Luscious Lips

How do you like your lips to look? OK, this could be considered a sexist question. However, I am not assuming that the wearing of lipstick is restricted to any particular gender. After all, the painting of lips has been around a loooong time when you consider that 5,000 years ago Ancient Sumerian men and women coloured their lips. So did the Ancient Egyptians, more to denote social status than a way of enhancing beauty or sexual appeal.

During the Islamic Golden Age the solid lipstick was invented. They were perfumed sticks pressed into special molds.

The Chinese made some of the first lipsticks  from beeswax over 1,000 years ago to protect the delicate skin of  lips. During the Tang Dynasty (CE 618-907), scented oils were added to them  to make the mouth enticing.

In Australia, Aboriginal girls painted their mouths red with ochre for puberty rituals.

Lip colouring also started to gain popularity in 16th-century England. During the time of Queen Elizabeth I bright red lips and a stark white face became fashionable. Lipstick was made from a blend of beeswax and red stains from plants. But only upper class women and male actors wore makeup. Respectable women did not. It was considered brazen and uncouth. Already by the 1850’s warnings were reported about the dangers of using lead and vermilion in cosmetics.

The first commercial lipstick was manufactured by the French cosmetic company, Guerlain in 1884.  Covered in silk paper, it was made from deer tallow, castor oil and beeswax.

.Carmine dye was the most common colouring agent. Derived from cochineal, an insect found on cacti in Mexico and Central America, the carminic acid is extracted from the insect’s body and eggs, then mixed with aluminum or calcium salts. Expensive and unnatural in look, it was generally frowned upon for everyday wear. Sarah Bernhardt was one of the first who dared to wear lipstick in public.

By 1915 lipstick was sold in metal containers which eventually became available in the swivel-up tube so common now.   As lipstick gained in popularity Elizabeth Arden and Estee Lauder began to sell them in their salons in an ever increasing range of colours.

Lipstick grew in popularity although as late as the 1940’s it was still associated with prostitution. Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor made the wearing of red lipstick fashionable and helped to destigmatise it. Nowadays we are spoilt for choice.

Ever wondered what is in lipstick these days? Depending on the brand you buy lipsticks can include toxic heavy metals like lead, cadmium, mercury, antimony, parabens and formaldehyde.

In 2012 the FDA identified 400 different lipsticks that contained lead. They say that anything under 10 ppm of lead is safe to use, and a lot of these lipsticks contain around 7ppm of lead. However, there is an accumulative effect. If you start wearing lipstick each day from age 10, you will consume almost 2 kgs (4 pounds) of lipstick over your lifetime!

You just might want to rethink what you put on those luscious lips.

Ever heard of the lipstick effect? This one was new to me. It’s the theory that when facing an economic crisis consumers will be more willing to buy less costly luxury goods. Instead of buying expensive fur coats, for example, people will buy expensive lipstick. The underlying assumption is that consumers will buy luxury goods even if there is a crisis. When consumer trust in the economy is dwindling, consumers will buy goods that have less impact on their available funds. Outside the cosmetics market, consumers could be tempted by expensive beer or smaller, less costly gadgets.

©  Raili Tanska

Steps for Peace
Peace has no borders.
Yitzhak Rabin

14 thoughts on “Luscious Lips

  1. I stopped wearing lipstick years ago. Mostly I lick my lips too often to keep any on and now we know how toxic it is. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if our world could be toxic free?

  2. I have to echo the others and say yes, this was all very interesting! Bleehh, eating four pounds of lipstick. Does that count when you’re two and you take bites straight from the tube?

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