Cleopatra’s Makeup Doubled As Medicine

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When you think of Cleopatra, what comes to mind? Egyptian royalty, Roman lovers, death by reptile? Well, if you’re a beauty buff, you probably think of her dramatic eye makeup first and foremost. After all, where would Amy Winehouse be without such glamorous eye-lining inspiration? (At a bar, probably.) But scientists recently realized there was much more to her exaggerated look than a cosmetic choice.

Worn by ancient Egyptian men and woman alike, the look was created with an arduously crafted mix of lead salts. That may seem like an injurious formula, but a team from the Louvre and the French National Center for Scientific research determined that a specific dosage produces nitric oxide.

This molecule, they deduced, has the ability to activate the immune system, creating an effective defense against eye infections.

Cleopatra and her subjects also believed that this kind of self-decoration would ward off the evil eye. But this new finding shows it was more likely to ward off the pink eye.

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