Paul-Desire Trouillebert, 1874
Drawing the Line
by Dawn Devine
mesdemet to the ancient Egyptians, kohl or kajal
throughout the Middle East, and surma in Pakistan and
India, eyeliner is still one of the most essential cosmetics available
in today’s wide variety of makeup options.
with henna, kohl has been part of the beauty regimens of women
since the dawn of history, and an unbroken line connects the
eyes of today with those of the ancients.
earliest historical record of eyeliner use appears in the ancient
Near East and Egypt. Kohl occupied an important social role in
the lives of the Egyptian royalty, serving as a cosmetic enhancement,
health treatment, and indicator of social rank and achievement.
Kohl was so essential to the Egyptians that it was applied before
mummification and beautiful vials of it were included for the
trip to the afterlife, preserved eternally. From the tomb paintings
of the Old Kingdom to the encaustic portraits of the Roman occupation,
recipes for kohl were passed down through the centuries.
kohl was made from natural minerals of the region. Black liners
were created from either antimony or galena, which produces a
lead sulfide. However, black was not the only color available
to the ancients; other essential colors in the cosmetic palette
included green ground from malachite, blue from lapis, and white
from lead carbonate. These minerals were added to a paste that
might include frankincense oil, almond oil and goose fat.
orientali XVII century
Egyptian kohl jar
All eyeliner is not the same and
fortunately for us, makeup companies cater to a broad
variety of tastes and needs. From ultra precise liquid
to soft smudgy powder there is something available
for everyone. Here is a rundown of the most popular
styles of eyelining products available at makeup counters
– Eyeliner pencils are a staple in the makeup boxes
of dancers everywhere. They are easy to use, budget
friendly, widely available and come in an astounding
range of colors from the deepest black to stark white
and everything in between. Versatility comes with
the quality of the sharpened tip, which can create
a line that is either sharp and fine or soft and smudgy.
Today, eyeliners can be completely color coordinated
with your total look, lifting color from the costume
to the face.
– Although a little more difficult to master, liquid
eyeliner has the benefit of providing precise line
control. While most liquids come with their own built-in
application brush, many manufacturers are using fibrous
applicators akin to a felt-tip marker that is either
dipped into a well, or delivers the product through
the tip. Liquid liner requires a steady hand and practice
to apply, but the results are worth it.
– Originally, kohl was a powdered mineral applied
with a moistened stick. Today’s powdered eyeliners
are available in several forms. Loose powder in the
form of eye shadow or eyeliner is applied either wet
or dry using a fine pointed brush. With powder and
a brush, dancers can achieve a high level of control
of exactly where the product is placed. Powders offer
the broadest range of color, because you can press
virtually any eye shadow into duty, however, powders
are messier to apply than pencils or liquids, do not
always create intense color and are generally not
the visual records of the history of the Middle East are sketchy
at best, images of women with lovely, lined eyes appear periodically
in manuscript illuminations created for royal courts from India
to Turkey. In these images of courtly life, beautiful women with
darkly rimmed eyes grace the pages of epic poetry and historical
documents. According to these images, women of all ranks, from the
highborn to servant classes, wore kohl.
from the urban centers, women throughout the entire region used
kohl in their daily lives. Although there is little visual documentation
of the daily material culture of Bedouin and nomadic peoples,
the traditional use of eyeliner continues into the present day.
desert dwellers, kohl helps to protect the eye area from dryness,
cuts down the glare of the sun, and acts as an antibacterial
agent; in this role as a traditional remedy, use extends to
men and children as well.
and sensual, odalisques and dancers with darkly lined eyes became
part of the consciousness of an art-hungry Western world during
the late eighteenth century. The Orientalist movement fueled a
desire for history, travel, and genre paintings set in exotic
Near Eastern lands. Populated with assorted Middle Eastern “types”
such as fierce guards, rug merchants and supple harem women, this
genre brought images of lovely women with kohl-rimmed eyes to
art salons, galleries and museums.
look and allure of these painted beauties contrasted sharply
with the clean-skinned nineteenth-century Victorian ideals.
artists relied on dark, kohl-lined eyes to suggest the allure
and glamour of this alternative model of feminine beauty. When
Oriental dancers arrived on the Western performance scene at international
festivals and fairs, they appealed to a middleclass viewer whose
taste for Middle Eastern beauty had already been whetted by popular
painting. Elaborately staged tableaux and cultural music and dance
shows recreated the popular themes and settings of the Orientalist
Fads and Fashion
quarter of the twentieth century brought a tidal flood of lovely
kohl-wearing performers to the stage and screen. On the stage, numerous
Salomes performed their veil dances. Both in wholesome vaudeville
shows and on the racier burlesque stages, specialty Oriental dancers
appeared in traditional clothes or wearing the newly developed cabaret-style
costume. But regardless of their venue or costume style, the ubiquitous
kohl was key in creating the standard representation of Middle Eastern
screen, actresses embraced the smoldering blackrimmed eye as
part of the iconic look of the exotic Orient. In historical movies
such as Cleopatra, starring the infamous Theda Bara,
the look of ancient Egypt and contemporary Orientalism fused,
creating a look that was mimicked by stylish women of the day.
Eyeliner made the leap from artistic Orientalist paintings and
stylized stage makeup to the pages of Vogue. For the rest of the
twentieth century, eyeliner would follow the vicissitudes of fashion,
being reinvented with each season to coordinate with the looks
of the day.
The lovely eyes of Setareh!
Tomorrow and Beyond
today have thousands of cosmetic options, from natural to synthetic,
in a wide variety of colors, application styles, and formulations.
We now understand the dangers of traditional kohl recipes, which
can rely on poisonous heavy metals to create the matte black powders
worn by the ancients. Instead, major corporations have appropriated
the word kohl to represent a color, rather than a particular formulation.
But no matter what look you prefer—a smudged and smoky eye created
with a soft pencil or a thin, razor-sharp line painted with a
brush dipped in liquid liner—eyeliner is an essential element
in your makeup kit.
history offers us is plenty of inspiration for different looks
and application techniques, as well as an unbroken connection
with our past, providing us with endless ways to draw the line.
Safety - Tips for Protecting Your Eyes-
Beautiful eyes are an asset for every woman.It doesn’t matter
if your style is a smoldering wash of black, a glamorous razor-sharp
line, or a more subtle hue for the day—eyeliner is one of
the essential components of your face. To protect your eyes,
here’s a list of the top tips from a variety of sources including
the FDA, health professionals, and makeup artists.
If you find a cosmetic irritating, discontinue use immediately.
Never use eye makeup if you have an eye infection or if
the area is inflamed due to allergies.
If you do use a product while you have an infection, dispose
of it after you are well to prevent re-infection.
Avoid applying eye makeup in a moving vehicle where the
applicator wand could injure the eye during sudden stops.
Don’t share any mascara or eyeliner products with anyone,
Prevent contamination from mouth bacteria by avoiding
the use of saliva to moisten eyeliner pencils or eye shadow.
Wash your hands before applying eye makeup to avoid cross-contamination
with bacteria from the hands.
old cosmetics to prevent bacterial growth. Liquid products
should be replaced every three months and pencils should
be disposed of after a year.
Pencils should be sharpened on a regular basis and before
you detect any changes in the color, texture, or scent
of a product, discard it immediately.
labels for potentially dangerous chemicals.
products that contain heavy metals such as lead and antimony,
often found in traditional products such as surma and
Kohl—Buyer Beware- Today, kohl is a term used by
major cosmetic companies to describe not an ingredient but,
rather, the color and use of eyeliner products. If you look
at an ingredients list, you will not see kohl listed because
of the dangers associated with its use.
in ancient Egypt, homemade kohl is widely used in rural
areas throughout the Middle East. In urban areas, women
have access to commercially made kohl using traditional
ingredients. Lead sulfide, created from ground galena, creates
a powder that is deep, rich and black. Antimony, a heavy-metal
element, is ground and used as a black pigment either in
conjunction with lead sulfide or alone. However, this ebony
color is achieved at a high price. Both lead and antimony
are toxic elements that cause a host of health ramifications.
Lead poisoning is a common health problem throughout the
Middle East and has been linked to the long-term use of
lead-based kohl products.
Beware- The Food and Drug Administration has instituted
an official import alert for all cosmetics containing lead-sulfide-based
kohl products. Traditional kohl is still being illegally imported
and is available through specialty vendors and from Web sites.
The FDA requires that all cosmetics sold in the U.S. be accompanied
by an ingredients list. If you are in doubt as to the content
or quality of the cosmetic in question, check the ingredients
list, and avoid products that include galena, lead sulfide,
or antimony. If an ingredients list is unavailable, think
twice about purchasing and using the product. When selecting
traditional or imported cosmetics, be especially careful
and only buy from dealers you trust.
you may strive to be as authentic as possible, the final
look of a dark-rimmed, exotic eye can be achieved using
commercially available cosmetics. Be safe and protect your
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Check the "Letters to the Editor"
for other possible viewpoints!
On The Costumer’s
Bookshelf, a series of book reviews by Dawn “Davina”
Beaded Embellishment Techniques & Designs for Embroidering
on Cloth by Amy C. Clarke & Robin Atkins
Well-written directions for all of the most useful stitches for
the application of beads are accompanied by clear illustrations.
Rakkasah Trend Report
2002 by Dawn Davina Devine Brown
...the hottest and latest new styles from across the US, Turkey,
Egypt and beyond
The Taxim from a Dancer's Perspective:Tarab
or Tyranny? by Najia Marlyz
Sometimes, these improvisations can be quite elaborate.
The effect is somewhat like modern jazz and stays within the framework
of the traditional maqam or maqamat.
Event Sponsor's Efforts, Interview with Dee Dee Asad by Lynette
Open discussions of such issues will help dancers, musicians
and those people who surround and support them, to recognize similar
patterns in their own local environments.
From the Land Down-under, Part
2: Northeast and Canada by Trisnasari
What is happening in Australia, is also happening in
"The Spirit of Egyptian Dance"
Shareen El Safy- with the George Lammam Ensemble Workshop &
Show, Photos by Carl Sermon, Sponsored
and produced by Debbie Lammam July 22 & 23, 2006, Dance Mission
Theatre, San Francisco, CA