Thursday, 1 March 2012

Beauty is Agony - White Lead

Queen Elizabeth 1st

The year is 2012 AD, women will do all sorts of dangerous things in the pursuit of beauty, we nip, we tuck, we hide all for vanity.
People have been paralysed (or worse) by unnecessary surgeries, blinded by improperly made contact lenses and recently a big news story has been about rupturing breast implants.
This is nothing new, vanity has been one of our greatest downfalls for a long time, perhaps for most of time and so I decided to do this series of blog posts on some of the dangerous beauty essentials of the past.

White lead has been used to whiten the complexion since around 3,000 BCE when it was first used by Ancient Greek nobles to to make themselves look even richer (rich people who did not need to work for a living tended to catch less sun and therefore tan less that people who did outdoor, manual labour), it was also commonly used in the Theatre by Actors either to emulate the look of the nobility, create and ethereal "God-like" tone or to create the appearance of being close to death. 

White Lead became popular again during the reign of Elizabeth the First, Queen of England, the older she got the more of it she used, which itself probably added to how much her skin aged as lead can rot the skin away.

White lead was used all the way up until the reign of Queen Victoria, when it was decided that make-up was far to frivolous and promoted vanity (one of the seven deadly sins), when make up finally enjoyed a re-surgence it came back without lead as people had realised by that point how dangerous it was.

As with all toxins, Children are especially at risk from the effects of lead poisoning, prolonged exposure to lead can lead to children experiencing learning difficulties as exposure to lead can stunt the growth of the brain. In adults lead can also effect the brain and in high quantities can cause severe problems with the central nervous system.
Lead can cause hallucinations and wild erratic behaviours (which may explain some of the odd choices of monarchs around the times when it was popularised as a cosmetic), and kidney failure.

Thankfully lead is no longer used in cosmetics at all now.

This is the last (for now) in my series on dangerous cosmetics, please let me know if you enjoyed this kind of article so I can decide weather or not to do a similar kind of series of posts in the future :)

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