16 Disgusting Cosmetic Products Used Throughout History

An ancient Egyptian statue depicting eyeliner. BBC.

2. Chimney Soot Eyeliner

Black eyeliner has been used since at least the ancient Egyptians, who heavily lined their eyes with kohl to protect their eyes from the bright sun in much the same way athletes now use eyeblack. Cleopatra is often depicted as having harsh and extended black eyeliner, as are the busts of many of the kings of Egypt. It appears that peasants and royalty alike used eyeliner extensively throughout the ancient Egyptian dynasties.

Early eyeliner would likely not have been a substance we would want by our eyes today. Before the invention of refined and stabilized kohl eyeliner, people mixed their concoctions and applied them with metal, bone or wooden spikes that look more like pins than makeup applicators. Again, one marvels at the beauty rituals people engaged in without strong antibiotics available in case of mishaps.

Many vessels for mixing eyeliner have been found in archaeological digs, and it appears that simple solutions of soot or ash were used by those who were not able to make true kohl out of ground stibnite. In later eras, women who could not afford proper eye makeup also turned to soot mixtures stabilized with fat and applied to the eyelashes. These soot mixtures were also often adulterated with toxic compounds, and the fat itself was likely to go rancid quickly without refrigeration.