Remember the times when red lipsticks weren’t a thing? Yea, we neither. For as long as we know, red lips have always been a thing. A maximalist thing. While we banter about universal reds, a tone deeper and a tone lighter in swatches, reds in a range as berry, wine, coral and scarlet, vegan lipstick and cruelty-free lipstick, this ‘vanity staple’ has travelled a long time through history. Long as in not Marilyn Monroe or Audrey Hepburn long. Long as in not even Coco Chanel long. Long as in the oldest civilisation known to mankind long—believe it or not! Let’s rewind to understand the story of red lipsticks lost in time and appreciate this modern-day relationship a little more, shall we?
The Early Encounters
When we say early here, we mean ancient. The Sumerians wore crushed red gemstones on their lips and inspired the Egyptians and Romans to create their own version. They made a non-so-vegan-friendly goop of crushed insects, carmine, and wax to deck their lips but, were they ahead of their times? We’re taking the liberty to say so—YES! Although the lip-paints were not as safe as today’s most vegan lipstick and cruelty-free lipstick counterparts, Egyptian and Roman men and women both wore red lips as a status symbol (so much history and yet we are back to arguing about normalising makeup across genders, ugh!). Cleopatra made it “in vogue” back then.
Another leg of history has it that prostitutes in ancient Greece were mandatorily supposed to wear red lip-paint made from crocodile excretion, fish scales, sheep sweat (yikes! that sounds dangerous in comparison to today’s vegan lipsticks and cruelty-free lipsticks) to distinguish themselves from other “normal” women and lure men (oh boy, the stereotypes!).
The 18th Century Crossroads
English and American states around this time believed that women would wear red lipsticks to lure and trick men into marrying them (so clearly this thing about women wearing makeup to impress men has been around for a while now, huh?), and that they would practice witchcraft.
On the other hand, in the French states, makeup was a symbol of wealth and prestige for women. The ones up in the hierarchy would wear makeup as they would be the ones who could afford it, while the lower end of the hierarchy remained devoid of it due to not having the money for it. This included the generic idea around prostitutes as they were considered to belong to the lower end of the social status hierarchy.
Around this time, the lipsticks started to look more like today’s. They were still not vegan lipsticks or cruelty-free lipsticks yet, even the packaging wasn’t quite there yet, but getting there, perhaps.
Fast Forward To The 1900s
Now imagine a day in 1912. Streets of New York. Women in an organised protest. All wearing a bold red lipstick as a symbol of standing against something unjust (gurl, get it!). How powerfully feminine is that! Apart from the days of the protest, women started wearing red lipstick at other social and public events too, to make it obvious that they were the Suffragettes, demanding equal rights and power. The Suffragettes movement is one of the biggest milestones in the history of red lipsticks where it became a symbol of not just strength, but female strength.
However, on the contrary, women of colour who were left out of the Suffragettes movement were looked down upon as degenerate and were mocked for wearing red lipsticks. Why? Because they were melanated and a red lipstick didn’t look as beautiful as it would on a white American female (damn the racism, hypocrisy and effed up beauty standards!).
Talking Times Of Today
Today’s red lipsticks are a symbol of unabashed glam. G-L-A-M-O-R-O-U-S like Fergie once said ;)! It’s a wayyyyy more modern rendition rocked by Hollywood divas and icons like Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Madonna, Taylor Swift, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna, Lupita Nyong’o and several others. Each one has a signature red they call their call.
Fortunately, for us, it doesn’t come with any strings of social status, power and prestige, wickedness, and degeneration attached (phew!). But a red lipstick has an inherent sense of style, power, and finesse. It is an unapologetic expression of a person’s personality through a beauty staple that can go along with you anywhere—work, social events, public events, Zoom calls, parties, grocery runs.. literally anywhere, without a problem. Like we always say it, ISSA MOOD!
And thankfully, they are now several times more ethical lipsticks, vegan lipsticks and cruelty-free lipsticks. Interestingly, PETA’s anti-animal testing campaign picked up in the 80s but many beauty brands are yet to get there. But… if your choice is as simple as BLC’s Love Pen in ‘Dimple’, you’re in for a 100% safe, nourishing, cruelty-free lipstick and vegan lipstick experience. Go, find your red here!