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Exploring the history of lipstick: in conversation with Louise Young

Exploring the history of lipstick: in conversation with Louise Young


Louise Young is a world-renowned make-up artist working in the tv, fashion and film industries, and the founder of successful vegan make-up brush brand; Louise Young Cosmetics. Louise has a particular interest in period make-up, and an impressive collection of vintage make-up products, with some originating from as early as 1877.  

In 2017, Louise collaborated with Lou Sheppard (highly respected Oscar-nominated hairstylist) to publish their bestselling book - Timeless: A Century of Iconic looks. Timeless talks the reader through the history of the most memorable make-up and hair trends from the past 100 years, and includes accurate step-by-step instructions and illustrations on how to recreate them. 

I sat down with Louise to talk all things lipstick, and the impact it has had on our society over the years….


M. To this day, lipstick is arguably the most iconic make-up product. How has it managed to sustain its popularity? 

L. Although it was initially frowned upon at the start of the 20th century, wearing lip colour has remained a staple in many women’s makeup. I think perhaps ease of use if one reason. Many women have said to me they don’t wear eye makeup as they’re not sure what to do with it but lipstick application is quick and relatively easy, and adds instant impact to the face.


M. What can you tell us about the social and political impact that red lipstick, in particular, has had, e.g. how the suffragettes used it as a statement of female power?

L. Certainly early on in the Suffragette movement its members were urged to wear lipstick as a symbol of female emancipation - when at that time the wearing of lipstick was still frowned upon in many circles. As it became more acceptable to be worn in general, it emerged as part of the war effort in the Second World War when women were told it was patriotic - colours such as Elizabeth Arden’s Victory Red were available and Tangee lipstick was made and advertised in “battledress size”.  More recently the power dressing 1980s featured red lips heavily as well.


M. How have lipstick fashions evolved over the past century or so?  

L. From turn of century when it wasn’t perceived to be ladylike to wear lipstick we saw just a few colours available – only two in Elizabeth Arden’s first offering - to red being an essential colour in wartime. As product ingredients improved and the choice widened women were given more options. Fashions from red and coral in the 50s changed to paler and more pearlised shades in the 60s. Now almost every texture is available from matte, velvet, gloss to glass like textures.


M. In your opinion, who is the most iconic lipstick wearer and why?

L. I would have to say Marilyn Monroe as her look epitomised glamour. And still does. 


M. 'The lipstick effect' is real and has been well documented - why do you think lipstick sales surge even during economic downturn? 

L. I think people stop spending on large items and instead on a quick fix to make themselves feel better in a recession. Interestingly in the 2008 crash foundation sales boomed 


M. What are your predictions for future lipstick trends?

L. I think we are seeing a return to stains on the lips though so many textures are available now that there will be a market for all types. Consumers are definitely more conscious of sustainability and quality of ingredients. Also, I am asked more and more for vegan lipsticks and makeup.


Follow Louise on Instagram at @lymakeupartist and @lycosmetics


Madeleine x