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Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Ancient Cosmetics

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ancient cosmetics

The use of cosmetics in ancient cultures can tell us a lot about how that civilization saw beauty. For instance, ancient Egypt took cosmetics seriously.

Egyptian women would apply kohl (a mixture of burnt almonds, copper and lead ores, and malachite) to their eyes for color and definition. They also used oxen hair to create fake eyebrows.


Lead was used for a variety of purposes in ancient cosmetics. It was a common ingredient in eyeliner and lip makeup, which women wore to ward off evil spirits or to deflect the harsh glare of the desert sun.

In ancient Greece, a simple recipe for skin care involved mixing powdered white lead with red ochre or saffron to form a paste that could be applied to the face. Similar recipes were also used for eye makeup, where white lead was mixed with red earth to make a pigment that could be painted onto the eyes.

But lead-based eye makeup was not without its dangers. It was highly toxic, and can cause a range of health problems including brain damage and miscarriages.

The Romans used lead in a number of their popular cosmetics, such as ceruse, a mixture of lead and vinegar that was used to give the face an extremely pale look. Symptoms of lead poisoning can include dry skin, irritability, fatigue, nausea and headaches.

It was also used in kohl eyeliner and lipstick, where it would create an outlined black circle around the eyes. The kohl was often combined with a variety of other materials to achieve different colors.

For example, they would use natural lead ore (galena) to create dark-colored kohl, and they used artificially-made lead salts to create lighter kohl. They also used a variety of minerals to create eye shadow, such as malachite, cerussite, laurionite and phosgenite.

One of the earliest known preparations for using lead as a cosmetic is a recipe that was described in Dioscorides and Pliny the Elder in the 1st century AD. In this preparation, “lead about the size of a brick is placed over vinegar and a kind of mold forms”—an action that corrodes the lead into a mixture of white flakes and psimythium, which is an acid-resistant carbonate of lead.

Researchers from the University of Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Shaanxi Academy of Archaeology discovered that synthesized lead white was used in ancient China as early as 770 BC, hundreds of years before it was first used in Greece.

Animal Feces

One of the most interesting uses for feces is in cosmetics, especially when it comes to face-whitening products. Dried crocodile dung, for example, was a common ingredient in ancient facial masks. Other ingredients that were a cinch to come by in the sandbox included animal urine and bile, and even a few drops of thymol, the tar-like substance produced by a mammal with a snoot and some spiffy feathers.

In the realm of poop slinging, a recent study weighed up the best ways to get your hands on a sample. The researchers tapped into the olfactory senses and came up with an impressively effective methodology for identifying a variety of feces samples, both human and canine. Their findings are published in PeerJ, a peer-reviewed open access journal from the American Chemical Society.


In ancient times, a woman’s makeup routine included exfoliation, milk baths, face masks and even waxing. She would also wear a variety of creams and lotions with different scents, such as floral and spice-infused oils that softened her skin. She also wore makeup, such as powder, eyeshadows and rouge.

Cinnabar is an ancient mineral that was used in both ancient cosmetics and for making red lacquer. Because of its bright blood-red hue, it was associated with good luck and victory.

Historically, it was mined from volcanic sites and hot springs around the world. Today, it’s found mainly in volcanic regions like Peru, Italy and Spain.

Its hardness is between 2 and 2.5 on the Mohs hardness scale, which makes it ideal for carving and cabochon work.

The stone was popular for creating red lacquer, which is why the color is often referred to as “Chinese Red.” However, cinnabar is toxic and should be handled with care. It is also considered an occupational hazard for workers, and can be hazardous to the environment when mined or processed.

To identify genuine cinnabar, look for crystalline forms that have grain patterns and layers on their surfaces. It is important to note that fakes don’t have these features, and usually look plastic or resin-like.

Aside from being a beautiful gemstone, cinnabar is an important stone in Feng Shui, the ancient Chinese practice of arranging living spaces to create energy balance and flow. It is said to help connect you to your root chakra, which allows for grounding and stability.

It is also believed to encourage a sense of intuition, especially in matters of the heart and spirit. It can help you make wise decisions and inspire you to find the right solution for your needs.

The earliest cases of mercury poisoning were caused by the use of a vivid red pigment from cinnabar that was used in cosmetics, painting and funerary practices. It is thought to have been the first red pigment used in ancient Iberia (what is now Spain and Portugal), and it was subsequently banned from use by the Romans.


Throughout history, ancient people have been able to find or create the perfect combination of ingredients for a top-notch skin care routine. Whether it be face paint, lipstick, eyeliners or facial scrubs, the results are always impressive and pleasing to the eye. In fact, many of these products have been dated as far back as the Predynastic era and are still found in tombs all over the world. They were not only a fun way to beautify oneself, they also were a fun way to commemorate life’s little occurrences and mark important milestones such as weddings, births or deaths. Cosmetics and their accompanying gizmos were also symbols of social class in many cultures as they represented the high and low points of a person’s day to day life.

Some of the better aficionado’s have even gone as far as to recreate some of the ingredients from their prehistoric forebears. Some of the more elaborate products are still on display to this day. There are even some that have re-entered the public consciousness in the form of cult films and TV shows. The best part is that many of these items are proving to be more environmentally friendly than their predecessors.

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