It’s no wonder that dramatic eyeliner is a timeless trend—its ancient origins date back to the Egyptian New Kingdom period and have been a constant throughout history, ultimately sparking the invention of the cat eye. The cat eye is rapidly growing in popularity, and whether it is your go-to look or is the complete bane of your existence during application time, the cat eye is sure to please.
Ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia
As early as 40000 BC, Egyptian women and men alike favored dark eye pigments not only for beautification but also to protect the eyes and prevent skin damage from the sun and wind. Civilians achieved the dramatic look through the application of Kohl, a mixture of soot and the mineral galena, a naturally occurring mineral form of lead(II) sulfide. Additionally, application was largely inspired by the belief that liners of this type would ward off the evil eye. Notable wearers of the look include Cleopatra
With women having gained the right to vote, a morale boost was observed and women shied away from modest and minimal makeup looks, wearing makeup on a daily basis and even outside of the house. Adopting the smoky appearance that would be commonly associated with the roaring twenties, women began recreating the Egyptian eye: dark, thickly lined eyes became trendy and grey, green and black eyeshadow colors were worn alongside kohl liners.
Cosmetic shortages were a significant hindrance to the makeup industry during WWII, as ingredients used in cosmetics were also being contributed for use in the war effort. Eyeliner and eye makeup were generally worn in moderation in an attempt to conserve wartime resources, but women turned to home remedies to achieve beauty. The focus was less on intricate eye looks and more on accentuating eye shape and lengthening lashes.
Although growing more experimental and showing much more variety during the 60s, the world of makeup was relatively tame. But one feature of the 1960s would define eye makeup long into the future: the cat eye. Largely enabled by the invention of liquid eyeliner, the cat eye was liberally worn night and day, accompanied by long, heavily mascaraed lashes and rich eyeshadows.
Notorious for its bold, vibrant eyeshadows and intense eye looks, the 80s continued its use of black eyeliners, but the cat eye was not among the boldness of this aesthetically brazen period.
With a recent resurgence in the use of liquid eyeliner, nearly everybody seems more partial to the cat eye, including YouTube beauty gurus, A-listers and today’s adolescents. It’s safe to say that the cat eye transcends time and will remain an influential force in makeup for years to come.