The practice of reddening lips has been with Mankind since the dawn of history. It is part of the gender game, part of Nature’s trap to make man go on reproducing. Historians digging and reading claim that the earliest records of lipstick are from Mesopotamia about 5000 years ago. In those days crushed semi-precious stones were smeared over the lips for the come-hither effect. The Indus Valley Civilization’s ladies also reddened their lips. The ancient Egyptians squeezed out a purple-red colour from iodine, bromine and focus-algin leading to serious diseases. In course of time this came to be known as the-kiss-of death. Cleopatra did the trick with beetles which when suffered through the pestle gave out a deep red colour. Ants provided the base. Henna was also a favourite with the Egyptians. The shimmering effect came from the scales of fish. In India yesterday as of today, the leaves of a creeper, the paan or betel leaf made lips attractively red. Betel leaves are not only affordable but also spells good health for the gums, teeth and digestion.
From the time of Queen Elizabeth I lipstick became popular in 16th century England. She introduced the fashion of chalk white faces contrasted with lips that were blood red. During those days lipstick was made from bees wax and plants. It was not until World War II that lipsticks really took off – the push being given by the film world.
The lip liner soon came to be introduced. The lipstick and the lip-liner came to be known as the lip-duo. In 1990 another type of colouring for the lip hit the shelves that did not have wax and was made from semi-permanent liquid.
The history of lipsticks has suffered its share of troubles. It was not always universally accepted. In 1653 England pastor Thomas Hall led a movement saying that painting of faces was the Devil’s–Work. Things went so far that the parliament in England passed a law in 1770 against lipstick with the warning that women who seduced men into marriage by means of make up could be tried as witches! In 1800 Queen Victoria openly spoke against it. Somehow lipstick survived in dark alleys and lanes until movies gave it respectability. During the 1930’s Helena Rubinstein and Elizabeth Arden set up the first beauty parlours. Hazel Bishop introduced the kiss-proof lipsticks.
Lipstick contains waxes, emollients, pigments and various oils. The wax holds its shape. Beeswax is still in use – it being taken from the honeycomb of bees. Other types of waxes are obtained from leaves of certain palm trees that grow in Brazil. Candelilla wax is taken from the plant of the same name that is found in Mexico. The plants are soaked in boiling water and sulfuric acid. The wax that rises to the surface is then skimmed off. Other ingredients are olive, mineral and castor oil, cocoa butter, petrolatum and lanolin. Recently other moisturizers like Vitamin E, aloe vera, amino acids, sunscreens and collagen are being used. These soften and moisten the lips while keeping it sheltered from the elements. The colour comes from many types of pigments and dyes.
Lipstick making involves heating, mixing and stirring. The finely ground mixture is heated and then poured into metal moulds. Then it is chilled again. The formed lipstick is now subjected to heat again for about half a second to give it the smooth glossy touch. Lipstick lasts longer if kept in the refrigerator. The lipstick tube consists of the base and cover. The base twists and slides as it pushes up the lipstick. The cover on top protects it from getting squashed and chewed off by the unwary toddler.
The shelves contain an array of lipsticks – matted, frosted, sheer and stained.. Glossy or sheer lipsticks need to be applied more frequently. Matte ones are not shiny but last longer although the lips do not remain moisturized and tend to crack.
The lip-gloss is sold in bottles – it has the same ingredients as lipsticks but less wax and more of oil to make the pout more shiny and glittering.
The making of lipstick is a science but its application is an art. Just like a painter of walls first uses a primer so too it is the rule with lips. Use a lip pencil, which will be a sort of fixative. The general practice to choose a lipstick is rubbing it on back of the hand but the fingertip is more akin to the colour of the human lips. Check on the label and pick one that has not been involved in animal slaughter. The chemical ingredients should also be carefully studied. It is surmised that in a lifetime a woman ingests about 4 to 6 pounds of lipstick. So it is better to know ahead that the stuff is not harmful for the health. Try and obtain samples. Usually manufacturers supply the shops with any number to push sales. The best shade is the one that tunes in with the individual’s complexion and the colour of the clothes of the wearer. The rule of thumb is natural colours are for the daytime and more bold shades for the night. When youth begins to wane then lipsticks with more oils and creams are preferable.
Everything has its red signal of warning. Lipsticks can be harmful. Avoid ones with parabens as these are suspected villains inducing cancer of the reproductive system. Lipstick sometimes contains lead. Its use makes the stuff cheap. Try the test of rubbing a gold ring on the lipstick. If the colour changed from red to black then shy off from the purchase – it is dangerous.
Some hot red facts about lipstick will be of trivia interest. In 1959 Connie Francis added the touch of culture to lipstick with her hit song “Lipstick on Your Collar’. Shisedo Cosmetics of Tokyo conducted a survey in 1996 in which most of the American women (87%) admitted to leaving lipstick traces on places where they should not be!