Going Viral
TikTok's mascara trend is confusing.

What Is TikTok’s Mascara Trend? The Cryptic Videos, Explained

(It’s not about mascara.)

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TikTok loves a good euphemism — the more confusing, the better (for engagement, at least). Lately, the app has been taken over by a “beauty” trend that’s not what you’d expect. TikTokers are using “mascara” as a code for something much steamier, and yes, it’s tied to their dating and sex lives.

Set to the tune of “Constellations” by Duster, the #MascaraTrend videos divulge details of people’s relationships and romantic history, even if it’s all in code. As one TikToker wrote, “I have a favorite mascara but I don’t want it to be my favorite mascara so I’ve tried moving on to different mascaras but I just can’t get my mind off my favorite mascara it will always be my favorite. (This isn’t about mascara).” Other videos got a little more technical — and NSFW — with the metaphor. “My fav mascara couldn’t keep its wand in its tube,” another TikToker wrote.

Translation time: Mascara means a guy, and wand equals, well, that boy’s “wand.” While most of these videos appear to be gendered, you could obviously use mascara to represent any kind of “equipment.” Some videos skip the human element all together, discussing their favorite vibrators instead. The comparison might seem odd, but that hasn’t stopped it from gaining traction. At the time of publication, the hashtag #MascaraTrend has 18 million views and counting, and there are more than 101,000 posts using the “Constellations” sound.

Some TikTokers used the comparison to explain their sexuality. “I used a lot of mascaras until I realized I just didn’t like mascara,” one explained. Others didn’t understand the trend. As one TikToker put it, “So... about this mascara trend where we talk about our favorite mascara... someone explain it because I am not understanding one single bit.”

Here are some of the most popular #MascaraTrend videos.

So, Why “Mascara”?

TikTok is known for censoring content with specific words, prompting users to speak (and type) in code. This resourceful language, nicknamed “algospeak,” is often used to circumvent the app’s censors. Some of the most common algospeak terms include: corn (porn), ouid (weed), @nal (anal), and le$bean (lesbian).

For the more R-rated videos, or any content that’s likely to get moderated, using the mascara metaphor allows users to post freely without risking censorship. Sometimes, the descriptions get pretty graphic. “My mascara wand is too big for the tube and sometimes I have to put it in on a certain angle and then it starts making noise,” one TikToker wrote. Another user explained, “I tried a curved mascara wand & absolutely love it... the straight ones are okay but can’t compare to a curved one.”

Uncoded, these conversations would never make it past TikTok moderation. But as long as they’re talking about mascara, they can post away.