What make-up collection would be complete without lipstick? Women have been wearing this beauty essential for a long time. Today we wear it for ourselves, back in the day it was worn to heighten sexual desirability in the eyes of men. When we are aroused, our lips and nipples become darker, and lipstick emulates that effect. (Fun fact: the same applies for our closest animal relatives, primates. For some species of ape, their backsides turn a deeper shade of red to let the males know that they are *ahem* ready for them.) But how did we go from bright bums to red lips?
On our faces, the feature that men are most attracted to are the lips, so it makes sense that, in order to find a suitable ‘mate’, women would want theirs to stand out. Fast-forward from primitive man to Ancient Egypt, where lipstick made from red ochre, carmine and other natural dyes was worn to signify status rather than fertility and was, as such, sported by men as well as women. In Ancient Greece and Rome, lip colour was worn by prostitutes to distinguish them from ordinary women, and this negative association carried over all the way through 17th-century Europe, where women wearing lipstick were thought to be witches and burnt at the stake!
In 1884 the first lipstick as we know it today was made in Paris (where else?) and used ingredients such as castor oil and beeswax. These replaced harmful ones that had been used in the past, namely vermillion and lead. The first swivel tube of lipstick hit the shelves in the 1920s, and a few decades later, in the 1970s, a bigger variety of shades became available, such as blues, blacks, purples and metallic formulas. Today, the colour choices and finishes are endless.
So our first forays into the world of lip colour can be traced back to basic biology. Like many things, it has morphed into a massive money-making industry. While we’re not sure what ancient man would have made of lipstick, many modern humans wouldn’t leave their house without it. That’s evolution for you, right?
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