What is the ‘mascara’ trend on TikTok and why has it landed Julia Fox in hot water?

If you’ve been scrolling on TikTok lately, chances are you’ve come across at least one video on your For You Page about mascara. And no, it’s not about the makeup.

While TikTok is a go-to source for beauty tutorials, product reviews, and the newest lifestyle trend (cough, clean girl aesthetic, cough), the app’s latest “mascara trend” isn’t about mascara at all.

The #mascaratrend, which has garnered millions of views on the app, is a cryptic way for users to discuss their relationships, breakups, and sexual experiences in code. But with new trends popping up everyday, it’s hard to keep track of internet language, and it can become increasingly difficult to decipher what these words actually mean.

That’s why we’ve broken down the meaning behind TikTok’s newest mascara trend, and why its landed some people who may not be familiar with the lingo in some controversy.

What does “mascara” mean on TikTok?

The #mascaratrend is a coded way for people on TikTok to talk about their past and present romantic relationships. Some have even used the word “mascara” to describe their sexual experiences, without the risk of being censored by the app.

For example, TikTok user @emmthevirgo posted a video about her partner, saying, “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."

Or @professionalmeateater, who described being heartbroken by a boy using the mascara trend: “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.”

Although “mascara” refers to someone’s partner, others have also used the imagery of a “mascara wand” as code for, well, you get the picture. Set to the TikTok audio “Constellations by duster,” user @shitneywhitney shared some helpful advice about “mascara wands” using this trend: “Don’t let your first mascara wand ruin makeup for you.”

Of course, some people have taken the mascara trend to the next level by sharing their most NSFW stories, like how they dumped their old mascara because the wand was too short.

The mascara trend isn’t just limited to heterosexual relationships, either. Some people have joined in on the trend by referring to women as “lip gloss,” like @anniebeller who said: “I never really used mascara, I’m more of a lip gloss person.”

Others have used the mascara trend as a safe space to share their stories of sexual assault

While the “mascara trend” has allowed people to open up about their sexual experience, some people have also used the trend to open up about their experiences of sexual assault.

For instance, TikTok user @charlottesortveit used the code word when she said: “I was forced to try my first mascara when I was 15. My body got severely hurt both outside and inside from this kind. I still have issues to this day with new ones, both physically and mentally.”

Another person shared how three of their friends gave her “mascara at the same time” when she was 14 years old. “I didn’t want any mascara but they wouldn’t let me leave without it and said I better not tell anybody,” she posted. “This isn’t about mascara.”

Why do people use code words on TikTok?

According to TikTok’s Community Guidelines, all sexually explicit content and language is prohibited from the app, and can result in videos getting removed. This means that users have found ways to share videos about more adult themes without being censored.

These code words have been dubbed as “algospeak” by The Washington Post reporter Taylor Lorenz, which refers to “code words or turns of phrase users have adopted in an effort to create a brand-safe lexicon that will avoid getting their posts removed or down-ranked by content moderation systems”.

These words can include “unalive” instead of “dead,” “SA” rather than “sexual assault,” or “spicy eggplant” instead of “vibrator.”

TikTok has since developed something of its own language, but not everyone is up to date on its dictionary.

Why has Julia Fox faced backlash for the mascara trend?

Uncut Gems star Julia Fox recently came under fire on the app when she replied to a user who described someone using his “mascara” without consent.

Earlier this week, TikToker Conor Whipple used the mascara trend to describe his own experience with sexual assault, saying: “I gave this one girl mascara one time and it must’ve been so good that she decided that her and her friend should both try it without my consent.”

Things took a turn when Fox commented under his video, saying, “Idk why but I don’t feel bad for u lol”.

Many users quickly criticised Fox for the “out of touch” comment, while others came to her defense and explained that Fox may not know about the mascara trend.

“I was also very confused. I feel like she had no clue,” said one person.

‘I also didn’t understand when I first read it (though it took me a whole 30 seconds to realise),” said someone else.

Julia Fox later confirmed in a TikTok comment that she was unaware of the mascara trend or of what Whipple was referring to in his video.

“Hey babe I’m so sorry I really thought u were talking about mascara like as in make up. I’m sorry that happened to u,” she replied to his video on Friday.

In a separate comment, Fox added: “I wasn’t on the side of TikTok that was doing this trend and I thought u were talking about getting ur make up stolen!!!! I’m sorry babe I hope ur ok.”