Why Do Athletes Wear Eye Black?

Why Do Athletes Wear Eye Black

You may notice black paint or black stickers under an athletes’ eyes during sports games. Most commonly football players, MLB, softball, and lacrosse players rock this eye black look for matches. While the black under the eyes looks cool, you may be surprised that there is a functional reason to use this for games according to players. So does eye black work, or is a gimmick? Here is the breakdown of why football players wear eye black and more!


What Is the Eye Black Under the Eyes?

The eye black under an athlete’s eye is typically grease, strip, or a sticker. The eye black is most common among athletes, but the eye black sticker is popular as well. You will usually find MLB, football players, lacrosse, and softball players wear this under their eyes for games, so what exactly is this?


What is Eye Black Made Of?

Over the years, amateur and professional athletes have made eye black out of numerous materials. Some materials for eye black include burnt cork and shoe polish. Today, you can find most eye black grease made from beeswax, paraffin, and charcoal powder. The antiglare stickers and strips are made from a fabric with a matte finish.


When Did Players Begin Using Eye Black?

The earliest known instance of a professional player using eye black came in the 1930s with Babe Ruth. Babe Ruth began using the eye black during games to reduce the sun’s glare during day games. A few years later, Andy Farkas, a football player of the Washington Redskins began using eye lack during games a well. As the years went by, you would see more and more players use eye black during games.


Why Do Football Players Wear Black Under their Eyes?

Football players and other athletes wear eye black to improve their vision during a game. The concept is that eye black grease can absorb bright lights and sun glare away from their cheekbone and eye, which makes seeing the ball easier. Many players wear eye black even during night games to absorb the stadium lights from temporarily blinding them when trying to catch the ball. Wearing the eye black is most common for outfielders who need to track a ball during day and night games.


Another reason why NFL American Football players and other athletes wear eye black stickers is for the look. Some players like to use antiglare stickers to create a war paint look on their faces. Other players want to use eye black to promote bible verses, tributes, logos, and more. Whatever the reasons for using the grease, many players see this as part of their personality when competing.


Professional Athletes Who Use Eye Black

There are many past and present high-profile NFL players that use eye black during games. Some football players who use eye black include Tom Brady, Cam Newton, Mark Sanchez, Rey Lewis, and Tim Tebow. You will find Aaron Judge, Mookie Betts, Bruce Harper, Dustin Pedroia, and Manny Machado for baseball players using eye black as well.


What Sports Don’t Wear Eye Black?

While football players and baseball players regularly wear eye black during matches, some sports don’t allow the use of eye black. Some sports that don’t enable eye black during games include Rugby, Soccer, or Cricket matches. In addition to those sports, you won’t find swimmers to use eye black because it will dissolve.


What is the Best Eye Black?

There are many eye black and strips on the market to consider. Here are some of the most famous brands below that amateurs and professional athletes use.


  • Franklin Sports Eye Black
  • Warriorblack Single Stick Eyeblack
  • EyeBlack Black Grease Seal
  • Franklin Sports Football Eye Black Stick
  • Wilson Black Make
  • Elite Choice Sports Paint Eye Black
  • Glare Gone Sports Anti-Glare Skin Care Stick


Is Eye Black Safe to Use?

Yes, using eye black and black stripes to improve contrast sensitivity is perfectly safe. Dermatologists recommend washing your face immediately after the game to keep your pores as clean as possible. If you keep the eye black on too long under your eyes, you may develop a slight rash or acne.


Does Eye Black Work: Does it Actually Do Anything?

There have been many studies measuring the effectiveness of using eye black to block out the sun’s glare. One test back in 2003 from Dr. Brian M. DeBroff and Pahk had participants use eye black, antiglare stickers, and petroleum jelly to reduce the glare. While results favored eye black in reducing the glare, there was some inconsistent data that made the experiment inconclusive.


Another experiment in 2005 took place at the University of New Hampshire to measure eye black effectiveness. Benjamin R. Powers found that the data was not statistically significant in using eye black to reduce glare. You can learn more about the entire study of the experiment in this PDF link.


Finally, Mythbusters ran an experiment seeing if eye black is valid or not to reduce the sun’s glare for athletes. The verdict of the research has that eye black does not minimize glare, but it does improve seeing the difference between light and dark. That means that you can potentially track objects better in a sunny environment by using eye black.



There are many reasons why athletes choose to wear eye black or MLB stickers during a game. Some wear the black stripes for glare reduction, while others wear it for intimidation purposes. Other athletes will use the black lines under eyes for both reasons, so it comes down to choice. Whatever the real goal is to wear the black under your eyes, you can expect to find many athletes rocking this look during football, baseball, and lacrosse games.


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