Magazine article World Watch

Lipstick

Magazine article World Watch

Lipstick

Article excerpt

Overview

Lipstick's long and colorful history begins as early as 3500 BCE, when Queen Shub-ad of the ancient Mesopotamian city of Ur used a mixture of white lead and crushed red rocks to color her lips. Over the years lipstick has slipped in and out of favor among queens and commoners alike; in the 1600s Queen Elizabeth I wore crimson lipstick, but Queen Victoria in the 19th century publicly declared makeup to be "impolite." In the 20th century lipstick served as a symbol both of female emancipation (suffragettes wore it) and of degradation (in the 1970s feminists protested by not wearing it).

The first lip rouge in stick form was produced by the French company Guerlain around 1910, and it wasn't long before James Bruce Mason, Jr. patented the first swivel tubes for lipstick--those instantly and universally recognizable today--in 1923. It's estimated that by the 1950s nearly 100 percent of American college girls, and 98 percent of all American women, wore lipstick. Only 96 percent brushed their teeth.

In 1941, Americans spent $20 million on lipstick. By 1959 that figure had risen to $93 million. Today, roughly 90 million U.S. women never leave home without wearing lipstick, and the average woman goes through four tubes a year. Although its use was most prevalent in the western world in the last century, lipstick use is now a global phenomenon.

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Disposal and Regulation

Lipstick's recent history is best documented in the United States and Europe, where makeup use has been most prevalent, and it is in those countries where regulation is most completely developed. By and large that regulation, usually arising out of state or national toxicity laws, has meant to cover the manufacture of cosmetics and lipstick's component ingredients in order to protect drinking water supplies. …

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