Is Red Lipstick A Boost to Confidence? What Does History Tell Us?

There is a symbolic relationship between most women and red lipstick. Even Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has her reasons to wear it

Ratan Priya
Updated On
New Update
5 Things To Know About The History Of Red Lipsticks And It Goes Way Back

There is a symbolic relationship between most women and red lipstick. Recently Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez talked about her reasons to wear it. In an interview, she said, "I will wear a red lip when I need a boost of confidence". It is also one of the many things used to pull women down. But we must not go there as women are attacked for anything and everything. If you ever wondered about the origin of your favourite red lip colour, here are five important milestones:


Before Christ

In erstwhile Sumeria(3500 BC), lipsticks were not something that only women wore. The Queen of Sumeria known as Queen Puabi/Queen Schub-ad is known to be the first one to invent lip colour. It is said that she crushed red rocks with white lead and extracted the shade. Apart from that, fruits, clay rust, henna and bizarre ingredient—insects were also used to make lipsticks!

The Egyptians

Cleopatra the Egyptian queen used to create red lip colour with carmine dye. It was a substance made out of cochineal insects. The Egyptians also used carved ochre to apply on their lips. In that era, lipsticks were a symbol of class in Egypt. People who belonged to the upper class or royalty used to wear it. But even then the lipsticks were a gender-neutral thing. Things went a little crazy when they started using a harmful mixture of bromine man-nite and iodine which led to diseases and sometimes deaths.

Greeks and the laws

People in Greece did not really approve of coloured lips. They designated it just for the prostitutes. They were so serious about it that when a prostitute showed up lip colour, she was punished as per Greek Law for posing as a lady. Then a small shift and higher class women started applying lip colour but the working women just stayed away from it. Wine residue, red dye, sheep sweat, crocodile excrement and human saliva were some strange Greek ingredients for making lipsticks.


Also read: Wedding Gown Worn By Princess Beatrice Goes On Display At Windsor Castle

Medicine of beauty

Al-Zahrawi, the Arabic scientist became the first one to make a proper lipstick. In his book named Kitab al-Tasrif, he assigned a chapter to just cosmetics. According to him, cosmetics were just medicines as he called them ‘Medicine of beauty’. One day while making perfume he discovered a mould that later on became a lipstick.

Queen's rule

Queen Elizabeth I when turned herself into Virgin Mary, she popularised her pale look skin and red lipsticks but even then only the royalty were sporting the red lip. It took some time when the prostitutes and actors started wearing it too and slowly gradually working women adopted it.  They especially Queen Elizabeth took her make-up so seriously that apparently died of it as the foundation and lipstick had too many harmful ingredients.


Finally, the make up brand Guerlain came into the picture and started selling lipsticks made out of relatively less-harmful ingredients. They were the first to put colour sticks in a tube and they were the first ones to make liquid lipsticks. Then came the matte lipsticks and other varieties that we see now. From that day till now, lipsticks have gone through many transformations, physically and socially. But even today no colour has been able to replace the classic red.


Red lipsticks