the lipstick effect

When you are sad, add more lipstick and attack – Coco Chanel

While applying some lipstick after a bad day I noticed the rush I felt, it was an instant pick-me-up. Looking down at my drawer filled with lip color I thought of how I wanted to dive a little deeper in the history of it all. I began reading and was amazed at the trials, tribulations and overall bad rep it had. I was intrigued about how its evolved over time from persecution and death to the acceptance by mainstream (thanks hollywood!) and why it makes you feel so awesome.

A Women’s Health poll showed 80% of respondents said that the right lipstick can positively impact their mood. And apparently different colors of lipstick give different emotional responses. “Nudes and muted neutrals channel warmth and calm; reds symbolize power; brights, like orange or fuchsia, convey daring; and anything in the plum family is associated with being refined and professional”, says Dr Victoria Fraser, director of scientific communication and consumer beauty at CoverGirl.Procter & Gamble did a study on cosmetics and perception of women in the workplace. It found that makeup can increase perception of a women’s likability, trustworthiness and competence, in and out of the workplace. Try swiping on a little lipstick next time you head to work and see what happens!

Marilyn Monroe

Lipstick has been used as a form of empowerment throughout history for over 5000 years. The powerful Cleopatra wore lip rouge, it could be part of the reason she had 2 of the most powerful men (Caesar & Marc Anthony) after her. Queen Elizabeth I was famous for her “kiss of death” which she wore despite the english pastors calling lipstick the “devils work”, because she believed it had magical powers like the ability to heal and ward off death. She’s also credited with making the first lipliner which consisted of rolling ingredients into a crayon shape and letting it dry in the sun. Almost immediately after her death the English Parliament began condemning lipstick again. If you wore makeup it was punishable as witchcraft, yep I for sure would have been burned at the stake FTW lol. American states also passed laws allowing a marriage to be annulled if the wife used lipstick. Crazy to know that those powdered wigs were seen as tolerable and not a fashion sin but, lipstick = death. Finally in the 1840’s Guerlain, a Parisian cosmetic’s brand made the first commercial lipstick from waxes, butter, grapefruit. The first department store makeup counter opened at New York’s B. Altman’s in 1867. Shortly after, in 1915 American inventor Maurice Levy introduced the first lip color in a sliding metal tube, which is similar to lipstick as we know it today.

Revlon “Fire and Ice” Ad – Circa 1952

Lipstick did have more revolutionary moments in history – The Suffragette’s were an activist group who fought for women’s rights, and equality. They used bright red lipstick as a form of protest making it even more badass. It was now a symbol of female rebellion after a lifetime of being told it was evil and morally wrong by men. A few years with the increasing popularity of “motion pictures” which featured silent film starlets wearing exaggerated dark lips it became mainstream. Looks such as Clara Bow’s “cupid bow” and Mae Murray’s “bee-stung” lips were being emulated by women everywhere. There was even a “clamp” to mold your lips into a cupids bow – much like the “Kylie lip challenge” suction contraptions that surfaced a while back.

Dita Von Teese

At one point they tried to market it as an accessory that represented strength during World War II giving lipsticks names like ‘Fighting Red!‘ ‘Patriot Red!‘ ‘Grenadier Red!. Lipstick was seen as not only a sign of sexuality but a sign of strength. Starlets like Jean Harlow, Veronica Lake and the infamous Marilyn Monroe continued the momentum. Towards the 1960s with the sexual revolution and invention of both the miniskirt and birth control, changed our palette. The neutral lips and dramatic eyes favored by mod fashionista’s like Twiggy and Edie Sedgwick were in. By the 70’s disco was going to change that notion with the rise of Studio 54 and Donna Summer becoming popular, this time cherry red glossy lips were in. The 80s brought excessively bright red lips thanks to ladies like Madonna and Linda Carter (the original Wonder Woman) despite the fitness boom, lol leg warmers.


Nowadays we have famous figures like Dita Von Teese and Gwen Stefanie who are rarely seen without their signature pout. And we no longer have to worry about lead poisoning or being burned alive for witchcraft. For that I am grateful and love my lipstick just a little bit more. Right now I’m hooked on “Mrs. Mia Wallace” by Urban Decay, and am guilty of recently buying Givenchy’s Le Rouge in “Grenat Initié” after a fight with my bf to lift my mood. The lipstick effect is a theory that states that during periods of recession or economic downturn, consumers will buy smaller luxury goods instead of big-ticket items, such as premium lipstick. I also feel this is true for when were are feeling down.

What are some of your favorite shades and how do they make you feel?
xx Taryn

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