3 Toxic Makeup Ingredients Used in Roman Antiquity (Some Are Still Used Today)
Toxic makeup ingredients – they’re a modern phenomenon, right?
Actually, no – they’re not.
Cosmetic preparations have – for centuries (and then some) – used both poisonous substances and healthy, organic makeup ingredients.
Even during classical antiquity – when Rome reigned supreme in the West – makeup formulas often involved the use of dangerous chemicals.
What’s more, the Romans knew that some of these chemicals were not-so-very-health-friendly. Nonetheless, despite this knowledge, these nasty materials were still used in cosmetics.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because this is exactly the situation we’re in today: yes, many of us know that formaldehyde and other industrial-grade chemicals are toxic to humans, but they’re nevertheless dumped into makeup products in the name of corporate profit.
At True Glue, we’re keeping our fingers crossed in the hope that the next years will continue to witness a sort of beauty revolt – where women spurn toxic makeup products in ever-growing numbers.
But, in the meantime, let’s have a look at a few of the toxic ingredients the Romans used in their cosmetics:
- Cerussa. This word, in Latin, means “sugar of lead.” As this ominously implies, cerussa consisted of white lead shavings which were dissolved in vinegar. After this liquid was dried, it was pounded into cakes – to be applied to the face as a whitening agent. Lead, of course, is poisonous – and the Romans were well-aware of this fact. Thus, some Roman women chose to use a much safer alternative: chalk dust.
- Cinnabar. Cinnabar is another name for this disturbingly-dangerous chemical combo: red mercuric sulphide and red lead. Both of these substances are poisonous to humans, but cinnabar was nonetheless used as a blush. This sinister tale doesn’t end there, however – mercury poisoning still occurs today because of its use in some so-called “skincare” products. And just as many women today prefer safer makeup compounds, so too did some Roman women – who opted to use natural ingredients like rose petals, instead of cinnabar.
- Kohl. One of the most famous cosmetic ingredients of antiquity (Cleopatra, it is said, applied it as an eyeliner), kohl was made by crushing lead sulfide into fine particles. This is yet another instance where lead – an extremely poisonous substance – made its way into cosmetic preparations. Sadly, today kohl is still rampantly used in many parts of the world, including India.
The neat thing about studying history is that it can teach us how to avoid the mistakes of the past. One of the those past errors was, undoubtedly, the widespread use of toxic chemicals in beauty preparations. To avoid repeating that error, the solution is simple: switch to an all-natural, organic makeup beauty regimen.