Kohl eyeliner powder has been used around the eyes for thousands of years. It is an eye makeup that has been used by people from the earliest times in the Middle East, North Africa and Asia. Kohl has historically been made of natural mineral materials including galena (lead sulfide), and also of semi-precious stone such as malachite. It has been applied to the upper and lower eyelids. This ancient cosmetic is still in use today by women in parts of the Middle East and Africa, especially for special occasions like weddings, Islamic festivals or to attend daily Jumuah congregational prayers. It is commonly worn by young girls and boys, men and women of all ages, and is also a key feature in traditional bridal makeup.
The ancient Egyptians were among the first to apply kohl as a beauty product and to use it as a protective agent from the desert sun. They considered kohl sacred and placed jars of it in the tombs for use in the afterlife. Modern research shows that the ancient Egyptians were correct in their belief that lead salts rubbed around the eye could protect against sun burn and eye infections.
Kohl is now typically prepared in the Middle East and Africa using a method similar to that of the ancient Egyptians. It is ground to a fine powder and mixed with various oils or waxes, usually olive, sunflower or castor oil. It can be applied with a stick or brush. Some modern kohls are available without the lead-based compounds that have traditionally been used, which are banned in most countries because of health concerns including lead poisoning (or lead intoxication). These newer products can be purchased online and in many stores that specialize in organic and natural cosmetics.