Since becoming mainstream in the West in the 20th century, many eyeliner styles have been introduced to customers worldwide. Over the years, makeup artists continue to perfect their skills and integrate technology to give customers their desired look.1
Today, beauty enthusiasts can give their lash lines a permanent look in just a few hours.
In this article, we will discuss permanent eyeliners, including:
- The different styles of permanent eyeliners
- The tattooing process
- Potential side effects and risks
- Cost and lifespan of permanent eyeliners
- Alternatives to permanent eyeliners
What Is a Permanent Eyeliner?
A permanent eyeliner (eyeliner tattoo) is a cosmetic makeup procedure involving depositing pigment (color) along the lash line to enhance the appearance of eyelashes. It lasts longer than a regular soft pencil eyeliner.
Eyeliner tattoos are done similarly to skin tattoos. However, the ink used is not deposited as deep in the skin as with skin tattoos. This makes them significantly safer than eyeball tattoos, which have been associated with blindness.2
Beauty specialists recommend eyeliner tattoos because they effectively replace your daily traditional makeup while maintaining the same fresh look for a long time.
Permanent eyeliners take a while to wear off, with most lasting months, even years. For this reason, some prefer to call it “semi-permanent eyeliner.”
How Does the Tattooing Process Work?
The process takes 2-3 hours or less, depending on style complexity. For example, a traditional look will take less time than a wing or cat eye.
Below is a step-by-step explanation of the tattooing process:
- Your makeup artist will begin the procedure once you’ve settled on a style and ink color.
- The area is cleaned using an antibacterial to prevent the risk of infection.
- A topical anesthetic agent is applied to reduce discomfort during the tattooing process.
- Microdroplets of ink are applied on your lash line using a special pen or tattooing machine with small gauge needles.
- Needles are moved back and forth over small sections to fix the pigment.
- Finally, a coat of eye ointment is applied to the area to facilitate healing.
Sometimes, the procedure may be done in phases. You may have to attend several touch-up sessions to monitor the color absorption.
What Are the Different Styles of Permanent Eyeliners?
Permanent eyeliners come in different styles. While artists may refer to eyeliner techniques using different names, the commonly requested styles include:
This is the simplest and most basic style and does not feature a prominent wing. Using the tattooing pen, the artist draws a line from the first lash in the inner corner of your eye to the last lash in the outer corner.
If you prefer your lower lash line done as well, the tattoo artist will ensure the two don’t join at the corner to avoid making the eyes appear smaller.
The winged eyeliner is the most popular style for creating a classic look. It features a thin line along the upper lash line, which extends past the outer corner of the eye to create a wing. The “wing” is the curved pointy flick extending beyond the eye’s outer corner, making your eye appear bigger and doe-like.
You can choose between several variations, e.g., thick-winged, double-winged, reverse-winged, etc. Keep in mind that winged eyeliners are not ideal for hooded eyes.
Dusty Shadow/Smokey Eyeliner
The dusty shadow permanent eyeliner is for those who like a bold look. It can also create a customized soft and natural look. This style typically uses brown and purple tones for shading.
The dusty or smoky look is applied by adding a lighter shade above the darker eyelash line. This style often comes with a wing (dusty wing eyeliner).
Lash Line Enhancement
Lash line enhancement is the most sought-after style because of its compatibility with all eye and skin types. This procedure involves drawing a thin lash line that blends into the eyelashes, giving an illusion of thicker and darker eyelashes.
Lash line enhancement style can also be achieved using the dotting technique. The technique involves injecting a dot at the base of each lash. This style suits those who don’t want to appear too flashy.
Is Getting a Permanent Eyeliner Worth It?
Getting a permanent eyeliner is worth it for the following reasons:
- It saves time spent applying your daily eyeliner
- It saves you money long-term from having your eyeliner done several times a year
- It’s a good alternative for people allergic to traditional eyeliners and those with physical limitations that make it difficult to apply the eyeliner accurately
- It benefits those with conditions like sparse lashes or alopecia areata (AA)
However, permanent eyeliners also have some downsides:
- Prone to fading and smudging, which reduces their bold and dramatic appearance over time
- Prone to infection
- More painful to apply than traditional eyeliners
- Not ideal if you prefer changing styles often
Permanent eyeliners work best if you have large open eyes with no wrinkles or folds in the eye area. Otherwise, wrinkles may make the eyeliner look crooked. Eyeliner tattoos are also not suitable for hooded eyes.
Talk to your specialist about your desired style and preferences so they can help you achieve the customized look that’s worth your budget.
How Long Do Eyeliner Tattoos Last?
Most permanent eyeliner tattoos last about 1-3 years or more. The color will gradually fade due to skin cell regeneration and enzymatic breakdown of the ink. Here are other things that affect how long permanent eyeliner lasts:
- Ink quality. Low-quality ink will fade faster
- Skin type. Ink lasts longer on thinner skin (thicker skin fades faster)
- Age. Aging skin is drier, making it more susceptible to tattoo fading3
- Skincare routines. Poor skincare quickens ink fading
- Certain skincare products. Products containing Retin A or glycolic acid make tattoos fade faster
- Body chemistry. e.g., excessive sweating. Sweat exposure reduces ink retention
- Lifestyle. e.g., smoking or frequent sun exposure affects skin health
Most beauty specialists recommend a touch-up every 12 months to keep your permanent eyeliner tattoo looking fresh.
However, some people prefer over-time fading, especially since it’s possible to get tired of one style and want to try out another.
How Much Do Permanent Eyeliner Tattoos Cost?
The cost of permanent eyeliners depends on your specialist’s skill and location, desired style, and the post-care services you receive. On average, expect to pay about $400 to $1,000 or more for both eyes.
Generally, a thin line is less expensive than a thicker one. Similarly, a complex style, like the “double wing,” may cost more than a classic one-winged eyeliner.
Besides the tattooing session, you may need to pay hundreds of dollars for additional touch-ups and other aftercare procedures. These can cost from $200 up to $700.
Although the cost of permanent eyeliner may seem high, it’s a cheaper option since the long-term cost of multiple daily makeup sessions at the parlor and buying eyeliner kits is much higher.
Consult your beauty specialist about specific costs you could expect based on your needs. Some artists may have payment plans that will work for you.
What to Expect During Your Permanent Eyeliner Appointment
Knowing what to expect will help eliminate any anxiety about the procedure. Clients who know more about the tattooing process are often happier with the results.
After booking your eyeliner tattoo appointment, here is what you should expect before, during, and after your tattooing session:
Preparing for the Appointment
Preparing for your permanent eyeliner tattoo process is essential to ensure safety and overall success. Do the following in preparation:
- Stop using any lash treatments for about two weeks before your appointment.
- Remove any eyelash extensions two days before your scheduled appointment—you can put them back on two weeks after the procedure.
- Stop using blood thinning medications, such as aspirin, at least 3 days before your appointment. Consult your doctor if you take prescription blood thinners.
- Avoid coffee or any caffeinated beverage on the day of your appointment so you can relax and avoid twitching.
During the Session
Once you arrive for your appointment, you and your makeup artist will discuss your desired look and any potential concerns. Feel free to bring visual examples to present as references.
During this time, you can also test pigments and products on your skin to check for allergic reactions.
Once you have agreed on the style and color, the specialist will disinfect the skin around your eye while you sit facing up. They will then apply a numbing cream on your eyelids before drawing the desired eyeliners.
After the procedure, they will apply an ointment to prevent infection and promote healing together with topical anesthesia to prevent pain. You’ll also be provided with an aftercare plan.4
It’s normal to notice the color fading naturally within 2 to 3 weeks since your last session. Getting tattoo eyeliners causes minimal downtime, so you should be able to resume normal activities immediately. You can do the following to ensure successful healing:
- Apply the medication ointment provided to you 3 to 5 times daily for at least 1 week.
- If skin feels sensitive or dry around your lash lines, apply moisturizing ointment, such as Vaseline, to keep the area hydrated and prevent irritation.
- Keep the area clean, but do not wash with soap (splash warm water around the eyes instead).
Tattoo Recovery Tips
To speed up your tattoo’s recovery, avoid the following:
- Wearing contact lenses (avoid wearing them for about 48 hours)
- Using saline eye drops
- Rubbing your eyes (which may result in bacteria being introduced to the area)
- Entering dusty areas that may have bacteria present
- Wearing face makeup, e.g., mascara (you can wear makeup after 5-10 days)
- Wearing eyelash extensions (avoid for about 2 weeks)
- Using eyelash curlers (avoid for about 2 weeks)
- Using certain skin care products that cause fading, e.g., those with glycolic acid, salicylic acid, retinol/retin-A, etc.
- Direct sun exposure
- Doing activities that cause sweating on the face
- Drinking excessive alcohol (causes slow healing)
- Swimming in pools, saunas, etc.
Following all the care routines listed above and consulting your artist as necessary, your permanent eyeliners should fully heal within 3 to 6 weeks.
Are There Potential Side Effects or Risks with Permanent Eyeliners?
Like any procedure, there are drawbacks associated with permanent eyeliners. Below are some common risks to note:
- Infections. These may include bacterial or viral infections such as HIV if your specialist uses contaminated needles/pens. Bacterial infections may occur due to unsanitary conditions.
- Eye complications. These may include eyelash loss, eyelid injury, or ectropion (eyelid turned outwards), especially if you hire an unqualified specialist.
- Scar tissue formation (keloids). This may result from trauma caused by the needles used.
- Nodule around eyes. Eyelids form nodules around the tattoo ink as an immune response against foreign material.
- Allergic reactions. Some people are allergic to elements such as iron oxide, cobalt aluminate, aminoazobenzene, and others used in color tattoos.5
- Skin diseases. Diseases such as eczema, psoriasis, and morphea may develop on the tattooed areas.
- Hyperpigmentation. Removing the tattoo can produce patches of darker skin around the eyes due to excess melanin.6
Consult your specialist or eye doctor if you suspect any complications after your session.
Alternatives to Permanent Eyeliners
Despite the benefits of permanent eyeliners, they are not for everyone.
It’s best to avoid permanent eye makeup if you:
- Are under 18 years
- Are pregnant or nursing
- Have a viral or bacterial infection
- Have major heart problems, e.g., individuals with pacemakers
- Have undergone an organ transplant
- Are allergic to color or ingredients used in eyeliner ink
- Have underlying medical conditions (such as lupus)
- Use Accutane treatment (Accutane causes skin to thin and dry)
If you don’t qualify for permanent eyeliners or prefer an alternative, below are some alternatives to try:
Traditional eyeliners are your regular liquid, gel, pencil, and powder eyeliners. Each type of traditional eyeliner has its strengths.
- Pencil eyeliner. This is the conventional eyeliner. Some call it kajal or kohl liner. Pencil eyeliners are silky, dry, and delicate and are suitable for creating a bold but soft look.
- Gel eyeliner. These have semi-solid consistency and offer more flexibility than regular makeup. They’re perfect for various styles, including smeared wings, smoky eyes, and graphic shapes.
- Liquid eyeliner. These have a liquid consistency and come in a tube. Liquid eyeliner is applied using brushes of different sizes and is ideal for creating different types of wings, including dramatic cat eyes.
One of the advantages of traditional eyeliners is their flexibility. They are the best option for those who occasionally prefer a new look.
Lash Enhancements and Extensions
Lash enhancement involves improving the appearance of your natural eyelashes without adding fake lashes. The two common lash enhancement procedures are lash lifting and lash extensions.
- Lash lifting. This procedure involves curling your lashes using a silicon rod and curling solution to enhance their shape.
- Lash extension. This involves the application of false lashes to lengthen and thicken your natural eyelashes. They are applied one by one using professional-grade glue.
These procedures are also more affordable and less invasive than permanent eyeliner tattoos.
Cosmetic Procedures and Enhancements
There are other semi-permanent cosmetic procedures that are great alternatives to permanent eyeliners. These include tinting and eyelash transplant surgery.
- Eyelash tinting. This cosmetic procedure involves using a special dye to darken your eyes and make them look fuller. It’s ideal for clients with light-colored lashes who want a dramatic look. However, tinting may cause eye irritation.
- Eyelash transplant surgery. This procedure involves moving hair from one part of the body (usually the legs or back of your head) to the lashes to make them appear fuller.7 This procedure is considered cosmetic and clinical because it’s recommended for people who have either experienced eye trauma or complications from eyelash tattoos.
Common Questions on Permanent Eyeliners
Below are some common questions people ask about permanent eyeliners:
Is it a good idea to get permanent eyeliner?
Getting permanent eyeliner is a good idea as long as you settle on a specific look and seek the services of a skilled makeup artist. Permanent eyeliner relieves you from applying daily eye makeup and may save you money long-term.
What skincare products do you avoid after permanent eyeliner treatment?
Some skin care products will negatively affect your eyeliner tattoo. Avoid products with ingredients such as retinol (Retin-A) and acids such as glycolic acid, alpha hydroxy acids, and lactic acid. Retinol is known to cause flaking and uneven results for your tattoo.
Can older women wear tattooed eyeliner?
No one is too old for permanent makeup. If you’re unsure what to try, it’s best to discuss with your makeup artist for suggestions on what works best for your skin.
A permanent eyeliner or eyeliner tattoo involves depositing pigment (color) along the lash line using a special pen/machine. The different styles of permanent eyeliners include classic, winged, shadow, and lash line enhancement.
Most permanent eyeliners last about 1-3 years or more. Their color fades over time due to skin cell regeneration and enzymatic breakdown of the ink, so touch-up sessions may be necessary.
If you’re unsure if getting a permanent eyeliner will work for you, it’s always best to have a thorough consultation before undergoing the procedure.
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