Red Lipstick: The History Of What Is Much More Than A Beauty Item
Being the favorite, the go to beauty item of many women out there, red lipstick is never out of style - but I don’t have to tell you that.
Red is probably the most wanted shade of lipstick to wear whenever we want to feel empowered, in control of our life or even just a little better about ourselves for any reason. It brings a balanced take of being at the same time classy and edgy to the look that makes it a loved cosmetic staple for most women and a very great confidence booster. So it’s only natural that the connection between this specific beauty item and women comes from a long history, right? It actually comes all the way from Ancient Egypt, so come with me as I clarify.
Throughout history, many women have chosen the color red as a way to show off their social status and power, the first use being traced to Cleopatra, the original femme fatale - as we talk about her ‘till nowadays. She was so much of a queen that she was known for even creating her own shades of red, all from crushing insects and bugs and extracting their pigment - I actually think that is kinda gross but I guess that’s all she had at the time, so you go girl. But she would also use flowers to do it, which I think sounds a lot better and creates a better looking picture in my head. The queen was happy wearing her red shades, and some women have done the same after her, but that was only until the Christian church stepped in and made it be associated with the devil’s worship in the 16th century - all kinds of makeup, actually. And it was not until Queen Elizabeth, a few centuries later, that it came back to us.
In the 19th century, more specifically in 1848, a group formed mostly by women - with just a few men - was fighting for women's rights to vote in the USA. They all gathered in New York in what is now known as the suffragette movement, a very big, important one in women’s and feminism history. And do you want to know something cool about it? Other than the fight for rights, of course. Red lipstick was part of their uniform, as some of the women there would wear it to draw more attention to themselves and consequently to their cause. It was a way to present themselves as both feminine and bold, daring, in a symbol of strength at a time where women were seen as having none. And yes, it took some decades, but the cause was good and it worked. By 1920, to vote was a constitutional right in the country.
This little tube of red lipstick has always been there to give some kind of comfort or strength to women in hard situations. Even during what was one of the most sad, cruel moments of human history, World War II,there it was. At that time, the shade was prohibited in Nazi Germany, but it was already starting to be loved and embraced in America as a luxury good, and as women were being called to help produce military artillery, they were able to use what was left of common resources to create makeup, something that helped them exercise their femininity and find strength in that, even if the situation was the worst possible. And apart from the circumstances, that’s not so different from the present in a way that we still see women feeling empowered with their red lipsticks on. And there’s even more to that little color than a feminist statement!
Red lips have a way to increase facial contrast which can come in handy over time, as time passes, the eyes, brows and lips lose pigmentation and become paler, so to wear red lipstick can make you look more bright, vibrant, and attractive. Also, studies show that women who constantly wear red lipstick to their jobs tend to feel more confident and competent when in comparison with the ones that choose to wear minimal to no makeup. I always said that fashion and beauty can change the way we see and present ourselves, but maybe now that there are actual studies to back me up you will believe me.
Whether the origins of red lipstick are with Cleopatra in Ancient Egypt or not, the fact is that the concept of wearing that has been around for ages now, always with different meanings and always very well documented. It has been a sign of wealth, of seduction, of power and confidence. It might have come to the western world in a way that is not the best - as important as it is, the suffragette movement is not a happy one - it kept its popularity and has never been low on sales. It even became one of Hollywood’s favorite beauty assets, a timeless trend that comes all the way from old Hollywood glamour - that we still adore - to the modern days. There’s never a red carpet where we don’t see at least one bold red lip, have you noticed?
All those things considered, there’s just no way that one would still argue that a little tube of red lipstick means a lot. It might even be the most powerful makeup product to carry on your bag and to wear, and makeup is very powerful by itself. If you were already a red lipstick lover, I believe I made you love it just a little more now, and if you didn’t like it so much, you might want to try it on again, from a new perspective. Next time you see it sitting there, abandoned in your makeup bag, think of the powerful journey it has been through. It has come a very long way from all the crushed insects and flowers to our most advanced, varied formulas, but there are some things that never change. And for this one specific cosmetic product, is how it has the ability of to make us feel confident, beautiful and empowered.