Babies & Toddlers

Kajal for babies : Safety and concerns

Applying kajal (kohl, surma ) to a baby’s eyes and eyebrows is a traditional practice in many parts of India and has been in practice since generations. It is usually applied in the lower waterline of the baby’s eyes and on the eyebrows. It has been in use in various Asian cultures. Often, elders in the family advise new parents to apply it, saying that it would help make the eyes bigger, brighter and attractive, improves eyesight, ward off evil eyes and makes eyebrows thicker. I was also told the same by some, when I had my little bundle of joy. However, I wondered how safe it could be for the baby’s adorable little eyes. Luckily, I managed to pacify the elders in my family, who insisted on it’s usage in the eye, by making them understand that the baby’s paediatrician was not happy about applying it in the eyes.

I really know how sceptical it could be for first time mothers to come to a decision – with some well-meaning friends and/or relatives being very particular about putting kajal in baby eyes, while experts guiding you not to. Well, we have to consider the pros and cons and choose what’s the best for our baby.

Why is applying kajal considered good by many Indian families?

  • It’s said that the application of kajal makes the eyes bigger and longer, but there is no research based evidence to prove this yet. Of course, the eyes sometimes seem to look bigger when kajal is being applied, but we can’t really alter the natural size of the eyes.
  • Kajal is said to improve eyesight – There is yet no proof to support this. Perhaps, most experts say that foreign substances can pose some threat to the eyes.
  • It is believed that kajal helps soothe baby’s eye and keep it cool – Again there is no research based evidence available. Experts say that it does’nt soothe the eyes, but can result in watery and itchy eyes instead.
  • Kajal wards off evil eye and protects the baby – This is considered a myth by many. It is related to one’s beliefs and can vary from person to person. There is no logical analysis or explanation available for this.
  • Kajal helps the baby sleep better – there is no scientific evidence available.

Why is kajal not recommended by many?

We can see that most medical experts and health care organisations does not recommend the application of kajal in baby eyes [1], [2] due to the following reasons :

  • Kajal can lead to eye irritation, itchiness, watery eyes and other allergies in our baby.
  • During baby’s bath time, kajal can combine with water and block the narrow opening between the baby’s eyes and nose, thus leading to infections later on.
  • Kajal is a foreign substance and any foreign substance can be detrimental to the eye, which is one of the most delicate parts of the human body.
  • There are probabilities that the germs in our fingers or the applicator could transfer infections to the baby. The cornea ( the central part of the eye ) is extremely sensitive to dirt.
  • Many commercially available kajals have large quantities of lead in them, which can have adverse effects on the baby. Prolonged use can lead to high amounts of lead being deposited into the body, which can in turn affect many organs [1]. Some brands claim that their products are completely lead free or 100% natural, but how can we ascertain ourselves?
  • Even though many parents support the safety of almond kajal or home made kajal, there is no scientific study to affirm this. We should understand that even home made kajal contains carbon in it which is not considered safe for the delicate eyes.
  • There is a lack of research based evidence available to prove the prevailing beliefs. Moreover researches in the past few years point out that kajal is not safe and hence experts recommend against it’s use on the eyes.

What can be the alternative if elders in the family insists on the use of kajal?

We can try to make them understand that it is unsafe and there is always a risk factor involved and that the baby’s doctor is against the use of kajal in the eyes. In order to appease them, the best and safest option may be to put a dot of kajal on the baby’s forehead, cheek, behind the years or under the foot. This would help conciliate them by not risking our little ones.

Photo by Subham Majumder on

However, we should always ensure to completely clean off the kajal with a damp cloth before bathing the baby, so that it does not get washed off during bath and enter the baby’s eyes or nose and thereby blocking it.

Bottom line

As per expert guide lines, it is best to avoid the usage of kajal in the eyes – be it home made or store bought. For ceremonial or customary reasons, if one wish to use it, it’s best to apply it anywhere other than the eye, thereby not risking our cute little ones. I’m definite that no parent will ever want to take even the slightest risk, when it comes to their loved ones. Do we? NO…. NOT AT ALL!

I’ve heard and experienced instances where mothers don’t want to use kajal in their baby’s eyes, but are worried because many elders compel them to do so. We have to always consider the best option for our baby. Please feel free to share your views and feedback below. I would love to hear from you!

References :

  1. Kohl, Kajal, Al-Kahal, Surma, Tiro, Tozali, or Kwalli: By Any Name, Beware of Lead Poisoning
  2. Kajal (Kohl) – A dangerous cosmetic, Anup Mohta

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