Our Lips Aren’t Sealed

10 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Lipstick

A lot has happened in the 5000 years since the dawn of lip paint. Wars, corruption, harem pants—the list goes on, and somehow, lipstick has survived. But everyone seems to have an opinion on it—Sarah Palin calls it the distinguishing factor between hockey moms and pitbulls. Holly Golightly can’t read the paper without it. Yes, we have very intimate relationships with our rouges, and below, you’ll find our list of 10 facts that’ll blow your mind about this colourful cosmetic.

1 // Don’t Forget Your Lipstick, Mummy!
Cleopatra used henna and carmine to paint her lips, and in her time, women were encouraged to be buried with two pots of lip paint so they would look good on the other side.

2 // Red-Lip District
The Moulin Rouge may have been hoppin’ in the 19th century, but alcohol-, prostitute-, and lipstick-induced good times date back to the Ancient Greeks (and perhaps even earlier). For the Greeks, though, the cosmetic was popular amongst women of the night, coming to signify poor social standing and low morals.

3 // Lipstick for the Lawless
At one point, wearing lipstick was actually illegal. During the French Revolution, lopping the head off a king may have been acceptable, but lipstick was completely banned. Wearing it was considered to be sympathetic to the monarch, and anyone caught with it was condemned to the guillotine. To borrow a line: off with their heads!

4 // Hot off the Production Line
Women (and a fair amount of men) added the cosmetic to their daily beauty routines in 1880, when French company Guerlain produced the first commercially successful lipstick. It was composed of a mouth-watering mixture of grapefruit pomade and wax.

5 // Portable Beauty
Women’s handbags welcomed a new addition in 1915, when Maurice Levy designed the first sliding metal tube. Thanks to this innovation, applying lipstick in public became socially acceptable. Instead of lugging pots of lip paint around, women could bring the convenient little tube with them wherever they went.

6 // Ain’t no Stalin our Lipstick Production
Lipstick experienced a resurgence of popularity after World War I, when women wanted to maintain their femininity while taking on new roles in the workforce. Fast forward to the next World War, and lipstick is prioritized by good ol’ Churchill when he rations all makeup—except for the precious tubular commodity. He felt it boosted morale on the homefront.

7 // Lipstick Fit for a Queen
Lipstick became a coveted Crown gem in 1952, when Elizabeth II commissioned her own shade to match her coronation robes. The royal rouge was named Balmoral after her Scottish country home.

8 // Lady in Red
On her film sets, Elizabeth Taylor required that she be the only person wearing red lipstick. Everyone else would have to wear a different shade or none at all.

9 // A Moment on the Lips, Forever on the Hips
A whopping 92 per cent of women wear lipstick regularly and buy an average of four tubes a year. But this magical substance doesn’t just stay on your lips; the average woman consumes four to nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, making the inside just as pretty as the outside. Not.

10 // Read my Lips
According to Dior makeup artist Eliane Gouriou, different lipstick colours convey different messages. Beige means “I don’t want to be noticed for this aspect of my personality.” Red evokes the feeling that “I have sensual and luscious lips, which I accept and which I offer.” Dark brown or violet means “I provoke, I impose, but my mouth is not to be touched.” Our thoughts? Let your lips, not your lipstick, do the talking.

photography // Stephanie Chunoo & Tabitha Poeze

further reading // Lipstick: A Celebration of the World’s Favourite Cosmetic. Jessica Pallington, 1998