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Kohl’s Relevance in modern makeup

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Kohl is one of the most recognized aspects of Middle Eastern beauty (Photo: Shutterstock)
AMMAN — Kohl eyeliner is considered an integral part of the Arab beauty tradition. With mentions in religious text, and usages spanning cultures and genders, kohl use is deeply ingrained into the Middle Eastern consciousness.اضافة اعلان

Dark-rimmed and mysterious eyes is the first image that pops to mind when one evokes “Arabian Beauty”. This dark and smoky look has traditionally been achieved with kohl. From South Asia to the Middle East to Africa, this cosmetic powder has made its way into countless cultures.


(Photo: Shutterstock)

Here is a list of things to know about kohl, and how this ancient cosmetic product managed to maintain its relevance in modern makeup.

Kohl vs. eyeliner – what is the difference?

This question may not be easy to answer. Kohl became synonymous with eyeliner in Arabic in recent years, despite the two being entirely different things.

Eyeliner can come in liquid, pencil, or gel form, and is used to line the eyes to achieve an aesthetic effect. Kohl can be more accurately described as an eye cosmetic; it can be used to line the eyes and darken the lashes and eyebrows. Because of all these uses, calling kohl simply an eyeliner would not necessarily be accurate.

The aesthetic difference between the two is also clear. Due to its powdered form, kohl can be used for a more diffused, smoky look. Eyeliner, on the other hand, distributes a more concentrated pigment where it is applied.

Kohl pencils, yay or nay?

This eye cosmetic typically comes in the form of loose powder stored in a jar and placed on the waterline with an applicator rod. Many companies have promised that the same effect can be achieved by using a kohl pencil. This is likely to avoid the mess and fallout of the more traditional application method.


(Photo: Flicker)

But with that added convenience comes a caveat: much of the pigmentation and smoky effect will be lost by changing the texture from powder to pencil. Brands will also often label their standard colored eyeliner pencils as “kohl” liners, despite not possessing the qualities that would classify them as kohl.

Be wary of lead in your kohl

Traditionally kohl is made using lead sulfide in order to give it that intense black color. But as modern medicine and sciences progressed, research began to show that lead poisoning was a growing concern, particularly when used in cosmetic products.

In the US, the FDA has begun to crack down on lead in cosmetics; Jordan has yet to catch up. While many have opted to replace the more harmful elements with safe alternatives, it is essential that you make sure you are purchasing your kohl from a reputable source, to ensure your health.

Medicinal qualities?

Whether kohl has any medicinal qualities is a highly contentious subject. Some claim that the powder has UV blocking properties and protects the eyes from the harmful desert sun. They also claim that it is beneficial to overall eye health.

While there is no conclusive evidence that kohl provides any substantial UV protection, some theorize that applying a dark powder to the eye area does help prevent the glare from the sun from being too intense, thus decreasing the need for squinting. The same logic is used when American football players put black streaks under their eyes.

Either way, do not ditch sunglasses and SPF in favor of a smoky eye in hopes it can have the same effect.

Application process

The form you choose for your kohl to come in will largely affect the application style and the ease of application.

Traditional powdered kohl typically comes in a small jar with a metal rod attached to the lid. The rod is dipped in the powder and the powder clinging to it is applied to the lower and upper lash lines. The largest difficulty one may face with this application is minor excess fallout, but this can be avoided by tapping off any excess product from the rod back into the jar.



(Photo: Shutterstock)

Traditionally kohl is applied to the waterline, but you may choose to forego this for a multitude of reasons. For some, any cosmetic product on the waterline causes irritation, and loose powder may exacerbate the problem. Dark colors on the waterline may also make the eye appear smaller, which may not be desired by those looking for a more doe-eyed look. But for those looking for a smoky, sultry look, and for those with eyes that can handle loose powder, a waterline darkened by kohl is the way to go.

When using kohl in its pencil form (as previously mentioned, it is debatable if this can even be considered kohl at all), the application is nearly identical to that of a regular eyeliner pencil. The main difference is that kohl pencils tend to smudge more easily, and are not as well suited for precise application. They are better for a more diffused and smoky look without the added disadvantage of fallout.


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