Cosmetics can be traced back to ancient civilizations. In particular, the use of lip color was prevalent among the Sumerians, Egyptians, Syrians, Babylonians, Persians, and Greeks. Later, Elizabeth I and the ladies of her court colored their lips with red mercuric sulfide. For years, rouge was used to color both the lips and the cheeks, depending on the fashion of the times.
In Western society during the latter half of the nineteenth century, it was generally believed only promiscuous women wore lipstick—or makeup at all. It was not until the twentieth century that lipstick, and cosmetics in general, gained true societal acceptance.
Improvements in the manufacture of applicators and metal tubes reduced the cost of the cosmetic. This combined with newfound acceptance by the general population caused widespread use and popularity to increase. By 1915 push up tubes were available, and the first claims of "indelibility" were made.
Lipsticks are made to appeal to the current fashion trend and come in a wide range of colors. Lipstick is made of dyes and pigments in a fragranced oil-wax base. Retail prices for lipsticks are relatively low, with quality products priced at less than $4.00. More expensive products are available, with prices ranging up to nearly $50.00 for exclusive products. Lip balms, by contrast, generally retail for less than $1.00.
The tubes that hold lipstick range from inexpensive plastic dispensers for lip balms to ornate metal for lipsticks. Sizes are not uniform, but generally lipstick is sold in a tube 3 inches (7.6 centimeters) in length and about .50 inch (1.3 centimeters) in diameter. (Lip balms are generally slightly smaller in both length and diameter.) The tube has two parts, a cover and a base. The base is made up of two components, the twisting or sliding of which will push the lipstick up for application. Since the manufacture of the tube involves completely different technologies, we will focus here on the manufacture of lipstick only.
The primary ingredients found in lipstick are wax, oil, alcohol, and pigment. The wax used usually involves some combination of three types—beeswax, candelilla wax, or the more expensive camauba. Wax enables the mixture to be formed into the easily recognized shape of the cosmetic. Oils such as mineral, caster, lanolin, or vegetable are added to the wax. Fragrance and pigment are also added, as are preservatives and antioxidants, which prevent lipstick from becoming rancid. And while every lipstick contains these components, a wide variety of other ingredients can also be included to make the substance smoother or glossy or to moisten the lips.
Just as there is no standard to the lipstick size and container shape, there are no standard types of, or proportions for, ingredients used. Beyond the base ingredients (wax, oil, and antioxidants) supplemental material amounts vary greatly. The ingredients themselves range from complex organic compounds to entirely natural ingredients, the proportions of which determine the characteristics of the lipstick. Selecting lipsticks is, as with all cosmetics, an individual choice, so manufacturers have responded by making a wide variety of lipsticks available to the consumer.
In general, wax and oil make up about 60 percent of the lipstick (by weight), with alcohol and pigment accounting for another 25 percent (by weight). Fragrance is always added to lipstick, but accounts for one percent or less of the mixture. In addition to using lipstick to color the lips, there are also lip liners and pencils. The manufacturing methods described here will just focus on lipstick and lip balms.
The manufacturing process is easiest to understand if it is viewed as three separate steps: melting and mixing the lipstick; pouring the mixture into the tube; and packaging the product for sale. Since the lipstick mass can be mixed and stored for later use, mixing does not have to happen at the same time as pouring. Once the lipstick is in the tube, packaging for retail sale is highly variable, depending on how the product is to be marketed.
Melting and mixing
- 1 First, the raw ingredients for the lipstick are melted and mixed—separately because of the different types of ingredients used. One mixture contains the solvents, a second contains the oils, and a third contains the fats and waxy materials. These are heated in separate stainless steel or ceramic containers.
- 2 The solvent solution and liquid oils are then mixed with the color pigments. The mixture passes through a roller mill, grinding the pigment to avoid a "grainy" feel to the lipstick. This process introduces air into the oil and pigment mixture, so mechanical working of the mixture is required. The mixture is stirred for several hours; at this point some producers use vacuum equipment to withdraw the air.
- 3 After the pigment mass is ground and mixed, it is added to the hot wax mass until a uniform color and consistency is obtained. The fluid lipstick can then be strained and molded, or it may be poured into pans and stored for future molding.
- 4 If the fluid lipstick is to be used immediately, the melt is maintained at temperature, with agitation, so that trapped air escapes. If the lipstick mass is stored, before it is used it must be reheated, checked for color consistency, and adjusted to specifications, then maintained at the melt temperature (with agitation) until it can be poured.
As expected, lipsticks are always prepared in batches because of the different color pigments that can be used. The size of the batch, and the number of tubes of lipstick produced at one time, will depend on the popularity of the particular shade being produced. This will determine the manufacturing technique (automated or manual) that is used. Lipstick may be produced in highly automated processes, at rates of up to 2,400 tubes an hour, or in essentially manual operations, at rates around 150 tubes per hour. The steps in the process basically differ only in the volume produced.
- 5 Once the lipstick mass is mixed and free of air, it is ready to be poured into the tube. A variety of machine setups are used, depending on the equipment that the manufacturer has, but high volume batches are generally run through a melter that agitates the lipstick mass and maintains it as a liquid. For smaller, manually run batches, the mass is maintained at the desired mix temperature, with agitation, in a melter controlled by an operator.
- 6 The melted mass is dispensed into a mold, which consists of the bottom portion of the metal or plastic tube and a shaping portion that fits snugly with the tube. Lipstick is poured "up-side down" so that the bottom of the tube is at the top of the mold. Any excess is scraped from the mold.
- 7 The lipstick is cooled (automated molds are kept cold; manually produced molds are transferred to a refrigeration unit) and separated from the mold, and the bottom of the tube is sealed. The lipstick then passes through a flaming cabinet (or is flamed by hand) to seal pinholes and improve the finish. The lipstick is visually inspected for air holes, mold separation lines, or blemishes, and is reworked if necessary.
- 8 For obvious reasons, rework of the lipstick must be limited, demonstrating the importance of the early steps in removing air from the lipstick mass. Lipstick is reworked by hand with a spatula. This can be done in-line, or the tube can be removed from the manufacturing process and reworked.
Labeling and packaging
- 9 After the lipstick is retracted and the tube is capped, the lipstick is ready for labeling and packaging. Labels identify the batch and are applied as part of the automated operation. While there is a great deal of emphasis on quality and appearance of the finished lipstick product, less emphasis is placed on the appearance of lip balms. Lip balms are always produced in an automated process (except for experimental or test batches). The heated liquid is poured into the tube in the retracted position; the tube is then capped by machine—a far less laborious process.
- 10 The final step in the manufacturing process is the packaging of the lipstick tube. There are a variety of packaging options available, ranging from bulk packs to individual packs, and including packaging as a component in a makeup kit or special promotional offering. Lip balms are packaged in bulk, generally with minimum protection to prevent shipping damage. Packaging for lipsticks varies, depending on what will happen at the point of sale in the retail outlet. Packaging may or may not be highly automated, and the package used depends on the end use of the product rather than on the manufacturing process.
There is little or no waste in the manufacture of lipstick. Product is reused whenever possible, and since the ingredients are expensive they are seldom thrown out, unless no other alternative presents itself. In the normal manufacturing process there are no byproducts, and waste portions of lipstick will be thrown out with the disposal of cleaning materials.
Quality control procedures are strict, since the product must meet Food and Drug Administration (FDA) standards. Lipstick is the only cosmetic ingested, and because of this strict controls on ingredients, as well as the manufacturing processes, are imposed. Lipstick is mixed and processed in a controlled environment so it will be free of contamination. Incoming material is tested to ensure that it meets required specifications. Samples of every batch produced are saved and stored at room temperature for the life of the product (and often beyond that) to maintain a control on the batch.
As noted above, appearance of lipstick as a final product is very important. For this reason everyone involved in the manufacture becomes an inspector, and non-standard product is either reworked or scrapped. Final inspection of every tube is performed by the consumer, and if not satisfactory, will be rejected at the retail level. Since the retailer and manufacturer are often times not the same, quality problems at the consumer level have a major impact on the manufacturer.
Color control of lipstick is critical, and one only has to see the range of colors available from a manufacturer to be aware of this. The dispersion of the pigment is checked stringently when a new batch is manufactured, and the color must be carefully controlled when the lipstick mass is reheated. The color of the lipstick mass will bleed over time, and each time a batch is reheated, the color may be altered. Colorimetric equipment is used to provide some numerical way to control the shades of lipstick. This equipment gives a numerical reading of the shade, when mixed, so it can identically match previous batches. Matching of reheated batches is done visually, so careful time and environment controls are placed on lipstick mass when it is not immediately used.
There are two special tests for lipstick: the Heat Test and the Rupture Test. In the Heat Test, the lipstick is placed in the extended position in a holder and left in a constant temperature oven of over 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius) for 24 hours. There should be no drooping or distortion of the lipstick. In the Rupture Test, the lipstick is placed in two holders, in the extended position. Weight is added to the holder on the lipstick portion at 30-second intervals until the lipstick ruptures. The pressure required to rupture the lipstick is then checked against the manufacturer's standards. Since there are no industry standards for these tests, each manufacturer sets its own parameters.
Lipstick is the least expensive and most popular cosmetic in the world today. In 1986 lipstick sales in the United States were more than $720,000,000. There are no accurate figures for current sales of lip balm, since the market is expanding. Manufacturers continue to introduce new types and shades of lipstick, and there is a tremendous variety of product available at moderate cost. As long as cosmetics remain in fashion (and there is no indication that they will not) the market for lipstick will continue to be strong, adding markets in other countries as well as diversifying currently identified markets.
Where To Learn More
Brumber, Elaine. Save Your Money, Save Your Face. Facts on File Publications, 1986.
Donsky, Howard. Beauty Is Skin Deep. Rodale Press, 1985.
Schoen, Linda Allen, ed. The AMA Book of Skin and Hair Care. J.B. Lippincott Company, 1976.
—Peter S. Lucking
Cosmetic products intended to color the lips have been used for thousands of years, by both women and men, in a variety of shades, depending on the fashion of the time. Modern lipstick, consisting of waxes, oils, and pigments pressed into a cylinder and packaged in a metal tube, has been sold to women since 1915. Some women feel almost undressed without their lip coloring, and industry experts estimate that the average twenty-first century woman uses between four and nine pounds of lipstick in her lifetime.
Social customs in the West had discouraged the use of cosmetics for several hundred years, but that began to change around the turn of the twentieth century. As women began to hold jobs and demand the right to vote and other privileges afforded only men, their lives became less restricted. Cosmetics such as rouge, powder, and lipstick came into style, and such respectable companies as the Sears and Roebuck Catalog began to sell them. In the early 1900s women like Helena Rubenstein (1870–1965), Elizabeth Arden (1884–1966), and Estee Lauder (1908–) went into the cosmetics business and began to sell cosmetics in their salons. Madame C. J. Walker (1867–1919) and Annie Malone (1869–1957) developed lipstick colors especially for African American women and sold them door-to-door.
During the flamboyant 1920s, dark red lipstick came into fashion, as women wanted to highlight their sexuality. Lipstick was packaged in small tubes, and for the first time women began to take it with them in a purse wherever they went. Glamorous dark lipstick hues continued to be popular throughout the 1930s. Hollywood makeup artist Max Factor (1877–1938) produced his own line of fashionable lipsticks. Factor also invented lip gloss, a clear lipstick that made the lips look shiny and moist. Many products, like lipstick, were unavailable during World War II (1939–45), but by the 1950s a glamorous look was in fashion once more. In 1949 a chemist named Hazel Bishop (1906–1998) invented "kiss-proof" lipstick that would not wipe off easily.
Lipstick shades vary as styles change. During the 1950s dark colors were fashionable, with Revlon's Fire and Ice being one of the most popular. Even white lipstick was popular for a short time during the 1960s, but soon a more natural look came into fashion. Today lipsticks can be found in a huge range of colors.
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Ragas, Meg Cohen, and Karen Kozlowski. Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick. San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Press, 1998.
In many cultures, red lips are an important component of feminine beauty, and this has often prompted women to augment the redness of their lips through artificial means. The modern use of lipstick in Western society has been part of a more general development of makeup for women, one often unstated, and possibly the unconscious goal of which is the emulation of the clear skin, good blood circulation, and sexual fecundity associated with youth and good health.
Lipstick, a cosmetic product used for coloring the lips, and now usually made in the form of a cylindrical stick of waxy material encased in a metal or plastic tube, has a very long history. In ancient Egypt, powdered red ocher in a base of grease or wax was used as a lip coloring. During the time of the Roman empire, henna and carmine, in various preparations, were used for the same purpose. Other ancient lip coloring preparations were made with vermilion or mulberry juice.
Queen Elizabeth I of England made her lips crimson by using a concoction of cochineal blended with gum Arabic and egg white; her red lips made a striking contrast with her pale powered face. In the seventeenth century artificially colored lips were denounced as immoral by the Puritan clergy; stained lips were sometimes referred to as "the devil's candy." During the eighteenth century, a moderate use of makeup was regarded as normal and attractive for members of the upper classes, but frowned upon for people of more humble status; thus the use of lip color was involved in distinctions of social class. During the nineteenth century, however, in both Europe and America, social commentators generally frowned upon the use of any cosmetics (referred to as "paint") at all; women who resorted to the conspicuous use of makeup, including lip coloring, invited social criticism. By the end of the century, in turn, many younger women rejected this socially conservative attitude and began to use cosmetics openly. The use of lip coloring came to be one of the beauty secrets of the New Woman.
Until the early twenthieth century, lip coloring was often made in the form of a salve, packaged in small jars and applied with a fingertip or small brush. Lipstick as such probably derived from theatrical makeup ("grease-paint"), which was often produced in the form of a waxy crayon or pencil. The term "lipstick" itself dates from the late nineteenth century. Maurice Levy designed the first lipstick in a sliding tube in 1915. Soon thereafter, both Helena Rubinstien and Elizabeth Arden followed his lead and produced lip salve, rouge, and later lipsticks to respond to popular demand.
The influence of movie stars, heavily made up for the screen, may have prompted a shift to stronger colors of makeup, including lipstick, by the 1920s. At that time also, new clothing styles and shorter hairstyles, both of which promoted an image of fashionable youthfulness, led to new styles of makeup and more conspicuous use of lipstick and other cosmetics. By the 1920s also, cosmetic companies relied heavily on advertising to introduce new products, stimulate demand, and promote brand loyalty.
Lipstick came to be associated with other closely related products that were promoted as aids to health and good hygiene. Lip salve and lip balm, designed to protect against sunburn, dryness, and chapping, were introduced around the time of World War II and won widespread consumer approval.
Modern lipsticks typically are made from waxes (beeswax, carnauba wax, palm wax, candelilla wax), oils (olive oil, mineral oil, castor oil, cocoa butter, and others), and chemical dyes. These basic ingredients are supplemented by a range of moisturizers, vitamins, aloe vera, collagen, and other enhancers.
Recent improvements in lipstick have included lip glosses, which give the lips a moist appearance, lipstick with improved adhesion that avoids unsightly lipstick-stained cups and glasses, a wide range of colors keyed to the individual complexions of wearers, and lipsticks that also contain sunscreen. The palette of fashionable lipstick colors changes from year to year, varying from bright and vivid reds to soft pastels. Lipstick in unusual colors, such as black and dark green, is made for niche markets, such as goths and punks. In the mainstream, the continuing allure of red lips seems to assure that lipstick will be part of the beauty and fashion scene for a long time to come.
Corson, Richard. Fashions in Make Up: From Ancient to Modern Times. London: Peter Owen Limited, 1972.
Ragas, Meg Cohen, and Karen Kozlowski. Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998.
Lipstick has become one of the most widely used cosmetics since Cleopatra first stained her lips with carmine in 69 B.C. "Even women who don't wear makeup wear lipstick," write Meg Cohen Ragas and Karen Kozlowski in Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick. Often referred to as hope in a tube, lipstick has captivated women (and men) since the earliest rosy stains forever linked lipstick and women's lips with femininity and sexuality.
First mass-produced in 1915 when American Maurice Levy designed a metal case for the waxy tube, lipstick was one of the few luxuries purchased by Depression-era women. Lipstick hit its stride commercially in the 1950s, and despite the creation of numerous formulations, lipstick trends have proven cyclical throughout the twentieth century. Honored in 1997 as one of only 12 objects included in an exhibition entitled "Icons: Magnets of Meaning," lipstick has transcended its decorative roots and become culturally indispensable as a quick and affordable way to transform one's image.
Angeloglou, Maggie. A History of Make-up. New York, Macmillan, 1970.
De Castelbajac, Kate. The Face of the Century: 100 Years of Makeup and Style. New York, Rizzoli, 1995.
Ragas, Meg Cohen, and Karen Kozlowski. Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick. San Francisco, Chronicle Books, 1998.
Lipstick has been an essential part of a woman's wardrobe for centuries. Dating back to the time of Cleopatra (69–30 b.c.e.), the pigmented oil has been used to attract men, boost self-esteem, and complete a woman's face for the world. Lipstick became especially popular in America during the 1920s, when women gained a new political voice with the vote. Many liberated suffragettes wore bright red lipstick as a symbol of their newfound voices. While the popularity of lipstick colors changes with the seasons, lipstick remains as one of the most popular accessories in history. Estimations report that nearly 92 percent of American women wear lipstick. Some women who say they do not even wear makeup wear lipstick.
For More Information
Cohen Ragas, Meg, and Karen Kozlowski. Read My Lips: A Cultural History of Lipstick. San Francisco: Chronicle Books, 1998.
Pallingston, Jessica. Lipstick. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.
Lipstick Woof! 1976 (R)
Fashion model Margaux seeks revenge on the man who brutally attacked and raped her, after he preys on her kid sister (real-life sis Mariel, in her debut). Exquisitely exploitative excuse for entertainment. 90m/C VHS, DVD . Margaux Hemingway, Anne Bancroft, Perry King, Chris Sarandon, Mariel Hemingway; D: Lamont Johnson; W: David Rayfiel; C: Bill Butler, William A. Fraker.