An Egyptian Invention: History of Eyeliner

Over 12 thousand years ago, in early 10.000 BC eyeliner first appeared in Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. There, both males and females of high status used eyeliner to better define their eyes and protect them from wrinkles that can be formed after constant exposure to desert wind, sun and heat. It was also used to protect from the evil eye.

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After the fall of Egypt, eyeliners fell out of the fashion in Europe, having little or moderate use during the reign of Greek and Roman empires. In Asia, eyeliners remained in use, but didn’t influence European fashion after it came out from Dark ages into Renaissance and modern age.

The moment that kick-started the era of eyeliners in the West came in 1920s after the discovery of King Tut’s tomb. Worldwide coverage of this event introduced Ancient Egyptian eyeliner to the west, where it was instantly accepted. It fascinated people worldwide, especially American women. They had finally won the right to vote and thanks to the influence of actresses like Clara Bow, seemed to assert their independence more freely. Fashionable young women began to recreate the Egyptian eye by using eyeliner liberally. During the 20’s, women abandoned the fashion of Victorian era and embraced new fashion that was fueled by ballet, stage actors, Hollywood, musicians and photography.

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After the initial eyeliner use in the 20’s, the invention if liquid liner gave birth to several new fashion types that used eyeliner in new ways. In the 60’s, a heavy line around the eye was popular, which was dubbed the “cat eye”.

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In the 70’s the line became softer. In the 80’s, heavy Punk and Gothic fashion relied on dramatic eye effect, and eyeliner, eye shadow and mascara were some of their most used cosmetic products.

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In the 90’s and 2000’s, liner styles have seen a variation of influences from the 20’s – 80’s and it will be interesting to see what trends and direction liner goes to in the years to come!