• Michelle Koebke

History of the RED lip

HAPPY Valentine's Day!


Sexy. Classic. Chic.


A red lip says a lot without uttering a single word, and a picture is worth a thousand words.

When you go to choose your shade of red, there are a few things to keep in mind for what kind of style you are going for, especially when it comes to headshots. It’s important to pick the perfect red for your look. Let’s take a look at some history, and then a few pointers for choosing your color for your session.


- In ancient Egypt crushed stones and bugs were used to acquire the red lip. Cleopatra made her red tones from crushed ants and beetles for a bold look.

- During the 16th century Queen Elisabeth I wore red lips and pale skin to ward off death. At this time it was being created with a poor quality mix including harmful chemicals. Lipstick then went through an era of being banned, makeup actually went through this entirely!

- In the 1890s lipstick was introduced in America, dyed with insect scales and coming wrapped in paper (not exactly easy to take with you).

- During the early 1900s the metal tube was introduced and lipstick, specifically red, gained popularity by many. During the 30s and 40s metal tubes were not the best choice, when metal was needed for the war, and in turn marketing grew strong to boost sales.

- During the 50s the classic look was developed by many women, including one of the most popular, Marilyn Monroe. This was the start of the bold look that is still in style today.

- The decades of the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s was when new shades emerged, going in and out of style. The 60s and 70s was bold, the 80s grew bright and the 90s toned it down into the darks. Currently the red lip is classic, in style, and so far shows no signs changing.

Choosing YOUR red

What look do YOU want? Bold? Subtle? Neutral?

What feature would you like to stand out in your images?

There are many theories in the study of the red lip, and simply put, our lips are a shade of red/pink to begin with. But you can add to that look with a good shade of red lipstick to draw attention to other areas of the face.

Choosing a blue-red color will create whiter looking teeth versus more orange-red colored sticks. Typically clients will want that white teeth and bold lip look, especially for video!

The darker the lip color, the more mature you will look. If professional and upscale is the look you want, choosing a darker color will help in making this happen.

For head shots, you will want to focus on your eyes OR your lips, not both. If going with a bold lip, tone down the eye makeup. If you want the focus to go to the eyes you will then want to do a bolder eye and lighter lip. As you will see in many of my images a smoky eye is used alongside a pale lip to draw focus onto the eyes.

Start natural, and then we can build to a red lip in your session © Diamond's Edge Photography


- Michelle

Diamond's Edge Photography


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All images Copyright of Michelle Koebke | Diamond's Edge Photography ©