Wearing A Niqab Helped Me Perfect My Eyeliner Skills

When I spent a month in Saudi Arabia, I had to cover everything but my eyes in traditional garments, so I learned the clever tightlining technique used by the local women.
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Publish date:
June 19, 2013
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eyeliners, How-To, guerlain, tightlining, religion, lead, niqab, Saudi Arabia

Waterlines are a weird thing. They can be baffling to actually color in. The lined waterline is a look that has interested me, but has also seemed like something that I can’t wear; it closes up my already small eyes.

Whichever product I use to rim my waterline always slides around a bit, and it inevitably ends up in the inner corner of my eye, where that little pink triangle is. (I just Googled what that triangle is called, and apparently it is the “lacrimal caruncle.”) I experimented a bit in high school with liquid liner on my waterline--it slid around and made a mess and left inky gobs floating on my sclera (the white part--I had to Google that, too).

Last year I tried applying the MAC Fluidline gel liner in Blacktrack with a little paintbrush on my waterline. It did not slide around so much, but it faded fairly quickly. Then the pot dried out because makeup in pots is not for people who cannot take care of their things.

I learned to line my waterline properly in Saudi Arabia. I spent a month there, because when I’m not being esoteric or contrived, I like to travel. It is an interesting place for women, because they must wear a three-part outfit to go outside: the abaya, which is the long black gown, the hijab, which is the scarf that encircles the face, and the niqab, which is the veil that covers the face save for an eye slit. I noticed that women there had really dark eye makeup through the eye-slit; particularly tightlined eyes.

I sought out the tools women there use to create the smoky waterline look and ended up buying these metal containers from a woman on the street; one is filled with a black powder and the other with a red powder. This powder is generally what is referred to as “kohl.”

The thin tool that extends into the pot from the handle is coated in the kohl. It is laid horizontally on the waterline, and then you closes your eye onto the tool. The tool is dragged out of the closed lid, which lines the top and bottom waterline at the same time!

The powder can make a bit of a mess on the face, so I usually just clean up the spillover on my scelera and lacrimal caruncle with a Q-tip. I try to start the line a third of the way in from the corner of my eye to keep my eyes from looking overly close-set, and I like to curl my lashes and apply mascara just to keep my eyes from looking too small.

In the research I was doing for this article, I discovered that it was actually illegal for me to bring these kohl-pots into the country. Not the pots themselves, but the kohl inside. It is made from ground-up lead sulfide. I have put it on in the pictures to show you how it looks, but in general, I’m not keen on shoving lead into my eyes.

Guerlain has a Terracotta Loose Powder Kohl Liner which works exactly like the ones I bought in Saudi Arabia, but sans lead. I rarely have $40 to spend on anything that isn’t rent or groceries, however, so I’ve learned to DIY this sort of thing.

You will want to use a loose eyeshadow--I swear I had a loose “kohl” eyeshadow by Rimmel, but I cannot find it online or in my makeup drawer, so maybe I was hallucinating the thousand times that I used it.

The best tool I’ve found to use for the lining besides the one I bought in Saudi Arabia, is a very thin metal chopstick. That can be rolled around in loose powder, or you can press the powder onto your bottom waterline with a brush, and then blink so some of it transfers to the top.

I, of course, would advise that you clean any tool you put near your eyes as well as possible etc and so forth. I don’t do so because I’m lazy, but I’ve also lined my eyes with lead, and I’m probably going to go blind.

Do you use a different technique? Have you ever learned a beauty trick from another culture?