Probably the most common “makeup item” I saw in India (and on Indians) was kohl (pronounced “coal”), also called kajal (pronounced KAH-djel, according to my relatives).
The “original” kajal is made by burning a ghee (clarified butter) candle and collecting the soot/smoke on the bottom of a silver bowl. I think the bowl could probably be any metal, but I imagine the soot shows up better on silver (plus it’s swanky). This kind of kajal — considered to be the “purest” form — is traditionally put on the eyes of infants. Kajal is thought to be “good for the eyes”, though no one I asked knew exactly how it was good (protecting against disease? Strengthening the eye? Diffusing sunlight?), and my grandfather-in-law the doctor was opposed to the practice of putting it on babies.
Modern kajal is most commonly sold in “chalk” form (it’s a pencil with a very large lead) and as a potted cream. My cousin had not heard of loose powder, applied with a stylus (e.g., HiP or Guerlain loose kohls), and this style was more difficult to find in stores.
The most hilarious detail was that the packaging might carry some kind of admonition: “This product is NOT a cosmetic; it is an ayurvedic medicine.”
In case you find yourself in India, contemplating the purchase of some personal care item, thinking, “ayurvedic toothpaste sounds like it would be good for me,” you should know this: Using the “ayurvedic” descriptor is a business decision more than anything else.Â India taxes (heavily) the manufacture of goods.Â There might be a 50% tax on the manufacturing cost of cosmetics (I think it goes as low as 12% and as high as 100%).
Medicines are not taxed, but there are other restrictions and regulations associated with producing medicine. Ayurvedic medicine, however, is much less regulated (kind of like the supplement industry in the U.S.). An ayurvedic medicine needs to include a list of ingredients — some of which must be natural, like eucalyptus oil — but it’s not necessarily any better for you than its non-ayurvedic counterpart.