A Brief History of the Modern Lipstick

19th Century

The first lip ‘stick’ was invented in 1870 by an employee of the Parisian fashion house, Guerlain, who was inspired by the tools and process of creating candles. They started selling their invention to the public by the end of the 19th century, which was made from a blend of tallow, castor oil, and beeswax, and wrapped up for the customer in silk. Before this, women mixed their own lip paints at home and stored them in little pots.

By 1912, American women were wearing lipstick, but only for special occasions, as it was still considered somewhat gauche.

The 1920s

The flappers were perhaps the most fashionable icons of the modern era, wearing red lipstick at the clubs and dance halls of the time. Incidentally, they inadvertently invented the ‘smoky eye’ when their black liner would smudge by morning after a long night of dancing and revelry.

The word ‘makeup’ was first termed by Max Factor, THE makeup artist in Hollywood. He strongly believed all women should have access to these preparations and so created a line of cosmetics accessible for any woman who wanted to achieve the glamour of the silver screen stars. 

In 1923, the twist-up lipstick tube as we now know it was patented by American James Bruce Mason Jr. and women were wearing it more often, particularly for portraits. 

Max Factor launched the very first lip gloss in 1928.

The 1940s/50s

During WWII and its aftermath, women in the US and Europe were encouraged to wear bright lipstick to increase the morale of soldiers and society in general.

The 1960s

The influence of music and art was highly influential on the colors popular during this era; punk, rock&roll, Andy Warhol’s NYC art scene, and the mod movement in England in particular. They tended to be light, daring, and super matte: white, bright pink, & coral were favorites.

The 1970s

A softer decade in many respects, natural lip looks were very popular. But with the emergence of disco, glittery, pearlescent shades also gained traction.

The 1980s

The decade of excess in all sectors, lipstick looks tended to be very bold - more is more! Lip liner, lipstick and gloss were often piled on.

The 1990s

This was the beginning of the real modern era, where the natural expression of a woman’s particular personality began to emerge. There were still trends but bucking them was no longer a no-no. It was rather quite encouraged.

21st Century

Over the last two decades, we’ve really seen it all. From the Instagram-look of hour-long makeup sessions that took social media by storm, to celebrities baring it all (ie: makeup free) at red-carpet events, this is a really exciting time. We seemingly have any formula we could want only a click away, and society seems to have few, if any, rules on their application.

But for the record, we still think nothing beats a red lip.