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26 Facts About Lipstick That Are Actually Really Fucking Interesting

It's historically been full of poison and has been legally condemned as witchcraft.

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1. The very first use of lip paint can be traced back to the Sumerian region (modern-day Iraq and Kuwait), around 5000 BCE.

2. In ancient Greece, lipstick was seen as scandalous by most women, and worn predominantly by sex workers.

3. This polarised attitude towards lipstick led to the first formalised law regarding lipstick – sex workers who were caught without their identifying lip paint would be prosecuted for "improperly posing as ladies."

4. Ancient Greek lipstick was made of pretty unusual ingredients, such as sheep sweat, human saliva, and crocodile excrement.

5. Under the Roman Empire, lipstick was worn by men and women and was used to determine social class rather than gender.

6. Roman lipsticks were made of ochre, iron ore, and fucus (a common type of brown algae). Fucus contains a lot of mercury, which meant their makeup was actually hazardous to their health.

7. Poorer Romans relied on red wine to tint their lips, which was less long-lasting but also less poisonous, so they were kind of the winners in this scenario.

8. In England during the Middle Ages, “a woman who wore makeup was seen as an incarnation of Satan”, because according to religious teaching at the time, to alter one's face would be to challenge God's work.


9. The Mesopotamians used crushed jewels to create shimmery lip paints.

10. In South Asia, betel juice (not to be confused with Beetlejuice) was used to redden the lips. Chewing on betel nuts will release a red dye, although the practice has been linked to various horrible health side-effects.

11. Queen Elizabeth I (or one of her maidens) invented the lip pencil by mixing plaster of Paris and dye into a paste, then shaping the paste into a crayon-type stick.

12. Queen Elizabeth I popularised lipstick so much that it was at times used as a substitute for actual currency.

13. Elizabethans believed that lipstick had life-giving powers, and Queen Elizabeth herself applied it on her deathbed.

14. So powerful was the mystique surrounding lipstick that in the 1500s a law was passed "declaring the use of makeup to deceive an Englishman into marriage punishable as witchcraft".

15. Guerlain introduced the first commercial lipstick in the form of a lip pomade in 1828.

16. The first metal-cased swivel tube (basically the type of case most lipsticks commonly come in now) was patented in 1915 by the Scovill Manufacturing Company, which still exists today except now they mostly make buttons and artillery.

17. The average woman in the US will spend around $1,780 (£1,377) on lipstick in her lifetime.

18. Apparently, the easiest (or at least, most foolproof) way to find your ideal nude lipstick shade is to perfectly match it to the colour of your nipples.

19. It is a myth that the average woman will consume 4 pounds of lipstick in her lifetime, because that would mean eating 533 tubes of lipstick! That said, we undoubtably consume some lipstick simply by wearing it, though it's difficult to know exactly how much.

20. Lipstick sales have been proven to go up during times of economic recession and on rainy days.

21. "The Lipstick Effect" refers to the theory that in times of crisis, consumers will buy less costly luxury items – e.g. lipstick as opposed to diamonds.

22. In Ancient Egypt, carmine was used as a red dye – this is an element extracted from the coccus cacti beetle and can still be found in some cosmetics today. It is often used as an additive in foods.

23. In the 1700s, some women in America would carry around lemons to suck on throughout the day in order to redden their lips.

24. In the Victorian era, lipstick went out of fashion and was once again considered vulgar. However, this just pushed the practice underground, and women would often secretly meet to trade recipes and make lipstick together in "underground lip rouge societies".

25. Red lipstick can make you look younger, because a deep contrast between features is something we associate with youth.

26. The idea that somehow makeup is deception is not new or confined to "take her swimming on a first date" memes – during the 16th century, some US states allowed for annulment of marriages if a woman wore lipstick during the courtship because it was equal to "trickery".

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