Cosmetic products intended to color the lips have been used for thousands of years, by both women and men, in a variety of shades, depending on the fashion of the time. Modern lipstick, consisting of waxes, oils, and pigments pressed into a cylinder and packaged in a metal tube, has been sold to women since 1915. Some women feel almost undressed without their lip coloring, and industry experts estimate that the average twenty-first century woman uses between four and nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime.
Social customs in the West had discouraged the use of cosmetics for several hundred years, but that began to change around the turn of the twentieth century. As women began to hold jobs and demand the right to vote and other privileges afforded only men, their lives became less restricted. Cosmetics such as rouge, powder, and lipstick came into style, and such respectable companies as the Sears and Roebuck Catalog began to sell them. In the early 1900s women like Helena Rubenstein (1870-1965), Elizabeth Arden (1884-1966), and Estee Lauder (1908-) went into the cosmetics business and began to sell cosmetics in their salons. Madame C. J. Walker (1867-1919) and Annie Malone (1869-1957) developed lipstick colors especially for African American women and sold them door-to-door.
During the flamboyant 1920s, dark red lipstick came into fashion, as women wanted to highlight their sexuality. Lipstick was packaged in small tubes, and for the first time women began to take it with them in a purse wherever they went. Glamorous dark lipstick hues continued to be popular throughout the 1930s. Hollywood makeup artist Max Factor (1877-1938) produced his own line of fashionable lipsticks. Factor also invented lip gloss, a clear lipstick that made the lips look shiny and moist. Many products, like lipstick, were unavailable during World War II (1939-45), but by the 1950s a glamorous look was in fashion once more. In 1949 a chemist named Hazel Bishop (1906-1998) invented "kiss-proof' lipstick that would not wipe off easily.
Lipstick shades vary as styles change. During the 1950s dark colors were fashionable, with Revlon's Fire and Ice being one of the most popular. Even white lipstick was popular for a short time during the 1960s, but soon a more natural look came into fashion. Today lipsticks can be found in a huge range of colors.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Ragas, Meg Cohen, and Karen Kozlowski. Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Press, 1998.
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