The Magic of Makeup

Photo: GV
Photo: GV

So you though Queen Nefertiti was simply vain.  That she wore all that makeup, especially around the eyes, so she would be the fairest in the land.

Well, not so. According to an article in the Science Times last Tuesday (“Ancient Egypt’s Toxic Makeup Fought Infection…,”), that colorful stuff she put on was a toxic mix of four lead-based chemicals.

Imagine wearing arsenic to enhance your beauty! And who in the Pharaoh’s government, such as it was, was in charge of public safety? Anyone?

Whatever Nefertiti may have thought of the cosmetic value of the colors she wore, it’s pretty certain that she was aware of and valued their healing powers. She probably recited incantations, invoking the protection of the gods Horus and Ra, as she got ready each morning for her daily duties as Queen.

And as it turns out, all that lead on her face not only made her more beautiful, it killed the bacteria that ran wild when the Nile flooded, entering the eyes and causing inflammations – at least for those unfortunate plain-Janes who didn’t wear enough makeup.

And to think, we’re still worried about lead in lipstick, all these centuries later.

2 thoughts on “The Magic of Makeup”

  1. Pretty amazing! I wonder if all of the lead-based white paint that Japanese Geishas wore also had any health benefits?

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