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Definition: Kohl

Used across the Middle East (where it's called kohl), South Asia (where it's kajal or surma), and West Africa (where it's kwalli), this ubiquitous eyeliner made of soot has been used for thousands of years with little change in its formulation. In fact, the smoky eye is older than the pyramids, and there are recipes for it dating back to the Bronze Age. Traditional kohl preparations still popular in many other countries are banned by the FDA because they're made with lead. (You might see these in specialty stores. Don't buy them; they're illegal.) But there are plenty of lead sulphide-free kohls out there that can give you the sexy eyes of the ancients. Real kohl comes as a loose powder that you moisten before application; Guerlain's Terracotta Loose Kohl Eyeliner ($34) is a nice traditional kohl formulation that's been updated with a little shimmer. L'Oréal's HIP Kohl Eyeliner ($13) is another traditionally packaged kohl, and having used it I have to say that it's a steal.

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