Feb 1, 2010

Queen Nefertiti Beauty Secrets: Makeup Used For Healing & Looking Hot!

Queenie knew how to look great and apparently ward off illness, all with a few swipes of sexy black eyeliner. Our favorite ancient royal wasn't the only smokey-eyed pyramid-dweller to glob it on. Ancient Egyptians were all waking up and falling asleep with Raccoon-eyes on the regular (I'm assuming Almay Eye Makeup Removed Pads hadn't been invented yet of course).

Heavy eye makeup is synonymous with Ancient Egyptian culture and beauty (just ask anyone that's dressed up as Queen Nefertiti for Halloween).While many of us know that it was used for ceremonial traditions and beautification purposes, not too many of us associated it with what researches are now claiming, was its primary purpose: Magical Healing Powers.

According to an article published in Analytical Chemistry, a journal of the American Chemical Society, the lead-based makeup had antibacterial properties that warded off certain infections common during the time period.

The concoctions were mixed together while saying incantations to conjure up the Gods Ra and Horus and ward off evil and illness. This indicates that the makeup was seen as magical, not specifically medicinal or antidotal.  

A French research team analyzed the 52 samples of containers of Egyptian makeup preserved at The Louvre and found that four lead-based chemicals (galena, cerussite, laurionite and phosgenite) were most heavily used in production.

Interestingly, the scientists claim that when The Nile flooded and the locales experienced infections, diseases and inflammations "caused by the particles that entered the eye, the lead-based makeup acted as a toxin, killing bacteria before it spread".There's been no way to tell how much lead was used to, but the researches at the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris believe the have found the results to prove that in low levels, the lead used actually helped stimulate a healthy immune system.

Today, high amounts of lead are known to be toxic and not be in direct contact with. The issue of lead in makeup is a hot topic today. Some advocacy groups and doctors have long felt that over time the traces of led found in some lipsticks could lead to behavioral issues. While others, like the Food and Drug Administration say the amounts of led found in lipstick are too small to cause harm.

The black rimmed makeup used during the Bronze Age in Ancient Egypt is still prevalent in many cultures today. Kohl or Kajal is regularly worn by women and babies in the Middle East, Africa and India. In India, mothers rim the black soot colored crayon around their baby's eyes soon after their born because it is believed it will strengthen the child's eyes and shield them from the harmful rays of the sun, while others believe "it will protect them from being cursed by the evil eye". In parts of India and the Middle East, even men wear the heavy liner in accordance with certain religious holidays.

While products are sold today as kohl or kajal pencils, most (from reputable manufacturers) use different ingredients (that are lead-free) to make up the deep black sticks but continue to market them as such to associate the product with the look used by the glamorous Egyptian Queens. 

What's your opinion on the controversial lead in lipstick debate? All I know is yet again, those Egyptians were ahead of their time.

Click here to read the entire article from The New York Times on the newfound research regarding Egyptians makeup practices and beliefs.

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