It’s a makeup trend with a 5,000-year-old history and it never goes out of style. Versatile, classic eyeliner adds a dash of instant elegance—or outrageous glam, your pick.
But a peek at its history reveals that eyeliner was more than just makeup: it was the first “cosmeceutical,” used across Egypt, the Middle East, India and sub-Saharan Africa.
Beauty Queens of the Nile
Recent scientific research from France1 shows that ancient Egyptians used lead-based kohl eyeliners as a way to prevent eye infections caused by bacteria flourishing in warm, marshy areas such as the Nile Delta.
At a time when even one drop of contaminated water splashed in your eye could lead to myriad ailments including blindness, Egyptian men and women took prevention seriously. They’d mix lead with other ingredients, burn the mixture and moisten the ashes with milk, and use the resulting paste to line the inside and outside rims of their eyelids.
It’s now understood that the lead triggered the body’s production of higher levels of nitric oxide, which helped boost immunity. The look has remained throughout cosmetic history, although thankfully we’ve moved past the lead thing.
Geisha, Silent Stars and Madonna, Oh My
Dramatically lined eyes have also been a beauty ideal in Japan, where geisha of the Edo period from the 1700s traced their lids in black charcoal and a red pigment made from safflower petals.
In the West, pop culture led the trends. 1920s makeup went for a sultry, exaggerated smudged kohl look inspired by silent screen stars, evolving to a clean, simple line in style in the ‘30s.
Marilyn Monroe and Sophia Loren helped to set the trend for gorgeously winged eyeliner in the ‘50s, a look that morphed into the fabulous, flamboyant extremes of the ‘60s.
After Madonna and other pop stars brought thick, black liquid eyeliner back into the spotlight in the ‘80s (for men, as well as women), the next two decades saw liner trends return to the subtle end of the spectrum.
Eyeliner Goes Avant-Garde
Today, anything goes. Experiments with waterlining (placing liner inside the lower lid), tightlining (inside the upper lid) and cut creasing (lining the crease of the eye) inspire us to get creative.
Our Liquid Eyeliner EX is versatile enough for a wide range of looks. Beauty editors and influencers call it one of the best eyeliners for cat eyes, able to create a slender and precise line along the lashes or a bold theatrical accent. Its long-lasting, water-resistant formulation glides on with a sharp-tipped brush applicator inspired by traditional Japanese calligraphy brushes, and its classic, glossy black shade is universally flattering.