Monday, October 9, 2017

Harmful Skin Mixtures.

Make Up, Rouged Face, Close, Eye, Pink  I hope the title grabbed your attention.  I bet you think that all makeup sold on the market is safe. It is for the most part but there are a few things that are not.  So many fewer than say back in Elizabethan times.

Many of the toxic elements of Elizabethan makeup came about due to the idea of the perfect women.  She had to have snow white skin, bright eyes, red lips and cheeks, with pale hair.  This is a time when chemistry is not very advanced so chemists used what they had.

Lets start with how they managed to get the extremely pale skin.  The desired shade was one of white or as white as possible.  One way to get it was to mix white lead with vinegar so it could be spread over the face or neck.  This was the preferred method of nobility if they could afford it.  Other choices included alum mixed with tin ash, or cooked egg white with talc or sulfur.  

Red lips and cheeks could be obtained by using madder, cochineal, or ochre based compounds but the most popular was vermilion, a mercuric sulfide, as it could be used in a thick layer.   Since many of the ingredients used caused skin damage, there was a whole set of mixtures used to treat blemishes,  spots, freckles, and acne which could contain lemon juice, rosewater, mercury, alum, honey, or eggshells. 

In fact, washing ones face with mercury was quite popular as it provided a face peal that made the face soft.  At the same time, women used eye drops containing Belladonna to create the desired bright eyes.  In addition, they lined their eyes with a kohl containing powdered antimony. Of course women also plucked their eyebrows but they also plucked up to one inch of hair to move the hair line upwards for the desired high brow look.

As for the blonde or reddish gold hair, dyes were not very advanced so women used a variety of ingredients including urine to lighten hair.  Since it was difficult to obtain the ideal color, many women shaved their heads and wore wigs instead.

As you can see, many ingredients used then poisoned and killed their user.  Today, one of the fashion ideals is people getting henna tattoos rather than regular tattoos because they are temporary and wear off after a while.  I've gotten them in the past because I think they are cool but you have to make sure the person applying one uses regular henna.

There is a "Black henna" on the market that is often used to provide darker almost black tattoos rather than the dark brown.  This mixture contains paraphenylenediamine or PPD which is a very toxic ingredient.  This ingredient is used in permanent hair dyes but its levels are controlled.  When used in black henna mixtures, the levels often exceed safe levels because they want to speed up the time it takes the color to develop. 

Unfortunately, PPD can cause chemical burns on the skin and lead to potential allergenic reactions.  Not everyone has reactions but its better not to use it.  How do you know the difference?  Regular henna is an orangish brown appearance.  If it appears black, don't use it.

Let me know what you think.  Have a good day.

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