The Rich History of Red Lipstick

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The Rich History of Red Lipstick

According to legend, wearing red makes you appear more attractive to other people. And while the scientific evidence supporting this claim is pretty hazy, red does have an intense affect on us all (even though we probably don't even realize it).

The color red was one of the first colors used by humans, and this long history has made the color both emotionally and physically stirring. We associate the vibrant hue with things like fire, blood, war, danger, aggression, and power. But we also associate the same color with things like passion, warmth, desire, and love. 

While these associations might all seem relatively different, they have something very important in common: strong emotion. So its no wonder that red gets our hearts racing, literally. The color has also been known to increase human metabolism and respiration rate, and raise blood pressure.

Based on this intimate experience with the color, humans have favored red for thousands of years. Especially to enhance their appearance, whether to represent power, desire, or something else entirely.

One specific appearance-enhancing product goes back as far as 5,000 years and is still a tried and true favorite today: red lipstick


 Sumeria: 3,500 B.C.

Ancient Sumerians were the first people to invent red face makeup. Made as decoration for the lips and eyes, it was created out of crushed gemstones and white lead. In this time, makeup was worn by men and women alike.

 Greece: 500 B.C.

Unlike in Sumeria, red lipstick was a mark of prostitution. Prostitutes were actually required, by law, to wear red or purple lipstick to distinguish themselves from 'honorable' ladies in society. 

 Rome: 90 B.C.

Taking after empresses, Roman women wore red and purplish lip paints made out of plants and metals. A favorite plant for upper class lip paints was the highly poisonous sea-plant fucus.

 Egypt: 50 B.C.

Ancient Egyptians made their red lipstick out of flowers, red ocher, fish scales, crushed ants and carmine in a beeswax base. The makeup was only worn by the upper classes and royalty to show status, so you can bet Queen Cleopatra always wore a red lip. 

 Spain: 500 A.D.

During this time, only lower class women wore makeup, which included red lipsticks and paints.

 Germany and Britain: 700 A.D.

Oddly enough, bright red orange lipstick became a trend in these two countries for a short period of time.

 Italy: 1200 A.D.

High society women exclusively wore hot pink lipstick while lower class women were only able to wear ruddy red lipstick.

 England: 1500's A.D.

Queen Elizabeth was notorious for her heavy makeup use, including layers of white face powder and red painted lips. She popularized red lipstick in the country and created a craze at English court. 

 Western Europe: Renaissance 

As thinking became more artistic and expressive during the Renaissance, so did makeup use. While the majority of lipstick-wearing women were courtesans, other society women began using red lipstick too. It was still scandalous but regulations were lax in areas of Italy and England. However, society women in France fully left the makeup to the prostitutes.

 Western Europe: 1700's

By the 1700's, England and France had completely switched views on makeup. In England, only prostitutes wore makeup while respectable young women went bare faced. The only exception was rouge for aging society women. In France, society women applied makeup heavily, while lower class women went without. 

 England: 1800's

Queen Victoria's reign began the Victorian Period. The Victorian Period is notorious for its focus on strict morality, which dictated everything all the way down to lipstick. During this time, makeup was frown upon and discouraged, and only prostitutes wore it.

 US: 1900's

During the early 1900's and 1910's red lipstick was popular among suffragettes struggling for the women's right to vote. With the invention of the lipstick tube in 1915, red lipstick only grew in popularity and quickly became a signature of the Flappers in the 1920's.

 US: Mid-Century

When we think of red lipstick as being 'classic', this is the time period that idea comes from. Made popular by World War II as a way to show patriotism, red lipstick became a staple in society and was worn by 50's icons like Marilyn Monroe. 

 US: 1970's - 1980's

Red lipstick fell out of favor during these two decades. In the 70's red lipstick was swapped out for more natural looks. And in the 80's, the workout craze left no room for high maintenance makeup.

 US: Today

Today, we are free to wear our red lipstick as we please. And we have more choices than ever! Different shades, brands, formulas - the possibilities really are endless. Red lipstick has come a long way.

 Asia, Africa, and The Middle East

Popularity in red lipstick fluctuated so wildly in Western European history because of the strict moral code established by Christianity and the Catholic Church. But in places in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East, face and body decoration had been a normalized and celebrated part of culture for generations.


It is so crazy to think that our favorite red lipstick was so long in the making! We are just glad we can wear it whenever we want now. And there's no better red to rock than our Irresistible Kissable Lipstick in Dubonnet!

But if you like to go for a darker red lip, we also have our new shade of Irresistible Kissable Lipstick, Cherry Bellini. For some extra sass, layer our Illuminating Lip Gloss in Grenadine on top. Muah! ÃƒÂƒÃ‚¯Ã‚’‹

42 Dubonnet is an indie makeup line inspired by the allure, mystery and electricity of 1920s Art Deco Miami Beach, brought to you with love by the mother-daughter duo, Lauren and Ann.

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