How does eye black work? That is the age-old question that has been asked all the way back to the 1930’s when Babe Ruth was first seen sporting that under eye “grease.” Back then players used burnt cork, but since then the product application has evolved and spread from baseball to a variety of other sports like football, softball, and lacrosse.
Enough about history . . . How does eye black work?
Let’s begin with how light works. Light emits from a source, which for our purposes will be the sun. As the light leaves the sun and travels to earth, it begins to reflect off of different objects. All objects depending on their color will reflect specific light frequencies or absorb them. Objects lighter in pigment tend to reflect more light off of their surfaces, while darker objects absorb more light. For example, white objects reflect all of the frequency spectra of light, giving it the white color. Now to the other extreme; the color black is technically the absence of light, meaning that all light is absorbed.
So what does this have to do with eye black? If we take what we just discussed above, we can see how eye black is effective in improving vision. Your skin tends to reflect a reasonable amount of light because it is lighter than the color black. The light is reflected off your skin and some travels into your eye, creating a distracting glare. This type of glare diminishes contrast and makes seeing differentiations in light between the darker and lighter components harder to see. By putting the color black under your eye, you will be reducing the amount of light that reflects off of your skin, and you will increase contrast, giving you better visibility so you can focus on the game, not the glare.