What are the Benefits of Wearing Eye Black?

There are various items and accessories that are worn or utilized by athletes in different sports to enhance their skills or help them focus, but one of the most polarizing sporting accessories that have been a topic of numerous debates is the eye black.

The eye black is a strip of black paint or sticker that is placed under the eyes or on the cheeks. This peculiar black strip has been on the face of legendary baseball player Babe Ruth, as well as some of the most renowned NFL (National Football League) players today. What are the benefits of wearing eye black? And is it really effective? We will find out as we get some details in regards to this weird yet popular sports accessory.

Where Did the Eye Black Come From?

It is widely believed that the first athlete to sport the eye black was Babe Ruth, who started painting black strips underneath his eye in 1930. Ruth began using eye black in order to reduce sun glare, which is common for all baseball players to experience since they are playing in an open field. As Babe Ruth was one of the most popular baseball players during the 1930s, many fans and players started applying eye black on their faces as well.

While the eye black has been prominent in baseball throughout the 1930s, the trend of wearing it in American football, where it became more common among players in today’s era, only started when fullback Andrew Geza Farkas wore it as far back as 1942, thus making him the first American football player to sport the eye black. According to Farkas, the eye black that he wore during games was made from the ashes of burned cork instead of paint.

Benefits of Wearing Eye Black

player with eye black catching a baseball

Many athletes have given several explanations as to why they find eye black advantageous in playing at their best potential. However, further concrete studies are needed in order to validate the claims of the players that eye black enhances the way they play their respective sports. Even though there is a lack of evidence that supports the claim that eye black is beneficial or effective, more and more players in various sports are still wearing it. According to those players, here are the benefits of wearing eye black.

Reduces Sun Glare

One of the most well-known reasons why players wear eye black, and also the reason why it was invented, was to reduce the sun glare that would often occur when the skin or sweat from the cheeks reflects the sunlight towards the eyes. In science, it is known that the color black absorbs all light, so it wouldn’t reflect any color or sunlight. As such, painting your cheeks or the skin below your eye with black paint or chalk will reduce the amount of glare that your eye receives from the rays of the sun.

Have Better Vision

Since the eye black can reduce sun glare, the players that wear it will have a better vision that will allow them to have an easier time spotting balls, teammates, opponents, and the entire field or arena. Vision is arguably one of the most crucial senses used in sports, so having a clearer view of everything will enhance your experience in playing your preferred sport.

Have Better Focus

It is regarded by many players that eye black can help you have a better focus on what’s in front of you, as the black paint obscures what you would usually see at the lower section of your vision. While the eye black does give you a little bit of “tunnel vision,” it will force you to focus on the center of your vision, which may be helpful for some players that have trouble focusing on the ball or the opponent.

How Do You Apply Eye Black?

There are two easy ways to apply eye black. The first method is by applying it using a stick, and many brands are selling “eye black sticks” in sporting goods stores online or near you. The second method is by applying a black sticker on your cheeks, which is a better choice if you don’t want to wash off black paint on your face since stickers can be taken off easily. Here are step-by-step guides to know more about how to apply eye black using the two mentioned methods.

Applying Eye Black Using a Stick

  • Remove the cap of the eye black stick
  • Rotate the other end of the stick in order for the block of black paint to protrude more.
  • Start applying the paint to one cheekbone and paint a black horizontal strip towards your nose
  • Apply paint to the other cheekbone
  • To increase the hue of the paint, apply it several times on your cheekbones
  • To remove it, apply alcohol to a cotton ball or tissue wipe and start cleaning the paint off

Applying Eye Black Using Stickers

  • Take two eye black stickers out of the packaging.
  • Peel out the sheet at the other side of the sticker to reveal the adhesive.
  • Stick the eye black stickers horizontally right above your cheekbones and half an inch below your eyes
  • Make sure that the stickers are equal in height or position
  • To remove the stickers, you can just easily peel them off after use

Is the Eye Black Really Effective?

toy figure of Tom Brady wearing eye black paint

According to several studies, the eye black actually has anti-glare properties, particularly the ones that are made of grease or paint. A 2003 study conducted by Brian M. DeBroff and Patricia J. Pahk concluded through a test that involves three groups that eye black paint does help in reducing glare from the sun. 

Aside from the said study, many researchers have also found out that eye black paint is beneficial for having better vision on the field or arena. However, the number of studies focused on proving the effectiveness of eye black is still quite low, so its effectiveness cannot be called a “fact” when it is still being theorized. Nonetheless, the lack of studies in regards to the eye black did not decrease its popularity over the years, as many more players are still applying or using eye black.