Forget Regular Tattoos—I'm Saving Up for Permanent Eyeliner

Brooke Shunatona
Photo credit: Instagram/@eyebrowdoctor

From Cosmopolitan

If you've ever felt the high of nailing the perfect eyeliner application, you've also felt the soul-crushing low that comes with removing it at night, only to attempt the impossible all over again the next day. The solution? Permanent eyeliner. No, I don't mean drawing your cat eye with a Sharpie marker à la Taylor Swift. I'm talking about the permanent makeup technique that replaces your everyday liner with tattooed eyeliner. Yup.

In short, a lash-enhancement tattoo is a semi-permanent treatment that places pigment along your top or bottom lash lines (not your waterline). "The tattoo itself can be super thick or as thin as your own natural lashes, and it doesn't have a flick or extended tip," says Piret Aava, an aesthetician and cosmetic tattoo specialist at Eyebrow Doctor in Los Angeles. "It's just to fill in the lashes to create the illusion of thicker, darker, and completely fuller lashes without looking lined or like obvious makeup."

In other words, whether you want a full-on flick, prefer a more diffused eyeshadow effect, or just want to enhance your lashes by filling in the gaps along your lash line (Aava's preferred technique), an eyeliner tattoo might be the answer to your prayers. But how safe is it? I took all my questions to Aava and board-certified dermatologist Julie Russak, MD. If your waterproof eyeliner just isn't cutting it for you anymore, read on to find out what the experts have to say about the more permanent option.

How long do eyeliner tattoos last?

Although it's called permanent eyeliner, eyeliner tattoos are actually semi-permanent, which means if you want it to last forever, you'll have to get it touched up as it fades. According to Dr. Russak, you can expect your semi-permanent eyeliner to hold out for a year or two, but in some cases, Aava says it could maybe even last up to five years.

How much does permanent eyeliner cost?

Like any other treatment or procedure, the price is based on a number of factors (like your geographical location and what exactly you're having done), but Aava says, typically, eyeliner tattoos can cost anywhere from $500 to $1500. I'll save you the trouble of figuring out the math—you probably aren't spending $500 on liquid liner in a three-year period. So the real question here is whether or not avoiding the stress of applying eyeliner and the time spent fixing your mistakes is worth 500 bucks to you.

Do eyeliner tattoos hurt?

I mean, pain is subjective, right? But the process does involve a tattoo machine pushing ink into your delicate eyelid skin, so it's not going to feel like nothing. That said, most places use a topical numbing cream to keep you comfortable during the process, and you can also call ahead to ask about the typical pain level of costumers.

Is it safe to get permanent eyeliner?

There's a lot of room for error when talking about semi-permanent tattoos and the eye area. But both Dr. Russak and Aava say when done properly at a reputable place by a professional or certified aesthetician, permanent eyeliner can be safe. Translation: Don't walk in to just any place without having done your research beforehand. Pay a visit to the location, talk to past clients—anything to ensure the establishment is clean and professional.

And the same goes for taking the proper precautions before your appointment—do your research and come prepared. "Even though eyeliner tattoos or semi-permanent makeup are not as deep as regular tattoos, they still involve a needle piercing the skin, so the same precautions should be taken as with any other similar procedure," Dr. Russak explains. "Avoid blood thinners, including red wine, Aspirin, Advil, and Aleve, beforehand to prevent bleeding and bruising, and make sure you haven't taken Accutane within six months of getting tattooed, because it can affect your healing process."

Do eyes swell after permanent eyeliner?

The skin in the eye area is very thin and swells up with pretty much any manipulation (I mean, I get puffy eye bags from a strong gust of wind), so it's safe to assume that permanent eyeliner can cause swelling initially, but Aava says the puffiness from an eyeliner tattoo should subside within 72 hours after application. To take down some of the swelling, Dr. Russak recommends applying a warm teabag or warm compress to the area.

What are the side effects of permanent eyeliner?

But swelling isn't the only common side effect of eyeliner tattoos. Bleeding and bruising or a burning or itching sensation around the injection site may also occur, but Aava notes that if any of these last longer than a few days, you should consult your physician. Dr. Russak adds that other possible side effects include an allergic reaction to the dye (talk to your dermatologist about this possibility beforehand) or an infection in the area.

Does permanent eyeliner make your eyelashes fall out?

Oh, the irony of a lash enhancement tattoo causing eyelash loss! Dr. Russak says if you experience inflammation or infection from your eyelash tattoo, it can, in fact, lead to hair loss in that area. No good. To avoid all that, find a reputable tattoo artist and be thorough in your treatment aftercare, which leads us to…

How do you take care of permanent eyeliner?

Assuming you went to a reputable location and certified aesthetician (which you did, because YOU KNOW BETTER), you can avoid an infection or discoloration if you follow the aftercare instructions. First up, Aava says to avoid water and contacts entirely for the first 48 hours. If any crusties start forming (yum), don't pick, scratch, peel, or even think about touching them. Let your body do its own thing while it heals to prevent causing any discoloration or loss of pigment.

And to make your new semi-permanent lash liner last the longest it possibly can, Dr. Russak recommends keeping your hands away from your eyes (no rubbing), avoiding astringents, using gentle eye makeup remover, and wearing sunglasses to prevent the UV rays from breaking down the pigment. But, uh, all of these are things you should be doing anyway.

How long does it take for permanent eyeliner to heal?

It could take three to four weeks for the area to totally heal, at which point you may want a few touch-ups, depending on how the pigment looks.

How long after permanent eyeliner can you wear makeup?

The whole point of dropping $1,000 on permanent eyeliner is so that you don't have to wear makeup, so it shouldn't be that off-putting to hear that you can't wear makeup on or anywhere near your eyeliner tattoos until it's totally healed. And once you do start wearing it again, Aava says to go ahead and replace your mascara and other eye products that are full of bacteria beforehand to avoid accidentally infecting the area if it isn't fully healed yet.

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