For thousands of years, humans have been obsessed with painting their lips. Contemporary lipstick recipes that we use today are pretty standard, but when you look back hundreds and thousands of years, you'll discover that ancient lipstick recipes include some pretty crazy ingredients.
All things change, and yet some things stay the same; but something that can definitely be said of the human race is that we love our lipstick. Since ancient times, we have been obsessed with painting our lips red. Having red-painted lips has had many purposes: From distinguishing royalty and nobility from the lower classes to being part of an actor's costume to being the trademark label of a woman-of-the-night. Funny how the symbolism can leap from one opposite to the other, depending on what was considered "fashionable" at the time.
So why have we always had this obsession with red lips? Some suggest that it's because red lips remind us of the labia (once it's aroused and swollen and all that sexy jazz) and thus become a sexual stimulant. Others simply suggest that full, red lips are a symbol of youth. Either way, it gives a new meaning to the thought of "pouting" one's lips, doesn't it? Regardless of the reason, red lips have been seen as desirable, sexy, and attractive since practically the beginning of civilization, and that hasn't changed today.
What has changed today, however, are the methods and recipes used for lipstick. These days, our lipsticks are pretty standard and are made up mostly of waxes, oils, fats, emollients, and pigments. Grab a tube and go! In ancient times, though, they had to get a little more creative.
So let's take a look at five ancient lipstick recipes that include insects, sweat, and spit (oh my!):
1. Ancient Egypt
In ancient Egypt, nobles were obsessed with having red lips. Many would crush up rubies and other precious gems, dusting their lips with the powered minerals.
Cleopatra was known to use crushed up carmine beetles and red ants mixed with the juice of berries to redden her lips, and when she wanted to add in a little "shine," she'd mix these ingredients with small fish scales (how delightful). Many of the minerals and insect venom used for this purpose were highly toxic and dangerous. Kind of gives a new meaning to "your lipstick looks killer," doesn't it?
2. Ancient Greece
The ancient Greeks were more concerned with fake hair and hair dyes than makeup and lipstick, and they didn't put too much value on it — unless you were a sex worker, that is. Sex workers tended to wear lip paint to convey their profession and distinguish themselves from the "proper ladies."
Although some of the recipes for this paint included standard ingredients such as red dye and wine, there tended to also be some pretty outlandish ingredients as well. Such as: sheep sweat, human saliva, and crocodile excrement. Literally sweat, spit, and s*it on your lips. Lovely.
3. Medieval Times
In Medieval times, people veered a little more towards lip balms rather than lipstick, making mixtures from beeswax and oil, sometimes adding sweet-smelling herbs and, for a little color, some red wine.
Sometimes they would also use sheep fat and mashed-up roots (basically the ancient version of tinted lip balm). These mixtures tended to be more natural and less dangerous than other recipes used in different times (good to know we didn't always risk our lives for the sake of beauty).
4. Elizabethan England
Besides being one of England's most beloved and respected rulers, Elizabeth Tudor was also a trendsetter. She herself created the look of a chalk-whitened face with contrasting dark lips, and suddenly lipstick was all the rage.
Elizabethan lipstick was mostly created from bees wax and plant dyes. Her lipstick recipe included cochineal (the insect from which carmine comes from), Arabic gum (hardened tree sap, essentially), egg whites, and fig milk. Her court also gets mad props for being the first ones to invent "lip liner" by mixing plaster of paris with red pigment, then leaving it out to dry in the sun.
5. Colonial America
Between the 15th to 18th centuries, women of colonial America would suck on lemons to make their lips plump and flush. Unfortunately, this was extremely harmful to one's teeth, but the method continued on. Something you would only do if you were an extreme sucker for a good pucker.
Images: iuliapironea/Flickr; Giphy