Kohl is a traditional eye cosmetic worn by women in the Middle East, Asia and Africa. The main ingredient is the metallic mineral galena (lead sulfide). Applied directly to the eye area, it darkens the waterline of the eyes and eyebrows and gives them a soft, glossy appearance. It is also believed to protect the eyes from desert dust and sunbeams.
The ancient Egyptians used a variety of lead compounds in their kohl, including galena, gloss laurionite, cerussite and phosgenite. Some of their kohl was also made from black steatite, an organic compound with a high aluminium content.
Modern cosmetics are usually sold in packaging that discloses the ingredients, so consumers can avoid kohl containing toxic metals such as lead. However, the kohl sold by street vendors and in some markets in the Middle East still contains varying amounts of lead-based pigments. In some countries, these kohl products are banned and subject to confiscation at airports.
We studied the elemental composition of twenty-one kohl samples (known as Qwalli, surma and Kajal) originating from Saudi Arabia, India and Pakistan by energy dispersive X-ray analysis (EDAX). Lead was found in two thirds of all kohl specimens. It was followed by aluminum, carbon, iron, nickel, zinc and sulfur. In only one sample was antimony present at a concentration of 7.8 ppm.
The kohl specimens were ground into a fine powder for EDXS measurements. Backscattered electron images revealed the presence of aluminosilicates and Si-Mg and Si-Na compounds in some kohl samples, possibly talc. Zn, Cu and Fe were present in the nano-size range. Cadmium, which is prohibited in European cosmetic products, was detected at several times higher concentrations than the limits set by the EU. antimony Kohl