Kohl is an ancient eye cosmetic, traditionally made by grinding galena (lead sulfide) and other ingredients. It is widely used in South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa, the Horn of Africa, and parts of West Africa to darken the eyelids and as mascara for the eyelashes. It is used mostly by women, but also some men and children.
Kohl goes by numerous names: Arabic: كحل kuḥl; Fula: pinaari; Hausa: kwalli; Hebrew: כחל; Hindi: काजल kājal; Urdu: کاجل kājal; Kurdish: کل; Malayalam: കൺമഷി kaNmashi / സുറുമ suRuma; Kannada: ಕಾಡಿಗೆ; Tamil: கண் மை Kan Mai; Telugu: కాటుక Katuka; Turkish: sürme; Somali: kuul. It is also known as kol, kehal or kohal in the Arab world, sürme in Turkish, surma or kajal or Gajal in South Asia, and tozali in Nigeria.
Kohl has been worn traditionally since the Protodynastic Period of Egypt (ca. 3100 BC) by Egyptian queens and noble women, who used the sulfide of antimony rather than of lead. The cosmetic palettes used for its preparation assumed a prominent role in late predynastic Egyptian culture. Kohl was originally used as protection against eye ailments. There was also a belief that darkening around the eyes would protect one from the harsh rays of the sun. Kohl has also been used in India as a cosmetic for a long time. In addition, mothers would apply kohl to their infants' eyes soon after birth. Some did this to "strengthen the child's eyes", and others believed it could prevent the child from being cursed by the evil eye.
Kohl's ancient importance survives through its use as the etymological root for the English word alcohol.