Regardless of how makeup trends fluctuate, kohl – also known as kajal – remains a makeup staple within Middle Eastern and South East Asian communities with cultural and religious significance. Used in Ayurvedic medicine for its therapeutic properties, kohl was believed to protect against the evil eye. In many Muslim communities around the world, including West Africa, kohl is an essential part of religious ceremonies and Friday prayers and is worn by people of all ages and genders as a sign of devotion and reverence.

Nowadays, most beauty brands sell some form of kohl eyeliner in various forms, including creamy pencils, squeezable tubes, and powdered pots. However, the ingredients and the methods of preparation vary depending on the traditions and practices of each country or the specifics of each brand. The original formula for kohl was created using galena eye paint, which is a natural mineral form of lead sulfide. However, many makeup companies market their products as kohl despite being made of substances such as castor oil and cocoa butter. This raises questions about product authenticity and how terms such as kohl and kajal are used as marketing tricks in the Western cosmetic field. But that doesn’t mean authentic kohl can’t be found; you just have to be on the lookout.

Here are some steps to follow when using kohl:

Step ١ – Prep Your Eyes

Before applying Kohl eyeliner, make sure your eyes are clean and dry. Remove any existing makeup or debris from your eyes and eyelids. If you have oily skin, you can apply a small amount of translucent powder to your eyelids to help the kohl adhere better.

Step ٢ – Choose Your Kohl

There are different types of kohl eyeliner, so choose one that suits your preference. Traditional kohl is usually made of charcoal, soot, or natural oils, while modern kohl is often made of wax or synthetic ingredients. You can also choose between powder, pencil, or liquid kohl eyeliner. You can refer to our guide at the end of the article! 

Step ٣ – Apply the Kohl

For a flawless kohl eyeliner application, gently stretch your eyelid with one hand and use the other to apply the eyeliner, starting from the inner corner of your eye and moving outward along your upper lash line. Depending on your desired look, you can make the line thicker or thinner.

Step ٤ – Blend the Kohl

Once you have drawn the kohl eyeliner, you can use a smudging brush or fingertip to blend the line and achieve a smokier effect. For a more dramatic appearance, consider applying eyeshadow to your eyelids.


To prevent smudging, set the kohl eyeliner with translucent powder. And if you’re using liquid kohl eyeliner, make sure it dries before blinking.

Our Kohls of Choice

Terracotta Khôl by Guerlain

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Creamy Kohl Eye Pencil by Huda Beauty

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Yasmine is a Tunisian-Italian freelance writer based in Amsterdam. Her writings are strongly inspired by her North African upbringing and culture, and her thoughts on identity and diasporic nostalgia. You will mostly find her reporting on societal phenomena in the MENA region, often in relation to digital culture, art, and fashion