Here's The *Dark* History That Explains Why Wearing Red Lipstick Was Once Illegal

Red lips weren't considered empowering, too.
PHOTO: Getty Images

We consider red lipstick as the ultimate shade to wear when we want to feel powerful and in control. But, the fiery hue has a dark history, and it's the complete opposite of how we view crimson and ruby lippies today.

Quick history lesson: Ancient Sumerians (people who lived in Mesopotamia, aka present southern Iraq) are said to be the earliest humans to use lipsticks. They crushed fruits, henna, clay rust, and insects (!!!) to create a lip stain. Egyptians used carmine to produce a red hue. (Cleopatra was said to be fond of wearing colored lips.) On the other side of the globe, the Chinese were obsessed with red lipstick 5,000 years ago—way, way, before MAC's Ruby Woo became a hit. They mixed vermillion with animal fat and mineral wax to create a pigmented cream. 

On the flip side, ancient Greeks saw lipsticks in a totally different way. Their society associated rouges with prostitutes. By law, they were forced to wear lipstick when they went out in public at "unofficial hours" as they might be mistaken for ladies. Prostitutes were punished if they disobeyed. 

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In 1770 England, all kinds of cosmetics were prohibited. There was a law that says, "women found guilty of seducing men into matrimony by a cosmetic means could be tried for witchcraft." TL;DR Catfishing via makeup was considered a form of witchcraft. Maybe straight males back then considered it as shape-shifting? TBH, this sounds ridiculous because why would a guy think that a girl woke up with shimmery eyeshadow and red lipstick. Strange times.

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In the 1940s, Adolf Hitler instructed women who were to visit Germany to refrain from wearing red lipstick. The reason: He hated the shade. That's all.

Fast forward to today, we're glad that there are no rules that restrict women (and men!) to wear lipstick or any kind of cosmetics. We're fortunate to live at a time when makeup is meant to be played with or a source of confidence boost.

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