Cleopatra’s beauty treatments – the eyes have it
If you’ve ever seen the film Cleopatra, you’ll almost certainly remember the charismatic eye make-up worn by Elizabeth Taylor, who played the eponymous Ancient Egyptian stunner to perfection. It was Taylor’s first film with Richard Burton, but already the smouldering chemistry between the two stars was tangible.
The Egyptians believed that their lead-based eye make-up protected them against illness, but for many years scientists were sceptical about any alleged benefits afforded by what has to be the most eye-catching eyeliner in history.
They considered that the copious eye make-up was purely for aesthetic purposes and that it actually constituted a health hazard for those wearing it, owing to the levels of poisonous lead it contained.
Until recently that is, when work by researchers in France led them to the conclusion that the Ancient Egyptians’ beauty treatments weren’t quite as vain and – some might say – foolhardy as had previously been thought.
As part of a recent study co-authored by Christian Amatore of the Université Pierre et Marie Curie in Paris, researchers used electron microscopy and X-ray diffraction to examine substances from ancient Egyptian make-up that had been preserved in the Louvre Museum.
Their studies revealed that low levels of lead salts increase the production of nitric oxide in skin cells, thus creating an anti-bacterial effect. Scientists now acknowledge that this was probably extremely useful for warding off the eye diseases prevalent in the hot Egyptian climate, especially during periods when the Nile flooded.
The Egyptians saw make-up as having magical properties – most likely because they had identified the link between wearing it and not suffering from eye disease. Ironically, this was substantiated by the scientists’ findings that the lead-based make-up acted as a toxin, thus killing bacteria before it spread.
Despite the protective properties of the lead-based eye make-up, however, scientists do not recommend their use today, considering the potential disease prevention benefits to be outweighed by the risks of lead-induced illness.
Concocting the ancient make-up could take up to a month, and applying it to achieve the desired dramatic effect favoured by Queen Nefertiti and co. was also time-consuming.
Fortunately, modern-day make-up, such as Dior and Susan Posnik, is far safer as well as being incredibly simple to apply – though for special occasions, it can be worth going that extra mile and seeking the services of a professional beauty therapist to help you achieve that perfect look for a special occasion.
The crème de la crème of beauty specialists are to be found in the UK’s leading spas and health resorts, where guests can enjoy a range of therapies and treatments, indulging in some beautifying pampering before a special event.
So if you want to turn heads at your next big event, why not treat yourself to a session with a professional beauty therapist to help ensure that you’re the star of the show.