Did white lead make-up enhance beauty at a deadly cost?
Make-up Ingredients mentioned on the Toxic Allure website
We should be more grateful to bees. A lot of fruit is grown in Southern Ontario, and bees make that possible by pollinating our crops. They also provide us with honey and beeswax. Beeswax has a light fragrance and melts at a low temperature. It is softening and moisturizing, which makes it ideal for use in cosmetics.
Ben oil comes from the Ben Oil tree, Moringa oleifera. Rather more imaginatively, this tree is also called the horseradish tree or drumstick tree. It has been used in skin products since ancient times, and is still found in some modern cosmetics. It is very expensive.
Bitter Almond Oil
Bitter almond oil and sweet almond oil come from two different almond plants. Disconcertingly, bitter almond oil sellers on Amazon assure you that their product does not contain cyanide. Cyanide is found in crushed almond kernels and can turn up in improperly treated oil. Sometimes working with one toxin feels like enough so we substitute other oils into the recipes.
Camphor is a forest product with an unmistakable 'love it' or 'hate it' resin-like scent. It is part of the Vick’s Vapour Rub distinctive smell. It deters moths, and I use it to stop deer eating my hydrangeas. Its use in make-up is possibly because it is used to treat skin irritation. When absorbed through the skin it acts on the nerve endings to disrupt the itchy signal.
Readers of a certain age may shudder when they read the words castor oil because they will have memories of its use to treat constipation. It is derived from the castor bean. It has a distinct taste and smell. It is moisturizing and is used in soaps, skin care and hair conditioner.
Magistry of Bismuth
Magistry of Bismuth is basic bismuth nitrate. This is a fine white powder that Abdeker suggests is preferred to white lead in make-up recipes. If you think Abdeker suggests this because it is safer - think again! It is considered dangerous, being very irritating to skin and eyes.
Rose water is a by product of the making of rose oil. It is one reason Turkish Delight and baklava taste so wonderful. The smell is lovely and quite light. There have been some clinical studies showing that it has a calming effect on skin. At some point in your life you should splurge on a crazy-expensive (but totally worth it) rosewater face mask.
In the 1970s, the museum in my Scottish town was full of disturbing whaling relics: narwhal horns, carved ivory and photographs of grim faced men cutting up whales on the beach. Sperm whales were hunted and killed for meat, blubber and spermaceti, a scented waxy substance used in cosmetics and skin care. Today we use cetyl palmitate (from palm trees) as a substitute and leave beautiful, intelligent whales in peace.
A lovely alternative name for titanium dioxide is 'Titania'. This is the white powder that replaces basic lead carbonate in modern recipes. It is commonly used in modern make-up. It is an excellent sunscreen and is the reason many high factor sunscreens are so white. It is considered to be completely safe.
Violet oil is rumoured to contain salicylic acid, the chemical enemy of clogged pores. It is a medium light oil that is slightly green-yellow. It has a beautiful but strong smell. It can be cloying and sickly at close quarters. Believe us, the smell of a little violet oil literally goes a long way. We can smell it from the lab next door.
White lead is the common name for basic lead carbonate. This is the ingredient we are most concerned with in this project. It is an opaque white powder which has been used in beauty products for thousands of years. It was used at different points in time in Rome, Greece, China, Europe and Japan. An alternative name is Ceruse, and as Venice was considered to produce high quality product, Venetian Ceruse is mentioned in many recipes.