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A SHORT HISTORY OF LIPSTICK: In search of the perfect pout

by Biddyandmay Admin |

As Elizabeth Taylor famously said, "Pour yourself a drink, put on some lipstick, and pull yourself together.” 

As far back as humans can remember, women have been searching for the perfect lipstick to achieve that perfect pout. It’s become a veritable obsession – “don’t leave the house without putting on some lipstick” my grandmother used to say!

In Ancient Egypt, both women and men wore lipstick as a symbol of their status. They used wet sticks of wood and favoured colours such as magenta, blue-black and orange.

During the 1500s in England, people believed that lipstick had magical powers: Queen Elizabeth was purportedly it’s biggest fan and was said to have been wearing over half an inch of lipstick at the time of her death!

Key players in the suffragette movement painted their lips as a symbol of emancipation. Feminists like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Charlotte Perkins Gilman donned the makeup when they marched in the 1912 NYC Suffragette rally. During WWII, while all other cosmetics were rationed, lipstick was kept in production because Winston Churchill felt it boosted morale.

But while lipstick has developed a particularly loyal following since it’s early days on the banks of the River Nile, what can be said about it’s impact on our health?

Lipsticks can contain levels of heavy metals and parabens, some of which have been scientifically proven to cause cancers and toxicity. The faster the lipstick wears off, the bigger the health impact of these toxins on the health of the wearer. They’re also still being tested on animals.

On average a woman may consume 1 to 4kgs of lipstick over her lifetime. And while this differs from one makeup wearer to another, it does affect everyone that wears lipstick - after all, lipsticks don’t evaporate; they get eaten!

What’s scarier than eating lipstick on a daily basis? Eating lipstick made with toxins on a daily basis... These harmful ingredients aren’t reserved for low quality brands either - they are found in most conventional lip products on the market, from high-end luxury brands to supermarket brands aimed at the teen market.

The University of California, Berkeley, tested the use of 32 lipsticks and lip-glosses by young woman and found high levels of heavy metals and ingestion of those heavy metals. Excessive exposure to these heavy metals (chromium, aluminium, cadmium and manganese) have been linked to various cancers and toxicity in the nervous system.

The Berkeley scientists found that the lipstick wearer ingests about 24mg per day, which is around 1/2kg per year.


If you are anything like us, we can’t live without our lipstick, but turning a blind eye to potentially harmful toxins for the ‘perfect’ red lip is downright bad for your health! We are critical of the chemicals and toxins in our food, so why ignore them on our lips!

With the momentum of the clean beauty movement, you don’t have to compromise your health for the perfect red lip. There are now many inspiring, cruelty-free, natural and organic lipstick brands from around the globe to choose from. Not only are they gentle on your body and the earth, they look beautiful and help to nourish and care for your lips.


We love, love, love anything to do with lips at Biddy + May and have selected stand out brands that are making waves across the world. Making the switch to clean beauty can be difficult especially when you have a favourite lipstick brand on high rotation, so we suggest having a clean lipstick on standby in the wings that you can slowly move into center stage… there’s simply no excuse for ingesting all that nasty stuff anymore!


Put your health first. Shop our collection of cruelty-free, natural and organic lip tints, and vegan lip balms here.