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History of Eyeliner


The history of eyeliner dates back to ancient civilizations and has been worn by both men and women alike. Though the ingredients and application methods have changed, the look remains oddly consistent. Take a look at the evolution of the modern day eyeliner.

Ancient Egyptians

As early as 10,000 BC Egyptians were donning various cosmetics not only for aesthetics but 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.

A prominent characteristic of the Egyptian fa├žade for both men and women was the heavily lined eye. Ancient Egyptians used kohl eyeliners produced with a variety of materials including lead, copper ore and antimony, a toxic metallic element. The elements were ground into a paste and applied with rounded sticks of wood, bronze, or glass created for the purpose. Kohl pots were common and used to crush and serve as cosmetic containers for the eye makeup. The widespread use of kohl is historically documented in the sheer number of kohl pots found among burial belongings from the late Old Kingdom to the end of the New Kingdom (2345 to 1070 B.C).


The discovery of King Tut’s tomb in 1922 fascinated people worldwide, especially American women. They had finally won the right to vote and thanks to the influence of actresses like Clara Bow, seemed to assert their independence more freely. Gone were the days of pinching the cheeks for a subtle blush. Fashionable young women began to recreate the Egyptian eye by using eyeliner liberally.


The face of the war era woman was clean and simple. Though very little if any eyeliner was worn around the eyes, the shortage of items during the World War I led to an interesting use of eyeliner. Jackets with short skirts became fashionable for young women but silk stockings were unavailable. Enterprising young women, accustomed to making do, used black eyeliner pencil to draw a black line up the back of their legs to simulate a stocking seam.


The 1960s brought about the invention of liquid eyeliner and it was applied to create thick black lines around the eyes in the fashion industry. The sixties saw the reemergence of the cat eye.


Today eyeliner is commonplace and comes in a variety of colors and applications. Many women add it to their daily makeup routines. Today, eyeliner is also used liberally as an artistic expression of statement for gothic and emo styles.



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