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Is kajal (black pencil) good for eyes?

  • Posted on- Dec 18, 2015
  • 721 Views

Kajal and Surma are traditional Indian ingredients to make up those beautiful eyes. Originally, “kajal” did not start as a makeup but as a home remedy medication. Zinc, copper sulphate and many medicinal herbs were important ingredients which had definite action on eye infections. In olden days, trachoma, conjunctivitis, corneal ulcer and other blinding infections were very common. Medical aid and medicines were not easily available or were mostly out of reach. In that scenario, kajal had relevance and played the role of protecting the eyes as our great grandmothers propagated.

The constituents of kajal were selected empirically. The methods of preparing kajal were crude and there was no way to define the concentration of each constituent and its actual effect on the eye.

Today, with the availability of good drugs in precise concentration and well researched effects on the eyes and the disease that they are meant for, “kajal” loses its relevance and role. Off late, there have been a lot of adverse reports on use of kajal. Commercially made kajal is thought to have a very high lead content which is harmful for the eyes. The lead may cause eye infections and allergies. People suffering from sinusitis find that their condition worsens when kajal is used. This is because the kajal passes into the narrow opening between the eyes and nose and worsen a sinus infection.

The lead content in kajal accumulates in the body, causing complications like anaemia and developmental disabilities. The container in which kajal is stored may be prone to infections if not properly sterilised and may cause serious eye infections. Homemade kajal is often applied with a fingertip, which is another source of infection. Hence, most paediatricians today strongly advise against using kajal for infants. However, kajal continues to be used widely by females as a beauty enhancer.

Kajal can have adverse effects on the eyes. Some of them are listed below:

  • Conjunctivitis - chemical, toxic & infective
  • Allergy
  • Toxicity/Chemical Reaction
  • Meibomitis
  • Stye & Hordeolum - infections of the glands of the eye lids
  • Corneal ulcer - which can potentially lead to blindness
  • Uveitis - certain chemicals in kajal can incite inflammation inside the eye
  • Glaucoma - some constituents can increase eye pressure leading to glaucoma
  • Dry Eye - regular use of kajal can be associated with scarring of tear/lacrimal glands causing dry eye syndrome
  • Conjunctival discolouration

The marvel of modern production techniques has ensured that kajal is now manufactured commercially in controlled, hygienic conditions and packaged in easy to apply tubes, so there is minimal chance of infection. However, it is still advisable to altogether avoid use of kajal or any makeup that goes inside the eye. The makeup that remains outside, e.g. eye-liner, eye-shadow, mascara, etc. are alright to be used but should be meticulously removed at the end of the day. During the period of any eye infection, injury, surgery, etc. no kajal should be used. Eyes are precious and very beautiful even without kajal we should take good care of them!

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