Mirabile Does Fashion: Eyeliner & Ovid on Makeup

The other day I found an eyeliner pencil in my bathroom.

Who would bother to use eyeliner at my house?

I take pride in the “Latin-teacher-cum-freelancer” plain Jane style.  Although my mother and I put on lipstick before going to the mall, feminists didn’t wear makeup in my youth, except Gloria Steinem, who dated Henry Kissinger.  Since I freelance out of my home, I don’t wear eyeliner.  As for Latin teachers, they’re not glamorous.  I fondly remember being interviewed by a very plain Latin teacher who wore a wrinkly cotton dress and flat sandals from an Indian-clothing and-incense shop.  Her colleagues wore full makeup, Pappagallo dresses, and espadrilles or pumps.

Well, I had a Pappagallo suit…but I quite liked the cotton dress and sandal look.

As soon as I got the job, I wore slacks.

First I posted a picture of myself as a schoolmarm, but then I realized we'd all rather see Maggie Smith in "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie"

Maggie Smith on a bike in “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie”

Does Pappagallo still exist?

Anyway, I picked up the eyeliner yesterday.  And–this is so weird–I took off the cap and applied the eyeliner.  I accidentally made that weird  curl in the line beside the eye.  When I did the water line under my eye, it really hurt.

I immediately washed it off.

I liked the smudge under my eye look.

I washed that off, too.

I have to read.  The eyeliner hurt my eyes.

Though I could definitely use some makeup.  Something human-friendly.

But there are toxic metals in makeup that can be absorbed through the skin.

In a recent article at the New York Times Well blog, “Is There Danger Lurking in Your Lipstick?”, Deborah Blum reported that the Campaign for Safe Cosmetics (2007) and The Food and Drug Administration (2011) found lead contamination and other metals in lipstick.  A new study in May in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives reported traces of cadmium, cobalt, aluminum, titanium, manganese, chromium, copper and nickel in 24 lip glosses and eight lipstick brands.

Loreal has five  lipsticks in the ten most lead-tainted brands.

And it’s not just lipstick.

According to an article, “Beauty Secrets Mean Lead in Lipstick, Arsenic in Eyeliner,” at EMax, Environmental Defence in Canada studied 49 makeup brands.  Among the highest in metals:

Clinique Stay True makeup (Stay Ivory), found to contain arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel, lead, and thallium

Cover Girl Perfect Point Plus (eye liner), found to contain beryllium, cadmium, nickel, and lead

L’Oreal Bare Naturale (mascara), found to contain arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, nickel, lead, and thallium

The metals can cause hormone disruption,cancer, neurological problems, memory loss, mood swings, reproductive and developmental disorders, kidney problems, headaches, vomiting, diarrhea, lung damage, dermatitis, and hair loss.

The "Cosmetics" poem in Ovid's "The Erotic Poems"

The “Cosmetics” poem is in Ovid’s “The Erotic Poems”

And now for something lighter.  Ovid, the brilliant Roman poet who wrote Metamorphoses, also wrote a didactic poem about makeup, Medicamina Faciei Femineae (Cosmetics for the Female Face), with some makeup recipes.  100 lines survive.

Peter Green translates the beginning thus:

Girls, learn from me what treatment will embellish
   Your complexions, how beauty is best preserved.

Please, Ovid, I want to know.

Some of them have white lead.  But this “face pack” (or mask) recipe does not.

Take imported Libyan barley, strip off its outer
Husk and chaff, measure two
Pounds of stripped grain, and add an equal measure
Of vetch steeped in ten raw eggs.
Let this mixture dry in the air, then have your donkey grind it
Slowly, taking the rough quern round; prepare
Two ounces of powdered hartshorn, taken from a vigorous
Stag’s first-fallen antlers; stir this well
Into the powdery meal, then sift the mixture.
At once through fine-meshed sieves.
Take twelve narcissus bulbs, skin them and pound them
(Use a marble block);  add them in,
With two ounces of gum and Tuscan spelt-seeds,
And a pound and a half of honey.  Any girl
Who uses a face pack according to the prescription
Will shine brighter than her own

Frankly, where can we get hartshorn?

Tell me of any eco-friendly, human-friendly makeup you know.

7 thoughts on “Mirabile Does Fashion: Eyeliner & Ovid on Makeup

  1. I have to adopt a donkey???? Well I like donkeys, but in Manhattan, it’s not easy. Everything else I am sure I can get over the Internet. I suspect hartshorn is the fuzzy coating that comes off the antlers (it merits some research) and I am sure it can be found. Do you think my cats can do the donkey’s job, though? Otherwise, I’d have to leave my complexion in the same sad state it is now…


  2. Maybe a horse?:)
    It is time for me to give myself a facial, but I just use egg whites or oatmeal and yogurt.
    I should probably make my own makeup, but…. If I can find some hypoallergenic, eco-friendly stuff, that would be best.


  3. I very rarely wear makeup these days but I do take care of my skin as it still looks good and I want to keep it that way. And I wear lipstick or I look dead. In any case, I only buy 100% Percent Pure skin products. It’s a little pricey but it’s made from fruit.


  4. I used to buy The Body Shop stuff in the UK but they sold out to a big company and all their ideals went out the window. Frankly, I don’t know who to trust nowadays but I very rarely wear more than tinted moisturiser nowadays anyway – at my age, I’m pretty much past caring!! 100 Percent Pure sounds good though – I shall investigate!


  5. It sounds like none of us is a big makeup user!

    Cynthia, I do want to try 100 Percent Pure. How wonderful that it’s made from fruit. It’s probably worth a little extra money. I’ve spent so much time bicycling in the sun–it can’t hurt to buy a couple of good products. I want the lipstick. I now look askance at the product in my cupboard. I don’t know the brand, but it’s probably not good.

    Karen, tinted moisturizer sounds good to me! It has been so long since I’ve been to the Body Shop that I’m not even sure there’s one in town anymore. It was a nice store. Too bad about the sale.


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