We tested 5 different kohl eyeliners under $20 to find out which one produces the sexiest, smudgiest eye.

Kareena Kapoor

The dark, kohl-lined eye is part of our heritage as South Asians. Remember those baby photos of boys and girls with their eyes lined in black kajal or surma? From toddler to Bollywood star, the kohl-lined eye is the makeup of choice for people from the subcontinent.

Kohl or kajal has a history going back centuries and millenia in Africa and Asia. The cosmetic was homemade from derivatives of lead, charcoal or other similar products, and is still made at home in parts of India and Africa. The jury is still out on whether or not the lead-derived or charcoal derived varieties are good for your eyes, but the Indian varieties are rumoured to have Ayurvedic health benefits.


We tested 5 kohl liners on the North American market to find out which one best recreates the traditional, sexy, South Asian kajal-lined eye.

Best kohl eye liner Maybelline review

Maybelline Color Show Kohl Liner: This comes in a range of colours (bronze, emerald, peach, blue, navy, silver), for those who like to experiment. We tried the Sparkle Grey, Chambray Blue (not very flattering on darker brown skin), and Ultra Black. This liner felt like a regular pencil liner, rather than the deep, rich colour we expect from kohl. It’s a nice option if you’re looking for fun colours under $10.

Under $10, available at most drugstores in Canada.

Best kohl eye liner Tarte review

Editor’s Pick: Tarte smolderEYES Amazonian Clay Waterproof Liner: I have this liner in black, brown, and bronze, and I’m trying to get an emerald green but it’s always soldout. This brand is great for people with allergies or sensitive skin and eyes. Create a thick line for a standard Bollywood kohl look, or use the smudger to create a sexy bedroom look. You can also use this kohl to create a smoky eye: colour over your lid and smudge (Tiger’s Eye in bronze looks great on dark skin for a different take on the traditional smoky eye).

$19, available from Tarte and Sephora.

Best kohl eye liner MAC Cosmetics

MAC Cosmetics Technakohl in Auto-de-bleu: A rich navy blue that also looks great on brown skin. This is a mechanical pencil style liner that goes on in a thin line so you’ll need to apply more to get a nice thick line. It can be smudged before setting.

$19, available at MAC Cosmetics shops around the world and at MAC Cosmetics online.

Best Kohl Eyeliner Body Shop

Bodyshop Smoky Black Eye Definer: It’s called kohl but it doesn’t have the deep, dark colour intensity we desire from a kohl liner. It is soft and a draws on nicely, but the colour is not true black. The smudger thing is too hard for a delicate eye area, and instead of smudging, it removes the colour so you need to reapply.

$14, available at international The Body Shop stores and The Body Shop online.

Best kohl eyeliner Rimmel Scandal

Rimmel Scandaleyes Waterproof Kohl Kajal: We tried the classic black, but this liner is available in 11 colours. This affordable drugstore brand is easy to use and smudge, and it gets nice and dark on your waterline. Set with a black powder and your smoky eye will last longer.

Under $10, available at most drugstores in Canada, the USA, and UK. 


Read more South Asian Beauty Reviews from Jugni Style.