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Is Lead in Makeup Bad?

PARISDid the Egyptians have it right and we have it wrong? Are lead-based cosmetics really bad for you? A recent study published in Analytical Chemistry examined the role of lead-based compounds that were used during antiquity as both pigments and medicine in the formulation of makeup materials (2010;82(2):457460).Chemical analysis of cosmetics samples found in Egyptians tombs and the reconstitution of ancient recipes as reported by Greco-Roman authors have shown two non-natural lead chlorides (laurionite Pb(OH)Cl and phosgenite Pb2Cl2CO3) were purposely synthesized and used as fine powders in makeup and eye lotions. According to ancient Egyptian manuscripts, these were essential remedies for treating eye illness and skin ailments. Researchers said, This conclusion seems amazing because today we focus only on the well-recognized toxicity of lead salts. Here, using ultramicroelectrodes, we obtain new insights into the biochemical interactions between lead(II) ions and cells, which support the ancient medical use of sparingly soluble lead compounds. Submicromolar concentrations of Pb2+ ions are shown to be sufficient for eliciting specific oxidative stress responses of keratinocytes. These consist essentially of an overproduction of nitrogen monoxide. Owing to the biological role of nitrogen monoxide in stimulating nonspecific immunological defenses, one may argue that these lead compounds were deliberately manufactured and used in ancient Egyptian formulations to prevent and treat eye illnesses by promoting the action of immune cells.



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