THE POWER OF LIPSTICK
Wearing lipstick can have far reaching effects that go beyond simply looking good…
It’s fair to say that I was destined to have a lifelong love affair with lipstick. Unlike most kids whose first words were Mumma, or Dada, mine was ‘lippenstift’, the German word for lipstick. Sadly I’m not a Mensa member, I’m just half-German, which explains the choice of language. But the point is, out of all the words I could have picked to master, I chose the name of the thing that has mesmerised me for decades.
Before the ability to ask for it by name, I’d attempt to pry my mother’s lipstick out of her hand whenever I found her using it. And anytime the house suddenly got very quiet the first place my mother would look for me was her bedroom, where I’d invariably be found attempting to adorn my lips with the brightest shade she had.
Today, I own close to 100 lipsticks, and I have to talk myself out of acquiring new ones on a regular basis. There are a fair few new favourites and some loyal classics that have seen me through everything, from first dates and job interviews to break-ups and weeks spent in hospital. And every single one I own feels like a visual representation of a state of mind – be it my actual state of mind at any given time, or a state of mind I’d like to instantly transport myself to – think happy, confident, powerful.
The History of Lipstick
For me, the psychological boost these bullets of colour provide is unparalleled and I’m not the only one who thinks so. The ‘lipstick effect’ (when recessions hit, lipstick sales increase) is proof of that. And throughout history lipstick has been used as a symbol of protest, power, independence and so much more.
The Sumerians (who lived in what is now known as Southern Iraq) are thought to be the first to have invented and worn lipstick, a good 5,000 years ago. Fruit, henna, clay rust, insects and even ground precious jewels were used to add not just colour but shimmer to their lips. Fast forward 3,000 years and the Ancient Egyptians took lipstick to the next level, making it a symbol of social status for both men and women. It wasn’t until the Greek Empire that lipstick took a sordid turn and was required by law to be worn by prostitutes. So, by the advent of Christianity, lipstick had become majorly taboo, and linked with satanic values and witchcraft. But by the16th Century in the UK and Europe at least, Queen Elizabeth – who used makeup to cover her smallpox scars – made red lipstick acceptable among the nobility.
However, despite that, during the early 20th century, when the suffragette movement was in full swing, red lipstick was still seen as scandalous and provocative, which is why they adopted it as a symbol of rebellion and power.
But only two decades later and the perception of lipstick had changed. So much so that even Winston Churchill understood the positive impact that a swipe of colour could have. So, he kept lipsticks in full production during World War II to increase morale, while other cosmetics were rationed. Post World War II, The Golden Era of Hollywood cemented lipstick into our everyday lives and while shades and finishes have fallen in and out of favour over the decades, lipstick has never not been a makeup bag staple.
Our unshakable devotion to this cosmetic creation has roots in how it makes us feel, too. Multiple studies have shown that wearing lipstick helps women feel empowered and more confident. It boosts mood, makes us more attractive to others and can even impact our earning potential. Clearly I was on to something as a child.
That being said, even I have worn less lipstick of late thanks to lockdowns, and mask wearing. But as it's National Lipstick Day, I’m reminded how beneficial and impactful adorning my lips with a beautiful mood-boosting hue can be.