Middle Eastern Eyeliner: AKA The Reverse Cat Eye

By Jennah Owda

This is not the first time Middle Eastern makeup has become an ongoing trend in the U.S. The smokey eye had us whipped during the early 2010s. The dramatic eye look was tutorialed by every makeup artist on YouTube, including (the one who taught me) Jaclyn Hill. However, the eye-catching smokey look was always paired with the trending cat eyeliner look instead of the traditional Middle Eastern eyeliner look. Ironically, now that the smokey eye is not as popular as it was in the early 2010s, Middle Eastern eyeliner, also known as the reverse cat eye look, has been trending all of 2021.


Like the smokey eyeshadow look, Middle Eastern eyeliner is very dramatic and noticeably darker than the American eyeliner look. This is simply because kohl eyeliner is used. Kohl, a mixture of stones and minerals, originates from ancient Egypt. Although the ancient Egyptians used kohl for cosmetic reasons, kohl was also encouraged to be worn by men and women in Islamic culture due to the belief that kohl is beneficial for one's eyesight and health.


If you are looking to wear traditional kohl, it can be somewhat tricky to apply. First, you want to shake the bottle so that the powder can cover the metal applicator. After you have shaken it and coated the applicator, you’re going to want to place the applicator on your waterline, close your eyes, and then smudge the powder all over your waterline. By closing your eyes, you won't only be coating your bottom waterline but also your top waterline. While you can find kohl eyeliner from places like Sephora and Nordstrom, I strongly encourage you to buy from a Middle Eastern supplier. Not only will you be supporting and appreciating the traditions correctly by doing so, but also because the kohl will be pure stone and minerals rather than an eye pencil with multiple unknown chemicals.


You are probably still wondering what the reverse cat eye look is and how to achieve it. The cat eye look consists of an upward thick winged liner that is popularly seen on celebrities like Ariana Grande. The reversed cat eye look is seen on Lebanese singers, including Nancy Ajram and Fairuz. The reverse cat eye look focuses on the eye’s inner corner and bottom waterline.


To achieve this look:

1. Take your kohl and apply it the traditional way, which will automatically give a smoked out effect.

2. After applying the kohl to your water line, take a smudging brush and bring the eyeliner straight out toward your outer eye. This will give a downward winged look.

3. After smudging it out, taking your kohl pencil, create a point in your inner corner that connects to the liner on your lower lash line.