Marilyn Monroe wore Revlon lipstick ©Bettman/Getty Images
Marilyn Monroe wore Revlon lipstick ©Bettman/Getty Images

Supply Audit: Revlon – a kiss on the lips

21 June 2019

Marilyn Monroe’s pout might have helped make Revlon famous, but lipstick has been around for millennia. 

Where did the idea for lipstick come from?

Researchers have dated some of the first forms of lipstick back to the Ancient Sumerians in around 3500 BC, more specifically with Queen Schub-ad of Ur, who was believed to have worn a lip colourant made from white lead and crushed red rocks. Lipstick was also used in many ancient civilisations including Egypt, Greece and Rome. 

Tell me about Revlon then?

During the height of the Great Depression, brothers Charles and Joseph Revson and their chemist friend, Charles Lachman, founded Revlon. The first product launched was a revolutionary nail enamel. Revlon started selling lipsticks in 1939, introducing the new products with the slogan: “matching lips and fingertips”. 

What was its Fire and ice campaign?

In 1952, Revlon launched one of the most effective cosmetics campaign, partnering with Vogue and model Dorian Leigh, and pushing bold red colours. When one of its signature crimson shades Bachelor’s Carnation was found in Marilyn Monroe’s evening bags in 2016, the tube – complete with lipstick smudges – sold for $18,750.

$18,750 for a used lipstick?

Yes. Monroe was one of several icons spotted sporting Revlon products and, in 1973, the brand became the first cosmetics company to appoint a celebrity ambassador, the actress and model Lauren Hutton.  

What is lipstick made of anyway?

Most lipstick formulas use waxes such as candelilla, beeswax and carnauba, which are good at resisting melting and smudging. They also often use mineral oils and animal-derived oils. Lanolin, otherwise known as wool grease, is a popular ingredient. Lipstick contained far weirder ingredients in the past…

Like what?

For centuries, crushed insects were a common lipstick ingredients due to the wide range of vivid colours they produce. Fish scales are also often used to boost shine. Lead and other toxic ingredients could be found in some lipsticks as recently as 2007. 

How many lipsticks are sold every year?

It is believed around 800 to 900 million lipsticks are sold around the world each year. While the average woman in the US is estimated to spend $15,000 in her lifetime on makeup, $1,780 of that is said to be spent on lipstick.

Transformative tool

Make-up was a large part of the identity of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, known for her self-portraits and exploration of colour. Revlon featured heavily in her make-up bag – and her favourite Revlon lipstick Everything’s Rosy was among a selection of her accessories featured in a recent exhibition about her life. 

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