Eyeliner styles through the Ages

by Ila Mishra

Wondering how eyeliner styles were introduced and how they kept changing over the years? Here are some very exciting facts on how eyeliner styles evolved over the centuries

Indian women can rock any eyeliner style that they choose. That is why not just Bollywood divas but also the girl next door is so comfortable with experimenting with her looks. The eyes are the window to the soul and throughout ancient history their protection and beautification was of utmost importance and was well documented. For example, in Egypt, a unique green colored eyeliner, made from malachite stone and kohl not only added beauty but also protected the wearer from the sun and evil. In India, kajal was made and used by men and women of all caste and creed as medicine to keep the eyesight strong and of course enhancing the look and beauty of the exotic Indian eyes.Eyeliner Styles through the century 01

From Left to Right : The Eye of Hator and Fresco of Ajanta


In the early 1900’s, the West as well as the East did not encourage women to put on makeup of any sort. Makeup was considered fit for only promiscuous women. In India, make-up was a part of enhancing one’s beauty, but of course, elaborate rituals and cosmetics were mainly used by royalty. Some royalties like Raja Serfoji of Tanjore did establish a center (1800’s) where Ayurvedic cosmetic medicines were tested and written down in spoken languages for the subjects to make use of. These books were then translated into other languages and helped such knowledge to become a part of daily/ seasonal rituals of the common Indian household. While paan leaves paste, beetroot, katha  were used to help stain lips to deeper colors, the common Indian women, refrained from using such methods to beautify themselves.

Great Discounts on eyeliners here

The real love affair with making oneself look beautiful began when photography and cinema were introduced in the early 1900’s – that is when not only were women encouraged to look after themselves more, but also the perception of make-up not being fit for women in general, changed. Other factors included the industrial manufacture of powder, lipstick and kohl, which made it less tedious for women to look good. Eyeliners were used since ancient times and their revival was but natural. Thus, the eyeliner played a big role to change one’s look and enhance one’s features.

In the 1940’s eyeliners were sparingly used in the West. Indian women still used kajal though the eyeliner trend had still not picked up. Maharani Gayatri Devi who was amongst the most beautiful women of that era took a minimalist approach and made it a style statement. She preferred no eye makeup – just lipstick and compact powder! Even Bollywood divas of those years kept it simple, preferring only kajal to brighten up their eyes. The most popular of eyeliner styles in the 1950’s was a light coat of kajal to the bottom lashes which created a doe-eyed look. Light, shimmery eye shadow was applied on the eyelid with a black eyeliner which was used to line the top lashes. Eyeliner Styles through the century 02

From Left to Right : Maharani Gayatri Devi and Madhubala

The 60’s and 70’s had women sporting thick eyeliners which were called by different names such as the winged eyeliner or the cat eye. We really liked this video of doing the cat eye or the winged eyeliner which you can use to create a cat eye look in under a minute. You also have an option to smudge the cat eye for a much softer look with a brown eye shadow. Of course these looks are incomplete without a few coats of mascara. Hollywood stars like Audrey Hepburn really made this style their own. 

Don’t miss the image gallery at the end of this post to view many actresses sporting different eyeliner looks!

Eyeliner Styles through the century 03

From Left to Right : Sharmila Tagore, Sadhana and Asha Parekh

In the same decades, Sharmila Tagore’s and Sophia Loren’s eye makeup was the one to emulate which is till date such a classic and can be used at parties! The hair was puffed and eye brows straight. Her winged eyeliner was really thick and the curve would nearly come up to her eyebrow. This tutorial here by Yasmin Alom shows you how to get this classic look with your basic make-up kit.

The 80’s had a lot of eye shadows and deep colored red lipsticks to create the look. Think Rekha, Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi and you will know that their eye makeup highlighted their natural beauty instead of looking like makeup. So the eyeliner receded into the background. In the 90’s the simple eyeliner made the comeback. As the 90’s progressed the eyeliner became more prominent. Recall Manisha Koirala, Aishwarya Rai, Kajol – all sported the simple eyeliner in the 90’s.Eyeliner Styles through the century 04

Eyeliner Styles through the century 05

From Left to Right : Rekha, Shabana Azmi, Smita Patil, Manisha Koirala, Aishwarya Rai, and Kajol

In the 2000’s all these actresses let the winged or cat eyes come back into vogue. However with different genres of movies being made, actresses could experiment with period looks and eye make-up to suit their characters. An image of Madhuri Dixit, Aishwarya Rai in Devdas and Kareena Kapoor in Asoka flashes before our eyes. Also, Sonakshi Sinha in Lootera and Dipika Padukone in Ram Leela brought out different looks.Eyeliner Styles through the century 06

Eyeliner Styles through the century 07

From Left to Right : Sonakshi Sinha, Madhuri Dixit, Deepika Padukone and Kareena Kapoor

These styles are now absolutely relative to the experimenter. Think you can pull off a 20’s look with a beautiful parsi outfit? Or if you’d like to keep it earthy with a bandhini outfit, then become your own eyeliner artist. Try the Marylin Monroe look or carry off the Sharmila Tagore eyes with aplomb. Go natural and still shine like a royal! So, experiment away these eyeliner styles!


Image source: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 24, 28, 32, 34, 36, 37, 38, 39, 46, 49, 50, 52, 55, 57, 58, 59, 62, 63, 67, 71, 73, 74, 75, 76, 97, 99


You might also like:

Leave a Reply