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  • Writer's pictureVaishali A. Patel


Updated: May 3, 2021

If you have ever been to India then you will notice that about two-thirds of the women and many, many of the babies, have their eyes lined heavily in black. What is that all about?

My son believes strongly that people in India use this black eye liner, which is called kajal, because it’s so hot and sunny in India, that the black liner deflects the sun, much in the same way that football players have the black under their eyes. Ostensibly, it helps them to see more clearly with less refractive light. He may be on to something here. That does make sense as a possible theory. I have also read that kajal under the eyes helps protect the eyes from the effects of dust and acts as a coolant for the eyes. Outside of that, no other theories abound as to why this is so popular for Indian women make up styles.

Regarding the prevalent use of kajal on babies’ eyes, the trail to truth is much clearer.

Applying kajal to a baby’s eyes is an age-old custom in India, where the common beliefs say that applying kajal to your baby’s eyes makes the eyes brighter, large and attractive (possibly a similar reason why Indian women apply kajal), that kajal soothes, cleanses and protects baby eyes against infections and that it will ward off the evil eye. In the modern world, there is no scientific data to support any of these claims and the practice is diminishing.

One reason is that it is so hard to apply something like that to a baby’s eyes without hurting the baby with the kajal applicator or your uneven fingernails. Secondly, many store bought kajal applicators contain lead, which actually has significantly deleterious effects on a baby that i won’t detail here, but you can look up. To supplant the belief that kajal protects babies from the evil eye, while still supporting the baby’s good health, many parents use a Kaala tikka (a black dot on the forehead or behind the ears) to ward off those bad spirits. Turns out to have the same effect, and it is a lot easier and safer for everyone.

So let’s talk pure style and feminine wile. Today, applying kajal is less of a tradition and more of a trend. Everyone loves those big, Indian, almond-shaped eyes, especially when adorned with black eye liner (kajal), something that has been in vogue since ancient times going as far back as the Ancient Egyptians. Women use kajal to enhance their eyes, applying it to their waterline, lashes and the outer rim of the eye. Kajal application has become a daily make up ritual for many women. It is important to note that Kajal is different than kohl which is used in Africa and the Middle East. Kohl contains lead and kajal is lead-free.

In the old days, kajal was prepared by hand at home, using a small rag dipped in sandalwood and holding it over a ghee lamp (diya.) The soot left on the rag was used as the eye liner.

When you make it at home, even today, you can rest assured you know that the ingredients are safe for you and your baby. So I will share my method for how we make kajal at home:

Kajal Recipe

Step 1 – Light a ghee diva (lamp) that has a cotton wick dipped in ghee.

Step 2 – Hold a spoon over the flame, keeping some distance from the wick to catch the soot from the fire

Step 3 – Let the spoon cool and use your clean fingers to gather the Kajal

Step 4 – Apply it on your eyes and make yourself your most enchanting

Be beautiful and be safe!

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