All about eye liner

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Dark teal eye liner along the rim of the eye

Eyeliner is a cosmetic used to define the eyes. It is applied around the contours of the eye(s) to create a variety of aesthetic effects.


Ancient Egyptian women and men wearing kohl eyeliner, from the tomb of Nakht in Thebes (15th century BC)

Eyeliner was first used in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia as a dark black line around the eyes. As early as 10,000 BC, Egyptians wore various cosmetics not only for aesthetics but to protect the skin from the desert sun. Research has also speculated that eyeliner was worn to protect the wearer from the evil eye. The characteristic of having heavily lined eyes has been frequently depicted in ancient Egyptian art. They produced eyeliner with a variety of materials, including copper ore and antimony. Ancient Egyptian kohl contained galena, which was imported from nearby regions in the Land of Punt, Coptos and Western Asia.

In the 1920s, Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered, introducing the use of eyeliner to the Western world. The 1920s were an era commonly associated with many changes in women's fashion, and women felt freer to apply makeup more liberally.

In the 1960s, liquid eyeliner was used to create thick black and white lines around the eyes in the makeup fashion associated with designers like Mary Quant.


A girl wearing eyeliner

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first century, heavy eyeliner use has been associated with Gothic fashion and Punk fashion. Eyeliner of varying degrees of thickness, particularly on males such as Pete Wentz, and it has also become associated with the emo subculture and various alternative lifestyles. Eyeliner is more and more used by men to make their eyes more attractive before a party or for an important meeting. There is still a taboo on it but slowly the global opinion is changing about wearing cosmetics for men. Research shows that 10% of English males use make up before going to a party.

An eye with brown eyeliner under the bottom lashes

Eyeliner is commonly used as a daily make up routine to define the eye or create the look of a wider or smaller eye. Eyeliner can be used as a tool to create various looks as well as highlighting different features of the eyes. Whether it be with a winged eyeliner or tight lined at the waterline, eyeliner can be placed in various parts of the eye to create different looks. Eyeliner can be drawn above upper lashes or below lower lashes or both, even on the water lines of your eyes. Its primary purpose is to make the lashes look lush, but it also draws attention to the eye and can enhance or even change the eye's shape. Eyeliner is available in a wide range of hues, from the common black, brown and grey to more adventurous shades such as bright primary colours, pastels, frosty silvers and golds, white and even glitter-flecked colours.

It can also be used for showing depression in photographs, such as the famous "Bleeding Mascara".

Tight lining
Tight lining is the use of eye liner tight against the water line under the lashes of the upper lid, and above the lashes of the lower lid. Due to the proximity to the membranes, and the surface of the eye itself, waterproof eye liner is preferred. Tight lining is a technique which makes the eyelashes appear to start farther back on the eyelid, thus making them look longer. Gel eyeliner and a small angled brush may be used to create this look.


Woman with turquoise eyeliner

Depending on its texture, eyeliner can be softly smudged or clearly defined. There are five main types of eyeliner available on the market: each produces a different effect.

  • Liquid eyeliner is an opaque liquid that usually comes in a small bottle and is applied with a tiny brush or felt applicator. It creates a sharp, precise line. Because liquid eyeliner gives a much heavier appearance, it is often only applied to the upper lashline.
  • Powder-based eye pencil is eyeliner in a wood pencil. It is generally available in dark matter shades.
  • Wax-based eye pencils are softer pencils and contain waxes that ease application. They come in a wide variety of intense colours as well as paler shades such as white or beige. Wax-based eyeliners can also come in a cone or a compact with brush applicator.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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