Ancient Cosmetic toxicology

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Information about Ancient Cosmetic toxicology

Published on January 10, 2008

Author: Simeone


The use and toxicity of body adornment in the Prehistoric Aegean, Ancient Egypt and the Near East:  The use and toxicity of body adornment in the Prehistoric Aegean, Ancient Egypt and the Near East History of Cosmetic Use:  History of Cosmetic Use Neolithic people had knowledge of how to find, prepare a blend pigments for painting and body adornment They made use of: Ores Ochres Plant and Animal Use was probably ceremonial or ornamental Skeletons painted with red ochre, associated with ritual Painting the eye is the earliest evidence of facial make-up One of first known eye-shadows is green malachite 5000 BC in predynastic Egypt Colours Produced:  Colours Produced Blue from woad Lilac from myrtle Purple from murex shells Yellow from pomegranate Red from beetle shells Ochres - yellow, brown, orange, red Ores - black, red, orange, green, blue Egyptian Blue pigment, 1250-1150 BC, Mycenae Museum, Greece The Near East:  The Near East Trade between the Aegean, Egypt and the Near East Babylonians used red ochre on the cheeks, red haematite on the lips and white lead on the face Sumerians preferred yellow ochre on the cheeks and black kohl for the eyes Painted figurines, Syria, 1300-1000 BC, Oriental Institute, USA Egyptian Cosmetics:  Egyptian Cosmetics Study funded by L’Oreal, Ungar University (Budapest) & The Louvre (Paris) found the main cosmetic ingredients used in Ancient Egypt were: Lead Sulphide (Galena) Lead Carbonate (Cerussite). Evidence suggests knowledge of heating compounds to create different synthetic ingredients Thuthu’s toilet box c: 1300 BC British Museum, London Relief, c: 2000 BC British Museum, London Eye of Horus c: 2000 BC British Museum, London Egypt:  Egypt Cosmetician sstnkdwt, ‘woman who applies eye-make-up’ Face & Skin Creams, variety of products & recipes Oils, ungents & aromatics Henna painted on the nails, skin & hair used on the living & the dead. Social & ritual use. Used internally & externally. Male & female use Saffron used as a perfume & cosmetic, red/orange pigment Pigments ground to a paste, mixed with water, fat or oil & applied with fingers, sticks or brushes Turin Erotic Papyrus 1295-1186 BC, Museo Egizio, Italy Wooden cosmetic spoon and kohl pot 4000-3100 BC, British Museum, London Aegean:  Aegean Little known, no literary or historical texts, lists of accounts (Linear B) Theran Frescoes (1625 BC) show significant variety and sophistication in hairstyling and jewellery Ladies depicted with painted cheeks, lips, chin & ears with various designs Thera, xeste3 Woman adorant, c:1625 BC Thera, xeste3 Woman adorant, c:1625 BC Theran Fresco ‘House of Ladies’ Athens National Museum c: 1625 BC Aegean:  Aegean Advanced industry knowledge of processing & producing pharmaceutical oils, aromatics & ungents Cosmetic jars found at Saqqara feature decorations native to Aegean Use of Saffron in cosmetics, dyes & perfumes. Red/orange pigment Several cosmetic containers found at Vounteni (1100BC) containing Lead Hydrate (Laurionite) the main ingredient of cosmetics Limestone sculpture 1300 BC Athens National Museum La Parisienne, Knossos c 1300 BC, Heraklion Museum, Greece Comb, ladle, pins and needle 1600-1100 BC, Athens National Museum Palette containing pigment c: 1300 BC, Athens National Museum Known Compounds used in cosmetics 1:  Known Compounds used in cosmetics 1 Antimony (Sb): (Arsenic family) Realgar, Common pigment, rich ruby red colour Orpiment, Yellow pigment Azurite: (Blue Malachite, Carbonate of copper, Cu3(CO3)2(OH)2) Blue used as eye cosmetic, painted veins on breasts and temples Cadmium: (Zinc Ore, Cd) Intense orange/yellow pigment Cerussite, Lead Carbonate (P6CO3) White, grey, yellow blue/green pigment, glitter effect Chrysocolla: (Copper Sulphide, CuSi)3-nH2O) Ore of copper, turquoise colour ground for eye make-up Cinnabar: (Mercury Sulphide, HgS) Makes Vermillion a scarlet red/brick red colour Cochineal: crushed beetle shells for red colouring Known Compounds used in cosmetics 2:  Known Compounds used in cosmetics 2 Gypsum: (Calcium Suplhate, CaSO4-2(H2O)) White, grey, blue, brown, red, yellow powder used on the face Kohl: (msdmt) Made from Galena Ore (Pbs) Laurionite, Lead Chloride Hydroxide (PbCIOH) White lead, used on face Malachite: (Copper Carbonate, Cu) wdw, Green pigment used as eye paint Phosgenite, Lead Carbonate Chloride (Pb2CI2CO3) Brownish yellow Red Haematite: (Iron Ore, Fe2o3) Used on lips & cheeks Selenium: (Found in Iron Pyrites, Lead, sulphur & copper ore, Se) Reddish Powder Toxic effects of compounds:  Toxic effects of compounds Antimony/Arsenic: Black foot disease, hyperpigmentation, hyperkeratosis, skin cancer, lung cancer, cirrhosis & jaundice Cadmium: Ingestion causes nausea, vomiting & abdominal pain, cerebral palsy. Inhalation – Pulmonary Oedema, long term affects the kidneys. Hypercalcinuria which alters bone metabolism leading to Osteomalacia. Chronic bronchitis, carcinoma of the prostrate & sodium retention. Impaired nerve function Lead: Anaemia, Encephalopathy, Damage to capillaries & arterioles, cerebral oedema, increased spinal fluid pressure, neuronal degeneration, Ataxia, stupor, coma, convulsion, renal failure, sterility, abortion & neonatal deaths Malachite: Highly irritant Mercury:Damage to central nervous system, parathesia, damage to eyesight, deafness, death, gingivitis, abdominal cramps, bloody diarrhoea with corrosive ulceration, bleeding & necrosis causing anuria, uremia, dermal vasodilation, hypersecretion of sweat glands Natron: Excessive drying of the skin Selenium: Hair loss, anaemia, bone & liver damage Conclusion:  Conclusion Use of cosmetics known from prehistoric to modern times Convention throughout history of lightening the skin Many ancient cosmetics harmful to the body Extensive use must have caused major health problems Modern uses:  Modern uses Cadmium: Used as a pigment in many lipsticks Arsenic: Traces in most cosmetics (not considered harmful) Iron Oxide: Major use in most cosmetics Mercury: Used in skin lightening creams & eye creams in very high doses, easily penetrates broken skin, highly toxic Kohl: Very high doses of mercury in Asia, Middle East and Africa Saffron: Used in a paste on the forehead, known as a tilak (Hindu) Henna: Widespread use in the East & West as body decoration Selenium: Used in shampoos Bibliography:  Bibliography Crone Hugh D; ‘Chemicals & Society, A Guide to the New Chemical Age’, University Press, Cambridge, 1986 Hardy A, ‘Composition of eye cosmetics (kohls) used in Oman’; Journal of Ethnopharmacology 60, 1998 223-234 Higgins R; ‘Minoan & Mycenean Art’, New Revised Edition, Thames & Hudson, 1997 Laffineur R; ‘Dress, hairstyle & Jewellery in the Thera Wall Paintings’, 1996 Lu Frank C; ‘Basic Toxicology, Fundamentals, Target Organs & Risk Assessment,’ Taylor & Francis, 1996 Myers E M; ‘The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Archaeology in the Near East, Volume 2,’ Oxford University Press, 1997 Nunn John F; ‘Ancient Egyptian Medicine’, London, 1996 Redford D B; ‘The Oxford Encyclopaedia of Ancient Egypt, Volume 3’, Oxford University Press, 2001

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