5 Ways to Use Kajal Eyeliner

Earlier this month, over twenty beauty enthusiasts gathered into a sacred, candle-lit space at The Alchemist’s Kitchen in New York City for our Journey to Beauty seminar—a full day of workshops dedicated to recreating centuries-old global beauty rituals. Throughout the day, we touched on the power of cosmetics and personal experiences that have shaped our beauty ideals. The product that nearly every woman in the room had a particular affection for? Kajal Eyeliner.

Just before ATW Beauty founder Stephanie Flor led a tutorial on creating traditional Indian kohl liner, guests shared stories about their eyeliner firsts and cultural purposes for applying liner. (One woman says her mother referred to eyeliner as “food for the eyes!”)

“Kajal, or kohl, is a deep black powder that has been used for centuries,” says Stephanie. “Kajal has transcended from a purely medicinal product to also become a cosmetic staple of Middle Eastern Beauty. In the Middle East, kajal is used as an eyeliner to thickly line the eyes, making them stand out beautifully.” For those who missed Stephanie’s lesson in creating kajal at home, our friends at Clinique offer the High Impact Custom Black Kajal ($17, clinique.com), a creamy, ultra-black pencil perfect for a classic day look or graphic cat eyes for night. Here, five ways to use it.

Get in Line

Whether you have roots in India, Nigeria, or America, your first lesson in eyeliner application was likely to line your upper and lower lids for a slightly darkening effect. The simplicity of the classic technique has withstood the test of time and is perfect for daily application. “To get the most of your eyeliner, work in small strokes along the water line and upwards on the lash line for the most dramatic impact,” says Stephanie.

Wing It

“Clinique’s pigment-packed High Impact Custom Black Kajal eyeliner can also be used to create more dramatic looks with Egyptian influence.” Channel the great Cleopatra with a bold cat eye. Trace your upper lash line, gliding the kajal from the center of the lid to the outer corner—the thicker the lines, the bolder the look!

Take a Smoke

Contrary to popular belief, a smoky eye can be created without the use of powder shadow. Instead, a pencil liner with staying power can do the trick. Fill the space between the upper lash line and the crease of your lid with the liner for smoldering eyes. Clinique High Impact Custom Black Kajal will last up to 12 hours without fading or running.

Lighten Up

If jet-black seems a bit harsh against your skin tone or light lash color, we recommend opting for a more muted shade of liner. Clinique High Impact Custom Black Kajal offers a dark brown alternative. Try the liner in Blackened Honey for a subtle approach to darkening your gaze. 

Go in & Out

This season, some of the top designers sent models down the runways with graphic liner. If you’re feeling bold, draw inspiration from looks seen at shows like Fendi by creating statement-making wings on both the inner and outer corners of your eyes.


Some of our BeautyTravelers tried out a winged look at our Journey to Beauty event

Need a hand? Have a friend help you achieve the look you love

Stephanie explains how to apply DIY ancient kajal eyeliner

Written by Lyndsay Green

Photos by Katrina Munoz

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  • Aya Tariq
    Posted at 13:23h, 13 September

    This is my childhood on Eid day! Only makeup I was allowed to have!
    I love it, put the eyeliner in your waterline, close your eyes, go back and forth and now you just applied liner to your top and bottom lash the Arab way! Eyemakeup done in 10 seconds!

  • Anna Grigsby
    Posted at 00:13h, 29 March

    Good tips!

  • kimberly
    Posted at 21:06h, 22 February

    I love kajal eyeliners because they’re so easy to apply and pigmented. I will have to check out Clinque’s kajal eyeliners.

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