What Is TikTok’s “Mascara” Trend?

One thing about TikTok? It loves a good code word. And chances are you’ve heard the latest one while mindlessly scrolling your FYP: mascara. A bunch of people have been talking about mascara lately…with no one *actually* talking about it, and with no real tubes of it in sight.

The #MascaraTrend is usually set to the sound “Constellations” by Duster and currently has 39.2 million TikTok views. Clearly, it’s a full blown ~thing~, so what the hell is it about then? That would be sex, dating, and relationships. Yep! Truly, so random, but also, it’s not???

If you went down a deep, dark rabbit hole trying to find out what the #MascaraTrend is and came back with absolutely nothing, allow me to reclaim your time. Here’s everything you need to know about the trend.

What does “mascara” mean on TikTok?

The #MascaraTrend is basically a coded way for people to talk about their past and present romantic relationships, how good or bad they were, and, ahem, what the sex was like. For instance, one TikToker posted, “The one mascara I ever really liked ended up damaging my eyelashes really badly so now I’m too scared to try any new mascaras because I can’t take my eyelashes being damaged again.”

While another user (jokingly?) said, “My fav mascara couldn’t keep its wand in its tube,” the trend is also used to talk about being happy in your ‘ship. As one poster put it, “I’ve had my mascara since I was 14. I’m now 24. Only mascara I’ve ever tried but I know there’s nothing like this one anywhere else. I even made a smaller version because I like it so much.” Adorable.

But it can also be for sexualities other than hetero

Obviously, the imagery of a wand alludes to penises, but other users have used the metaphor to talk about why they don’t deal with said wands, which, love that for them.

FYI, if you see a reference to “lip gloss” (in the comments or in videos), that means vaginas. The more you know! Also, important side note: Is this what Lil Mama really meant when she said her lipgloss was poppin??? Telling my group chat that it was.

The videos can also get a little, uh, NSFW

Since users are speaking in code, they can ~go there~ if they really want, celebrating (and sometimes shading!) their exes. Witness:

RIP to the guys who see their GFs say they want a longer mascara because their current one is too short 🫠.

This seems extra. Why don’t people just say what they really mean?

It’s basically so they don’t get censored by the app, and the workaround is actually pretty genius. Using a code word to avoid content moderation isn’t anything new, though—social media apps (and their content policies) have actually caused users to create a whole slew of new language called “algospeak,” reported Taylor Lorenz. You’ve seen it: people using the corn emoji for the word “porn;” “le dollar bean” to write “Le$bian” (since it’s how the voice-to-text reads it); “spicy eggplant” to mean “vibrator,” or “nip nops” for nipples. So essentially, using “mascara” to talk about something the app might consider inappropriate keeps users from having their content moderated by the TikTok Powers At Be. In conclusion, 2023 in: calling a penis “mascara.” Out: just saying dick. Noted!

TBD on who started the trend itself, but v grateful they blessed the FYP with a new lil sexual innuendo!

Associate News Editor

Christen is the associate news editor at Cosmopolitan, where she covers all things around pop culture, celebrity, and things happening in the world. Previously, she was a features reporter at the Chicago Tribune where she specialized in lifestyle and culture topics like health, dating and relationships, parenting, home, race and more. 

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