Crush With Eyeliner – 5 Eyeliners Better than Kajal

By Guest Blogger Maleeha Khan

Whenever my South Asian relatives traveled to the Motherland and asked me what I wanted, my request was always the same: find me the best kajal there is, please. I’ve always preferred the look of kajal, or kohl, to eyeliner. No fancy product in any high end department stores could produce a so fine a line, or a black so deep. Lining one’s waterline (the inner rim of the eye) with kajal had a way of making eyes stand out, but in a natural, delicate way – eyeliner seemed almost crude in comparison.

I say this in past tense because a few years ago, I tossed my last sticks of kajal. I had started to hear internet murmurings that kajal was bad for you, and that it’s use in cosmetic products was illegal in the States. Despite my reluctance to give up my habit, I wanted to learn more. How harmful could it really be? After all, our ancestors had used it for centuries and told us that it possessed cleansing properties. In India, it’s even used on babies, as it’s thought to improve vision, provide protection from the sun, and ward off the evil eye. After reading the FDA warnings that commercially available kajal contains alarmingly high quantities of lead and after learning about the risks of lead absorption, even at a low level (which include anemia, kidney problems, and neurological damage, as well as learning problems in children), I decided to ditch it once and for all. While many of my South Asian relatives continue to use it and insist that it’s safe, I won’t be taking any chances. The FDA has also reported that some imported Kajal is falsely labeled as “FDA approved”, so the only surefire way to play it safe is to avoid it altogether.

In search of an alternative to kajal, I went through dozens of eyeliners in search of one that would mimic the look of kajal, minus the lead factor. For lining the waterline, I needed something that would glide on easily, provide enough pigment, and stay put all day. I tested pencils, powders, gels, and liquid liners. Here are my favorites:

I find that in addition to creating a really fine line for my upper lids, using a liquid liner with a very fine point allows me to “connect” the spaces between my lower lash line, so that I get the delicate, more natural look of kajal without actually painting directly on the waterline. Use a light touch, and your peepers will pop. Chanel Écriture de Chanel Automatic Liquid Eyeliner in Noir is the most fool-proof liquid liner I’ve come across. It produces a deep, beautiful black. I like that the point is fine enough to really get into the lashline. It’s also fantastic for hiding the telltale strip when wearing false eyelashes for formal occasions. Makeup for Ever Aqualiner in Mat Black is also top notch. The color is a rich, ultra-black and, as the name implies, it does last forever. If I put it on in the morning and forget to wash my face at night, it’ll still be there the next morning. It’s not very forgiving, however – if you mess up, it’s nearly impossible to budge without washing off, so using the applicator does take some practice.

Chanel Écriture de Chanel Automatic Liquid Eyeliner in Noir $35.00

Makeup for Ever Aqualiner in Mat Black $23.00


If you prefer a pencil, MAC makes several different types of eyeliners that are inspired by the look of kohl. While none are exactly like it, their Eye Kohl in Smolder and Powerpoint Eye Pencil in Engraved are excellent in terms of pigment and lasting power, and both glide on smoothly.

Kohl in Smoler $18


Powerpoint Eye Pencil in Engraved $18



However, the winner in this contest is Jane Cosmetics Eyeliner. Extremely black and water-resistant, the retractable pencil is perfect for the waterline. It really is the closest I’ve found to the real deal.

WINNER: Jane Cosmetics Eyeliner $11

Do you have an eyeliner that you swear by? Tell us about it in the comments section.


  1. Rina Reply

    I’ve tried a few of these… smashbox has a great eyeliner as well! It’s limitless waterproof.. best $15 I’ve spent!!

  2. Kajal fan Reply

    I grew up in India. My mom told me my grandma used to make her own kajal. I’ve never tried it but her method matches a lot of sources on the Internet.
    She lit an oil lamp with quality castor oil and simply collected the soot. There is your lead free kajal!

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