Does Permanent Eyeliner Hurt? Here’s What to Expect

By Emily M.| Last updated on June 16, 2022
does permanent eyeliner hurt
⏱️ 4 min read

When clients hear that permanent eyeliner is done by essentially tattooing the eyelid, they get justifiably worried about does permanent eyeliner hurt. We admit it doesn’t sound like a walk in the park, but the process isn’t as bad as what you’re probably imagining.

Let’s find out does getting permanent eyeliner hurt, what sensations you can expect, and how discomfort is managed during the procedure and afterwards.

Is Permanent Eyeliner Painful?

Not really, but pain is a very subjective notion. The treatment is done with topical anesthetics which eliminate the pain to a large degree, but more sensitive clients and those with a particularly low pain threshold may feel some discomfort.

Most clients claim that permanent eyeliner didn’t really hurt.

does permanent eyeliner hurtImage source: Freepik

What Does Permanent Eyeliner Feel Like Then?

Before any needling is done, a numbing cream is applied to the eyelids which numbs them up within 15-20 minutes. So there shouldn’t be any pain per se, but you still feel something going on.

You may feel:

  • Pressure
  • Tingling
  • Some stinging
  • The weird feeling of someone touching your eyelids and stretching them.

All in all, nothing too bad, but it’s useful to prepare for the treatment mentally.

The Numbing Process in More Detail

Any PMU treatment is done with pre-numbing – numbing up the area before the skin is broken – and optional secondary numbing – adding more anesthetic once the skin has been broken.

The process looks something like this:

  • Your eyelids are cleaned and a relatively thick layer of numbing cream is applied to them. Optionally, the area is covered with stretch foil to maximize the numbing effect.
  • The cream sits on the eyelids for 15-20 minutes. Since the skin of the eyelids is so thin, the numbing should kick in relatively quickly, and it should be relatively intense.
  • The cream is then cleaned off.
  • The first pass is done – the skin of the eyelids is broken in countless tiny punctures and pigments are inserted.
  • If the numbing effect starts wearing off, a secondary numbing formula is applied to the area. This formula should only sit for 1-2 minutes. This way, the numbing effect is re-intensified and prolonged.
  • The second pass is done – more pigments are added.
  • The area is cleaned and the treatment is over. The numbing effect may last for several hours.

Some artists like to exfoliate the skin slightly with a spoolie before pre-numbing. This ensures better absorption of the numbing cream.

numbing to make permanent eyeliner less painfulImage source: Instagram @tinypokes


If you start feeling pain at any point during the permanent eyeliner session, tell your artist. They can take a short break and apply more secondary numbing. While some discomfort is normal and to be expected, straight up pain is not, and you should be vocal about it.

Does Permanent Eyeliner Hurt After the Treatment?

It might. When the effects of the numbing cream wear off, your eyelids may feel tender and you might feel a slight throbbing sensation. This shouldn’t be too intense, and it shouldn’t last more than 24-48 hours.

If your eyelids still hurt a couple of days later, consult your artist.

Apart from the tenderness, your eyelids will probably feel dry and tight for a few days, kind of like a sunburn. As they heal, they can also get quite itchy, but you have to resist the urge to scratch them.

You can also expect your eyelids to be swollen.

You can read all about what to expect during the healing process in our Guide Through the Permanent Eyeliner Healing Process.

How Can I Minimize the Discomfort During Healing?

The dryness, tightness and itching can all be minimized with the use of a healing cream – a lightweight moisturizer your artist will prescribe that will hydrate and nourish the treated skin.

To help with the swelling, you can use a cold compress, just make sure it’s a dry one – your freshly treated eyeliner tattoo shouldn’t get wet. Apply a cold compress for 10 minutes every hour during the first 8 hours after the treatment.

It might also be useful to sleep with your head placed slightly higher than normal – double up on your pillow for the night.

Find out more about the aftercare routine in our Guide Through PMU Eyeliner Aftercare.

permanent eyeliner healing process

Can I Take a Painkiller?

Yes, you can take a mild over-the-counter painkiller to relieve the tenderness you may feel after an eyeliner tattoo session. Just check with your artist which one will work best.

Final Piece of Advice

If you’re generally a panicky person and you’re anxious about the treatment even after finding out does permanent eyeliner hurt, we suggest you tell your artist everything. If the artist is aware of your anxiety, they’ll do everything they can to make the experience as comfortable as possible – you’d be surprised by the variety of tricks they have up their sleeves!

Cover image source: Freepik



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