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Read Our Lips: A Quick History of Lipstick for Those Considering Makeup Artist School

From ancient Mesopotamia to modern times, red lips remain an iconic beauty statement

From ancient Mesopotamia to modern times, red lips remain an iconic beauty statement


Makeup has an incredible power to reinvent and transform; to tell a story and invoke emotion. From theatre to high fashion to special effects to everyday wear—the use of makeup is truly embedded in our history and modern day culture. While it’s true that cosmetic products and trends come and go, certain components of the modern makeup kit have been around for centuries. Lipstick—or lip colour—is one of these enduring must-haves. The fascination with lip painting goes way, way back. Here’s a quick history of lipstick for those who live and breathe the wonderful (and sometimes wacky!) world of make-up artistry.



Beeswax, Crushed Bugs, and a Dash of…Rust?

Early experimenters with lip colour were so determined to achieve a lustrous red shade, they concocted recipes out of some very unlikely, even dangerous ingredients. Take Cleopatra VII for example. She found the perfect red by crushing up cochineal insects (who produce a red pigment called carmine) and mixing them with beeswax. This was relatively harmless, although perhaps not very tasty. Ancient Mesopotamian women, on the other hand, used a far more dangerous blend of red clay, iron oxide (rust), bromine mannite (highly toxic), and iodine to achieve the ideal rouge. Unfortunately, lead also found its way into many early lipstick recipes.

Red lips have long been considered a symbol of confidence, power, and sex appeal

Red lips have long been considered a symbol of confidence, power, and sex appeal

Students in makeup artist school may be surprised to learn that carmine dye (from crushed cochineal bugs) is still very much in use today—in lipsticks, yogurt, popsicles, and yes, even your Starbucks Strawberry Frappuccino! Looks like Cleopatra was really onto something.



Makeup Artistry Takes a Hit when Lipstick is Deemed Witchcraft!

After its early rise among society’s elite, lipstick suffered a hard fall around the mid-1700s. British Parliament passed a law stating that makeup, including lipstick, was a kind of witchcraft used by women to lure unsuspecting men into marriage. This was really the last blow for lipstick, which had already been criticized as immoral and fit only for the “lowest class” of women. Face makeup in general was seen as vain and dishonest; an attempt to hide one’s true character and intentions. Lipstick would remain on the sidelines of society until the dawn of the 20th century, when several events converged to help it go mainstream.



The Big Screen, First Lipstick Tube, & Birth of Modern Make-up Artists

The movie business plus technological innovation helped restore lipstick’s reputation and propel it into mainstream culture. In 1915, Maurice Levy invented the first metal lipstick tube, making the cosmetic far easier to carry around and apply (up until then, lipstick was wrapped in silk paper).

The lipstick tube made on-the-go application quick and easy

The lipstick tube made on-the-go application quick and easy


This new, modernized lipstick was also easier to mass produce and market, and within a few years it was rolling off assembly lines at major beauty companies like Estée Lauder, Chanel, and Elizabeth Arden. By mid-century, movie stars like Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor were wearing bold lipstick shades, encouraging women from all walks of life to do the same. Since then, lipstick has remained an absolute staple of the makeup industry. Colours have risen and fallen in popularity, but highlighting the lips has rarely gone out of style.



There’s Never Been a Better Time for Makeup Artists

Makeup is now a discipline, art form, and lucrative professional path. The cosmetic industry has soared well beyond the billion dollar mark in North America, making it possible for students to pursue a wide range of careers in the makeup business. Students taking makeup classes in Mississauga at the International Beauty Institute learn techniques needed to work in bridal, fashion, film and television, theatre, historical design, special effects, and more. Grads have what it takes to pursue several beauty career paths, including starting their own business.

A makeup artist student practices technique at the International Beauty Institute

A makeup artist student practices technique at the International Beauty Institute


Throughout the ages, makeup has been associated with daring, power, and self-confidence—the ideal inspiration for today’s innovative new makeup artists, coming of age in the greatest beauty boom the world has ever seen!

Want to learn more about taking makeup artistry courses in Mississauga?

Visit International Beauty Institute to explore our diploma and certificate courses, and find out about admissions.

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I had the greatest experience with this lash lift and tint course! I did lots of research because I’ve have bad experiences elsewhere and am so happy I went with International Beauty Institute. They are really the best in the business! The extra bonuses like the price setting workbook and turn strangers to clients script were game changers for my business!! I can’t wait to see where this takes me!
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