Kohl served multiple roles in Egyptian antiquity. Egyptians of all
social classes applied the eyeliner daily in veneration of the deities,
satisfying both religious obligations and beautifying desires. Wearing
the glossiest, highest quality kohl denoted one’s upper class status in
society while the less wealthy adulterated their kohl with fire soot.
Before the advent of Ray-Bans, it was applied liberally around the eyes
to reduce the sun’s glare, to repel flies and to provide cooling relief
from the heat. It also trapped errant dust and dirt, a simple remedy to
curb the desert’s regular assaults on the body...
Kohl is predominantly composed of the mineral galena, a dark, metallic
lead-based product that is also known by the chemical name lead sulfide
(PbS). The mineral would be crushed and mixed with several other
ingredients such as ground pearls, rubies and emeralds, silver and gold
leaves, frankincense, coral, and medicinal herbs such as saffron,
fennel, and neem...
A 240-fold increase in NO production was sparked by the presence of lead
ions, a bona fide tsunami of molecules flooding surrounding cells to
respond to invading bacteria. This intense biochemical interaction
suggests that kohl was more than just a beautifying cosmetic and the
forefather of sunglasses, but also an important antibacterial ointment...
Kohl is still used today in North Africa and Central Asia, despite its considerable toxicity.
There is more information about the toxicity at NPR
Two Afghan children now living in Albuquerque developed very high
levels of lead in their blood because of eye makeup, health workers reported Thursday in Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.
The family had just emigrated from Afghanistan as refugees. And they brought the traditional eyeliner, called kajal, with them...
When health workers tested the kajal in the family's home, the
eyeliner turned out to be 54 percent lead. That's 540,000 parts per
million, or 27,000 times the cap set by the Food and Drug Administration for color additives in makeup.
is a neurotoxin. And it's especially harmful to babies and young
children. Even small amounts can damage developing brains and cause
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