Women have always been fascinated by lipstick. They have come a long way in their quest for perfect crimson lips. The use of lip color dates back to around 3000 B.C when women from Mesopotamia used crushed gemstones to decorate their lips and eyelids. Cleopatra, Pharaoh of Egypt used crushed carmine beetles in a base made of ants and used it as lip color. Fish scales were ground and used to give pearlescent sheen to lipstick. Interesting, isn’t it?!

Women from the Indus Valley Civilization also are known to have applied lipstick to their lips around 3000 B.C. to 1500 B.C. Egyptians extracted red dye from fungi called fucus-algin and formulated a mixture by adding iodine and bromine mannite to it. They used this mixture as lipstick but it was highly poisonous and often led to serious illness and sometimes death. It was in Egypt that carmine color, extracted from cochineal (scale insects) became popular.

In the modern times, there was a resurgence in the popularity of lipsticks. Queen Elizabeth I popularized the use of lipstick in the sixteenth century. She used lipstick made from beeswax and plants.

By the nineteenth century, lipstick gained popularity as many famous film actresses started using it. Till the early 20th century, lipstick came in a limited number of shades, dark red being the most popular.


In 1915, Maurice Levy invented the sliding tube container for lipstick. It had a small lever at the side of the tube that lowered and raised the lipstick. In subsequent developments, Levy introduced the slide and twist mechanism seen in lipsticks today. In 1923, James Bruce Mason Jr. of Nashville, Tennessee patented the first swivel-up tube.

Today, lipstick is viewed as the most important fashion item. Lipsticks will remain with us as long as fashion exists!

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