July 29 - National Lipstick Day

Posted on July 29, 2020

I tend to assume that days like this are just excuses to sell stuff, but I see that a beauty blogger started National Lipstick Day, so maybe not in this case?

At any rate, lipstick is the name for the cosmetic that generally contains pigment, oils, waxes, and moisturizers (or emollients) - a cosmetic meant to give lips protection and also provide color and maybe shine.

Lip balm is the name for products trying for protection only. Men, women, and kids often use colorless, non-shiny lip balm to prevent or soothe chapped lips. 

In many modern societies, it is mostly teenage girls and adult women who use colored lipstick. 

Not necessarily in the past, however. There have been loads of places and times when almost nobody used cosmetics such as lipsticks, and other times when men and women wore lipstick and other cosmetics about equally.

Scholars say that men and women in the Sumerian civilization used lipstick about 5,000 years ago. This may have been the invention of lipstick. Ancient Sumerians used - get this! - crushed gemstones to add color and sparkle to their faces, mostly their lips and eyelids. Yikes!

Ancient Egyptians crushed bugs to paint their lips red. Uh...can I say double yikes?!

Nefertiti - what red lips you have - but who'd want to kiss them?? LOL

Like Sumerians, ancient Egyptian men and women wore makeup, and they did so mostly to show their high social status.

Unfortunately, some of the experiments with cosmetics proved to be dangerous. Ancient Egyptians experimented with dye extracted from a particular kind of seaweed, but that dye caused severe illness. And ancient Greek women sometimes used toxic pigment called vermillion, which is made from powdered cinnabar. Lead is another toxin that sometimes crept into early cosmetics.

Other ancient peoples who came up with early forms of lipstick include Indus Valley women (they used ochre), Minoan and Greek women (sea snails and mulberries), Chinese women (beeswax and scented oils), and Indigenous Australian girls (ochre, again).

In England, Queen Elizabeth I popularized the look of red lips on a very pale or white face. At that time and place, only upper-class women and male actors wore makeup.

In the 1800s, however, respectable people - including those in the upper classes - couldn't wear obvious cosmetics (I bet some used really subtle hard-to-spot makeup, though). Finally, by the 1920s, use of makeup by women became totally acceptable again. And for a while, use of lipstick was a symbol of maturity and womanhood - AND was the source of a lot of arguments between teenage girls and their parents!

During World War II, all cosmetics were rationed in the United Kingdom - EXCEPT lipstick. Winston Churchill thought that women wearing lipstick was a morale booster, so he made sure to keep that one cosmetic in production.

Fashion dictated dark red lips in the 1950s...

...white or nearly colorless lipstick in the 1960s...

...and a quite a few pink lips in the 1970s. 

Black lipstick became popular among punk and goth teens, men, and women in the late 70s through the 90s.

And semi-matte (not very shiny) browned-down (not bright) colors became popular for the more mainstream types in the 1990s.

In the 2000s, a lot of variety has bubbled up in fashion. Pearlescent lipstick, glossy lipstick, and matte lipstick; playful colors, deep colors, almost-colorless lipstick. There are a lot of different sorts of "lipsticks," including waxy sticks-in-tubes, liquid lipstick, pencils, liners, crayons, glosses, and stains. 


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