Beauty and the Beef

In the spirit of Halloween, it seems only appropriate that the topic of conversation should turn to bones and skeletons. Historically, from as early as ancient Egyptian times, charred bones have been used in many applications – anything from pigmentation to mouthwash. Now, they’ve made their way to the modern day cosmetic industry.

The FDA recently approved the use of “Bone Black,” or D&C Black No. 3, for use in mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner and face powder. “Bone Black” derives its name from its source – namely, carbonized cattle bones.

Before its FDA approval, black iron oxides were the only black pigment available for cosmetic companies. Now, “Bone Black” provides a low oil-absorption, matte finish alternative. Before its inception to the cosmetic industry, it served as pigment for a number of household applications, such as wood stains, colored plastics and paints.

Apparently, back in the days of the American Heartland, bone picking could score you a pretty penny. If you gathered a ton or so (literally), you might pull in about $10. Not just any bone is viable, so you can throw away that chicken leg. Today, Ebonex Corporation uses only fresh, hard bones, free of any fatty or oily material. They are placed in kilns heated to temperatures over 800° C and left to bake for 24 hours. This process results in bone char, which is the raw material used for the pigmentation.

The FDA has addressed the possibility of low levels of the potentially carcinogenic polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH) present in the recently introduced “Bone Black” pigment, but has concluded that it is safe for cosmetic purposes. The FDA has also stated that the risk of bovine spongiform encephalopathy (mad cow disease) is negligible.

Sarah Olson
Guest Blogger

Sources (PDF)


Oct 16, 2007
by Axelchick (not verified)


i mean, the idea and the subject of the article are very good, but the pics it's awesome....;)