Today’s young women have to thank a couple of actresses from back in the 1950s – Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor. They made dark red lips fashionable at a time when it was still frowned upon in civil society. The history of lipstick goes back 5000 years but it is filled with stories of betrayal and promiscuity. Cleopatra’s ‘Kiss of Death’ with a lipstick made of extracts from ficus and carmine beetles is still the stuff of lore. Women who were ‘decent’ would not be caught dead with the stuff on their lips – it was the mark of prostitutes and women with loose morals. For a product like this to get mass acceptance, it would take a dedicated entrepreneur – Florence Nightingale Graham of Elizabeth Arden, inspired by a poem to change the cosmetics market in the US and make it into households. A sign of sure rebellion in the 30s were teenagers who fought with their parents over the use of lipstick. Today’s parent’s grapple with tattoos, piercings and sexual orientation – a sign of how far we have come in under eight decades.
Full lips, slightly parted, have always been the code for sensual arousal. There’s not a single shot oozing with sex appeal that has the model with her lips pursed since that indicates prudishness and distaste. Even actresses with thin lips have worked to accentuate a fuller line and magazines are strewn with ideas on how to make lips more luscious. So someone like Angelina Jolie, who is naturally endowed has no problems attracting a legion of admirers from across the world. Half-shut eyes and the parted mouth work in unison to accelerate fantasies. Then lipstick companies looking to expand the appeal, introduced a wide range of shades, depending on the texture and shade of skin that worked best. They invented the ‘wet look‘ lipstick that has been a significant revenue generator. All that it does it to keep lips looking as if you just licked them – and that’s worth paying a premium for. Last year the lipstick market across the world generated around $20 billion.
After YouTube cosmetic companies have realised that it isn’t enough to offer the product without the how-to. So there are channels where potential customers are treated to extensive sessions on just how much they can improve their looks with just the right shade and the right tinge of lip makeup. Makeup is not just something you do with the face – every single aspect, from the eyes to the nose, the lips and the hair have specialised routines. Doesn’t it make you pine for the time when all it required was a quick wash to look fresh faced? Today, it takes a battalion of makeup specialists and photographers to achieve the same effect.