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Saturday January  9, 11:58

Ancient Egypt: The lead in the makeup to care for eye diseases

Cosmetics that limit the proliferation of bacteria
Cosmetics that limit the proliferation of bacteria

About 4,000 years ago the Egyptians used lead in make-up design, which in addition to its aesthetic effect, was endowed with healing properties.

To better understand this use, chemists evaluated the impact of very small amounts of lead. Result: it does not kill skin cells and it induces the production of a substance that activates the immune system.

Cosmetics containing lead can trigger a defense mechanism that, in cases of eye infection, limit the proliferation of bacteria.

For a long time the researchers have been interested in cosmetics used by ancient Egyptians. In most cases, they consisted of mixtures of galena (a lead sulfide) black and white substances, natural or synthesized, including lead salts. In their writings, the Greek and Roman physicians emphasized the role of these substances for eye care.

At a time when the lead is best known for its potential toxicity, this may surprise. To know the exact function played by salts of lead, the team of researchers looked at laurionite, a chloride of lead, which was among the salts used by the ancient Egyptians, to study its action on a skin cell.

The laurionite can trigger the presence of lead ions Pb2+ in the eye or skin, which increases production of nitric oxide, a radical that acts as a messenger of the immune system. It stimulates the arrival of macrophages, cells "garbage", able to ingest possible bacteria.

That would explain the medicinal properties of cosmetics designed by the ancient Egyptians. It is understood better now why they regarded such make-up substances as emanations from the eyes of the gods Horus and Ra which protected them.


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