Traditional grease consists of beeswax, paraffin, and carbon. Anti-glare face stripes that emulate the grease are also commonly used. One of the earliest known instances of a player wearing eye black is baseball legend Babe Ruth, who, in or around the 1930s, used the grease in an attempt to reduce sun glare. According to Paul Lukas of ESPN.com, eye black caught on with football player Andy Farkas. He also states that the original eye black was made from burned cork ashes.
A 2003 study by Brian DeBroff and Patricia Pahk tested whether black eye grease actually had anti-glare properties. The subjects of the study were divided into three groups: wearers of eye black, wearers of anti-glare stickers, and wearers of petroleum jelly. The subjects' vision was tested using an eye chart while being exposed to natural sunlight. The study concluded that eye black reduced glare of the sun and improved contrast sensitivity, whereas commercial anti-glare stickers and petroleum jelly (the control substance) were found to be ineffective. A further study which set to improve DeBroff's methodology also found eye black to reduce glare from the sun, but less so in blue-eyed individuals and males.
Some athletes, particularly at the college level, began a practice of placing short messages or Bible verse references on their eye black. On April 14, 2010, the NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel (PROP) approved a proposal effecting "that players are not allowed to have any symbols or messages on their eye black starting in the 2010 season.
Most modern NFL & NCAA players just use it as war-paint.
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