The world’s oldest skin-lightening makeup — filled with LEAD — was used in China more than 2,700 years ago, 300 years before the Romans used the same technique
- Six bronze vessels have been unearthed in an ancient Chinese tomb
- The tomb is more than 2,700 years old and belongs to a nobleman
- The containers contained residues of ancient white lead make-up
- According to researchers, this is the earliest form of cosmetics
- It was used to lighten the skin, which was considered high status
The world’s oldest white makeup was found in a tomb of an elite person who lived in China more than 2,700 years ago, suggesting that the ancient people of this area used skin lightening nearly 300 years before the ancient Romans adopted the practice used cosmetics.
White residue was found in six bronze containers buried in a tomb found in a noble cemetery in northern China, belonging to a patrician who lived in the Early Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC to 476 BC). .
Experts have long believed that the ancient Romans pioneered the skin lightening technique. Studies indicate that they started around 500 BC.
Archaeologists from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) also note that the remains may be much older than the tomb.
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White lead makeup was found in an ancient Chinese tomb more than 2,700 years old. This suggests that the cosmetic was used long before it was adopted by the ancient Romans
White lead makeup was also adopted by the elites of Europe in the 16th century, who combined toxic lead with vinegar.
However, this so-called beauty came at a price – it caused serious health problems for those who wore it religiously.
Its use as a pigment caused lead poisoning, skin damage, and sometimes even death.
But white skin was considered high status and is featured in many ancient Chinese artworks.
The makeup was found in six bronze containers (above) buried in a tomb of a nobleman who lived around 2,700 years ago
Archaeologists from the University of the Chinese Academy of Sciences (UCAS) also note that the remains may be much older than the tomb
After analyzing the white residue, the UCAS team determined that it was pure cerussite, a mineral composed of lead carbonate and an important lead ore.
Cerussite is also toxic to the human body.
“Although the age of the lead carbonates does not fall exactly within the tomb’s burial date, it still indicates the synthetic origin of ancient samples, since natural cerussite was observed to have a significantly larger offset,” researchers shared in the study published in the Journal of Humanities and social sciences.
The team also identified lead chlorocarbonate phosgenite in the powder, suggesting the residue was made by mixing the two – resulting in synthesized makeup.
Not only did kings and aristocrats wear the toxic makeup, but samurai warriors in Japan also used the technique — and it was harmful to their descendants.
After analyzing the white residue, the UCAS team determined that it was pure cerussite, a mineral composed of lead carbonate and an important lead ore
A 2012 study found that children of the samurai class suffered severe lead poisoning from the cosmetics used by their mothers and grew up deformed, disabled, and backward.
These disabilities rendered them unable to deal with political crises, leading to instability that eventually led to the downfall of their feudal system, the study found.
Tamiji Nakashima of the Japan University of Occupational and Environmental Health examined the bones of samurai children and adults to determine their cause of death.
Based on chemical and X-ray analyses, the bones of the children in the study contained dozens of times more lead than the adult males and females, the researchers told German magazine Der Spiegel.
Those under the age of three were the worst off, with a median level of 1,241 micrograms of lead per gram of bone — more than 120 times the level thought to cause neurological and behavioral problems.