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History of eyeliner

31 Mar

Used to define the eyes for aesthetic appeal, eyeliner has made its way from a primarily female-dominated market to a growing popularity among men. Its history dates back to ancient civilizations and has been worn by both men and women alike.  Over time, the ingredients have changed but the basic styles and purposes remain constant.

Let’s have a look at the history of eyeliner.

Ancient Origins

Used in Egypt and Mesopotamia in 10,000 BC, Eyeliner and other cosmetics were not only used for aesthetics but also to protect the skin from the scorching desert sun.  Research has also speculated that eyeliner was worn to protect the wearer from the evil eye. At that time, Kohl was often painted around the entire eyelid to create an almond-shaped effect and was used by both men and women.

Ancient Egyptians added lead salts to their black eyeliner to ward off bacterial infections.

Everything Egyptian

The 1920s were an era commonly associated with many changes in women’s fashion, and women felt freer to apply makeup more liberally. Besides, the discovery of King Tut’s tomb, fascinated the world by the Egyptian queen’s beauty and more specifically American women who had finally won the right to vote and thanks to the influence of actresses like Clara Bow, seemed to assert their independence more freely. These latest started recreating the Egyptian eye by using eyeliner without any restrictions. (Dark, thickly lined eyes were very trendy.)

Tomb of Tutankhamun discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and George Herbert,

A New Use for WWI

During the 1940s, everyone was doing his or her part to aid the war effort. Little to no makeup was worn at this time to conserve resources. The shortage of items during the World War I led to an interesting use of eyeliner. In fact, instead of being an make up product, Enterprising young women, used it to draw long black lines down the backs of their legs to simulate the look of wearing stockings that were uhnavailable at that time.


The 1960s brought about the invention of liquid eyeliner and it was used to create thick black and white lines around the eyes in the makeup fashion associated with designers like Mary Quant. The sixties saw the emergence of the cat eye.

Peter Philips (Chanel‘s creative director) created this stunning cat eyes look for the 2009 fall show: An exaggerated spin on 1960s eye liner, combined with soft pink petal pale lips using Chanel Rouge Allure in Mythic.


Today eyeliner is commonplace and comes in a variety of colors and applications.  Many women add it to their daily makeup routines.  In the late 20th and early 21st century, heavy eyeliner has been associated with Gothic fashion and sometimes even Punk fashion

Eyeliner of varying degrees of thickness, particularly on males, has also become associated with the emo subculture and various alternative lifestyles.

Gothic Girls: Catwalk Trends for S/S 08

Emo boy


Eyeliner can be found in four main formulas available on the market: each type will produce a different effect.

1.Liquid eyeliner is an opaque liquid that usually comes in a small bottle and is applied with a tiny brush or felt app licator. It creates a sharp, precise line.

Christian Dior style liner

2.Powder-based eye pencil is eyeliner in a wood pencil. It is generally available in dark matte shades.

Lancome, Le crayon Khol

3. Gel eye liner, which is a softer gel liner that can be easily applied with an eyeliner brush. It can be precisely applied and is much softer than Kohl. Gel liner usually holds up very well.

Bobbi brown Long wear gel eyeliner

4.Kohl eyeliner is a soft powder available in dark matte shades. It is most often used in black to outline the eyes. It comes in pencil, pressed powder, or loose powder form. This type of eyeliner is more likely to smudge.

Guerlain Terracotta Loose Powder Kohl Liner