with the help of Raymond Specter, an advertiser, Bishop's lipstick's business flourished. After WWII, lipstick had become more accessible. When most people could not afford expensive luxuries, companies concentrated on making cheap lipsticks mainly for women workers. In 1952, Revlon had the first big media lipstick advertising in their campaign, "Fire & Ice." In the 1959 Marilyn Monroe movie, "Some Like it Hot", almost all the actresses wore bright lipstick, creating a new fad. Young girls that imitated and wore flashy lipstick were generally reprimanded by their parents. Finding a growing market, lipstick manufacturers began creating colors like lavender, pink, and peach. Max Factor produced a popular lipstick color called Strawberry Meringue that suited the needs of the teenage fashion. Trends were shifting every minute that only after a few years, women wanted to break from the traditional red lips. 1964 was the onset of white lipstick. Gala cosmetic company began to introduce pale colored lipstick. Rock groups such as Ronettes and the Shirelles popularized pale-looking lips. Girls would apply white lipstick over pink lipstick or even use concealer for paler effect.

Lip gloss is what 1970s is about. Women were experimental and willing to try all-new things. Bonne Bell came out with tubes of lip glosses in every possible taste and smell: grape jelly, strawberry, watermelon and even pepper! In 1975, in the heat of disco, hundreds wore fuchsia gloss and graced with glowing puckers on the dance floor. But in 1977, the fashion world was stunned by the rise of the punk and goth sub culture. Though their influence never attracted most of the masses, they remained distinguished in their noir wardrobe and black lipstick. Their black style was also worn in horror films. The 1982 music video "Wake Me up before You Go" by Wham started the trend on fluorescent lip colors. The band Poison had light lip glosses on its heavy metal boys. Imagine how gaudy the people of the 80s were even a hardcore rocker screams and slams all over the stage with shimmering lip gloss on! An enhanced form of lip color, a wax-free semi-permanent liquid formula, was invented in the 1990s by the Lip-Ink International Company. Other companies have imitated the idea, putting out their own versions of long-lasting lip stain or liquid lip colour. Now, in the 2000s, we enjoy the modern lipstick in myriads of shades and colors. It even comes with extra features: moisture boost, diamond glitter, sun proof, lip volume enhancer and vitamins. And with the ever-developing cosmetic technology and our insatiable desire for vanity and luxury, lipstick will be transformed and innovated ceaselessly.


*THIS IS AN ECO-FRIENDLY ARTICLE. What you are reading is made from 100% recycled paper. Let¶s save paper! :)

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