Whether you own one tube of lipstick or 36, you probably don’t know much about the history of what you’re swiping across your lips. That history, it turns out, is fascinating. Decorating our lips dates back to the Roman Empire — and yes, that’s both men and women we are talking about. And it gets more interesting from there! From the First Wave feminist movement to Monica Lewinsky‘s infamous interview with Barbara Walters, here’s a brief tour of the life of lipstick:

1. In the early 1900s, women’s suffragette leaders Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman wore bright red lipstick to protest for the right to vote, and declared “lip rouge” an emblem of women’s emancipation.

2. In the Roman Empire, both men and women wore lipstick as a display of wealth; only upper classes could afford lip paint made with (dangerous) mercury that came in fashionable shades of merlot and purple.

3. Men continued to wear lip color for centuries – including George Washington – but the look came to an abrupt end during the French Revolution when wearing lipstick was seen as a sign that you sympathized with the oppressive aristocracy.



4. A University of Manchester study found that a woman wearing red lipstick capture’s a man’s gaze over three times longer than one who is wearing no lipstick at all.

5. Evolutionary experts say that warm lipstick shades appear most attractive because they mimic the natural flush of lips when a woman is fertile, healthy and ovulating.

6. Many lipstick formulas contain animal-derived ingredients, like carmine from beetles to add color and pearl essence from fish scales for shimmer. (Obviously this doesn’t apply to vegan lipsticks.)

7. About 81% of American women wear lipstick, as compared to 70% of French women who tend to favor a more “au naturel” beauty look.

8. Two days after Monica Lewinsky’s highly-watched interview with Barbara Waters, Club Monaco’s Glaze lipstick was sold-out nation-wide as women clamored to buy the creamy nude hue.

9. The “lipstick effect” reveals the state of the economy; when recessions hit, lipstick sales increase as more women boost their moods with a relatively affordable purchase.


10. Chicago serial killer William Heirens was known as the “Lipstick Killer” because the scene of his second murder left a cryptic message inscribed in lipstick on the wall – “For heaven’s sake, catch me before I kill more – I cannot control myself.”

11. In 1915, the Kansas state legislature introduced a bill that would have made it a crime for women under the age of 44 to wear lipstick, under the grounds that it “created a false impression” (of what was not explained!) — it did not pass.

12. Long-lasting lipstick was first invented in 1950 by biochemist Hazel Bishop, who discovered a formula made with lanolin and dye while furiously experimenting in her Central Park West apartment lab.

13. The average American woman spends $15,000 on makeup during her lifetime, with $3,770 of that going towards lipstick.

14. In Pennsylvania in the 1700s, a marriage could be annulled on the deceptive grounds that a man’s wife had used lipstick or other cosmetics during the couple’s courtship.

15. The best-selling lipstick in America in 2013 was MAC’s cherry red Ruby Woo – at $16 a tube, it took a sizeable share of the total $377 million spent on lipstick that year.

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