You stand in front of the mirror, almost ready to head out, but realize something is missing.
After digging in your purse, you pull out a tiny tube of color and apply it to create the perfect focal point for your lips, teeth, and smile. You (most likely) smirk at your fine self before turning out the light and leaving.
According to research published in the New York Times, 81% of women in the US wear lipstick every day. That’s a lot of ladies applying silky paint to the mouths each day. But why?
Of course, every woman has a different answer as to why she adds lipstick to her beauty uniform. During the suffrage movement, for instance, women applied lipstick as a visual act of going against the norm. Some women decide to wear lipstick to feel more confident. In other cases wearing lipstick could be more related to peer pressure.
But, even worse than peer pressure is the idea of donning rosy lips to gain respect and authority from male colleagues. Obviously, our brains are more than good enough — yet 40% of women surveyed think physical attraction from their bosses is the best career-boosting strategy (such as getting a promotion).
As unsavory as this notion is, it’s actually related to theorized origins of lipstick wearing. Make-up, in general, allows a woman to add contrast between her skin and facial features. The idea behind the creation of lipstick was to emphasize sexuality by mimicking the color and shape of a woman’s vagina.
Ancient Egyptians reportedly wore lipstick to demonstrate social power, and before that, Ancient Sumerians crushed gemstones to adorn their faces while Cleopatra crushed bugs (yep) to achieve that effortless rouge we now buy in Target.
Before you revolt in horror, telling yourself women only wear lipstick to feel beautiful for themselves, consider the discussion surrounding a study of The Lipstick Theory.
This theory suggests that during periods of economic hardship, consumers buy “luxury goods” that are affordable in comparison to things they would have bought before the hardship. L’Oreal is a prime example of how this theory works, since during the 2008 recession the company still managed to pull a 5.3% sale increase—probably on lipstick.
Authors of recent psychological studies argue that in history “our human ancestors regularly went through cycles of abundance and famine. This has genetically disposed us toward prioritizing mate-seeking when times get tough, as passing on our genes becomes a greater priority in harsher environments.”
That sounds a little extreme, but when I think of my own teenage days, I realize that I did pop a bit of coral color on because it complimented my skin tone and frankly, made me look prettier. Nowadays, I prefer a tinted moisturizer over bold color but I’m curious about the many opinions of other women.
Do you ever feel as if wearing lipstick gives you a leg up? Or do you wear it solely to feel more confident? If you’re a mother, at what age would you let your daughter start wearing lipstick, and would you restrict her from the vixen-tainted red?