Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in April 2019. Updated in August 2021.
If you are a make-up lover, then eyeliner might be one of your best friends. It’s hard to imagine any make-up look without drawing those wings on, but in true honesty, this can be quite a daunting daily task.
That’s why many women opt for the semi permanent eyeliner tattoo. It gives them the option to rock their beloved eyeliner without the risk of it smudging for years. But what exactly is this magical treatment?
In our ultimate guide to tattoo eyeliner, we’ll explain what tattoo eyeliner is, how it’s done, how much it costs, and more. Keep reading for all the details!
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About Permanent Eyeliner
What Is Permanent Eyeliner?
Eyeliner tattoo is an advanced permanent makeup procedure that recreates the look of wearing eyeliner.
Using an electric device specially designed for cosmetic tattooing, the artist inserts semi-permanent pigments of natural origins into the skin of your eyelids, thus ‘permanently’ drawing on your eyeliner in the shape you want.
The whole procedure is generally considered to be non-invasive, since it involves no actual downtime and you can carry on with your life right after it, but it does entail a few weeks of healing, as your skin needs to recover from the micro-trauma.
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Can Anyone Get Semi Permanent Eyeliner?
Just like it’s the case with any permanent makeup treatment, most people qualify as good candidates for the procedure of getting semi permanent eyeliner. However, there are certain conditions that make getting tattoo eyeliner unsafe, and thus impossible:
- Viral infections or diseases
- On-going chemotherapy
- Bleeding disorders
- Skin conditions like Psoriasis or Rosacea in the area
- Proneness to keloid scar formation
- Blood thinning medication
- People with diabetes should get a doctor’s approval
- Recently Botox injections or dermal fillers (you need to wait at least 2 weeks)
- Pregnancy and nursing
Image source: Instagram @traciegiles_permanentmakeup
Permanent Eyeliner vs.Traditional Tattoo
Is Permanent Eyeliner the Same as a Traditional Tattoo?
Getting permanent eyeliner is a form of cosmetic tattooing, but it’s different from getting a regular, traditional tattoo.
First of all, it’s not actually permanent – it’s just a term that the industry likes to use, but the longevity of the color and the visibility will eventually fade to a certain extent. This is why this is also known as semi-permanent eyeliner, as a more modern technique, pigment technology and more advanced tools are used nowadays.
The pigments used for permanent makeup are formulated in such a way that the body can break them down gradually. Over a period of 1-5 years, the color fades and the eyeliner tattoo disappears.
The process is similar to getting a regular body tattoo, though – an electric device with a very fine needle is used in order to deposit pigment into your skin. However, the process differs in the way that the pigment is deposited relatively shallow into the skin, not as deep as with regular tattoos. It’s deposited into the basal epidermis layer, so just below the skin surface.
About the Permanent Eyeliner Treatment
What Is the Permanent Eyeliner Treatment Like?
STEP 1 – Consults
First off, you will have a chat with your artist about what eyeliner style you want. You can show them examples of what you’d like, or you can show up wearing makeup like you usually do, so the artist can get the idea of what to do.
You will also choose the color you want – black is not recommended, it’s better to go for dark shades of brown, as they fade more attractively. Technically, you can go for any color, but bear in mind that you’ll be wearing the look every day and you need it to suit any occasion.
The technician will give you a couple of forms to fill out to make sure it’s safe for you to get the procedure, a medical history form, and a PMU consent form.
They’ll also talk you through the aftercare instructions you need to follow to make sure your eyeliner tattoo heals properly.
STEP 2 – Preparations
The procedure starts by getting the eye cleaned with a make-up removal product. The area needs to be cleaned from any residues of makeup and skincare, as well as sebum.
Then, a numbing cream is applied that will make the procedure pain-free. It may still be uncomfortable, though, but it shouldn’t hurt.
STEP 3 – The actual tattooing
Once the anesthetic kicks in, your artist will start implementing pigments with a PMU machine. The technique implies breaking the surface of the skin over and over, and saturating the skin by adding more and more tiny dots that merge into a line.
STEP 4 – Pigment buildup
The artist will probably make 2-3 passes, to make sure enough pigments are deposited. So be prepared for about an hour of continual needling. When they’re sure the pigment saturation is high enough, they’ll clean up the area, and that’s the end of the first appointment.
STEP 5 – 6-8 week touch up
Semi permanent eyeliner is a two-visit treatment. Once your skin heals after the first session, you need to go back for a touch up.
During healing, some of the pigment is lost, so this is an opportunity to fix any lighter patches, and make the line thicker or darker if you want to.
Does Getting an Eyeliner Tattoo Hurt?
The procedure of getting tattoo eyeliner is a non-invasive one, but the client needs to know that it’s still a form of tattooing.
The needle that breaks the skin is very thin, but the patient will most likely feel a certain sensation. This sensation, however, shouldn’t be pain per se, as a numbing ointment is applied beforehand. The feeling might be a light scratching on the skin.
If you find the needling too painful, tell your artist. They may add another layer of numbing cream.
How Long Does the Permanent Eyeliner Procedure Last?
The whole procedure lasts about an hour and a half, but this varies on the style you’re getting and the experience of the artist.
How Do I Choose the Best Artist?
Just like with any other permanent makeup procedure, the choice of the artist can make or break your final look.
The best way to choose an artist is to get a recommendation from someone who had the treatment and loved it. Online reviews are the second best option. Do your research!
Price can also be a good indicator of the artist’s skill. Some artists have higher prices, but you need to know that higher prices are very often justified – they are more experienced and not fresh out of training. They may use higher quality supplies, and do better work overall.
This is not always the case, however, so do your research anyway and always look through the tech’s portfolio.
Image source: YouTube Paulina Osinkowska
Preparation for the Permanent Eyeliner Treatment
How Do I Prepare for the Permanent Eyeliner Treatment?
There are a few things you need to avoid before your eyeliner tattoo appointment:
- Do not dye or lift your eyelashes for at least 2 days before your procedure (some artists advise as long as 2 weeks).
- If you have eyelash extensions, have them removed at least 3 days before your procedure.
- Inform your PMU artist if you’ve had any eye surgery or intervention in the area (Botox, filler, laser eye surgery, etc.).
- Avoid taking the following for at least 3 days before your treatment: aspirin, ibuprofen, niacin, coumadin, fish oil, vitamin E.
- Don’t drink alcohol at least 24 hours before the procedure.
- Don’t drink caffeine 24 hours before the procedure – you’ll bleed more.
- Wash your hair that morning – you can’t get your healing tattoo wet for the next few days.
- Bring sunglasses to wear home as your eyes may be sensitive to light after the treatment.
- Relax! It’s not actually as scary as you might think.
Note: You won’t be able to wear contact lenses during the procedure and for the next 24 hours.
Permanent Eyeliner Aftercare
What Can I Expect After the Eyeliner Tattoo Procedure?
Upon finishing the procedure, you will be instructed to clean the tattoo area frequently in the first 24 hours in order to remove the lymph. Otherwise, the lymph will turn to scabs, which can affect pigment retention. Lymph drainage is totally normal and expected after any permanent makeup procedure.
The basic aftercare instructions are:
- Don’t get your eyeliner tattoo wet for the next 7-10 days. This does not mean you shouldn’t clean the area, only that you should protect the area during showers, and avoid swimming, saunas, steam baths, and activities that cause excessive sweating.
- Don’t use make-up on or near the area for 7-10 days, until your skin is completely healed. You’ll need to remove the makeup, and harsh cleansers and rubbing can affect pigment retention.
- Don’t touch, rub or pick any of the scabs or dry skin that you might see on your eyelids. Everyone’s skin is different, so the amount of scabbing varies.
- Don’t sleep on your face.
- Don’t get any facials, peels, Botox or fillers for at least 4 weeks.
There is no actual downtime after the treatment, so you can carry on with your day, but don’t be surprised if you experience some swelling and redness.
For a comprehensive day by day overview + extra tips for all skin types head out to Permanent Eyeliner Aftercare Guide.
Can I Get an Eyeliner Tattoo if I Have Eyelash Extensions or Wear Contact Lenses?
If you have eyelash extensions, remove them at least 3 days before your eyeliner tattoo appointment. If you remove the extensions just before the appointment, there may be glue left behind on the lash line, which could affect the final outcome of the tattoo eyeliner. Once the eyeliner heals, you can get lash extensions again.
If you wear contact lenses, take them out before the procedure. Be prepared not to wear them for a few days after the procedure as well. Your eyes might be a bit swollen after the treatment, so it’s better to opt for glasses for the time being.
Eyeliner Tattoo Touch-Up
Are Touch-Ups Necessary?
The first eyeliner tattoo touch up is necessary in most cases.
It’s done once the skin heals, 6-8 weeks after the initial treatment. It serves the purpose of adding more pigments where healing has left lighter patches, or making the eyeliner thicker or darker if that’s how you want it.
As far as additional touch ups are concerned, it’s up to you. Your eyeliner tattoo will fade over time, and if you want to refresh it, you can book a touch up whenever you feel the need to. This way, you’ll prolong the results.
The Effects of Semi Permanent Eyeliner
How Long Does Permanent Eyeliner Last?
Your semi permanent eyeliner tattoo can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years, depending on your skin type, age, skincare products you use, lifestyle…
Even though the ink will be injected into the skin, the color will eventually fade. This means that the chances of the color fully disappearing are quite high. However, since everyone’s skin is different and holds the pigment differently, it’s difficult to say precisely how long it will take for the color to fade.
Generally, it is expected to completely fade after 3 years, if not sooner, but in some cases, a certain amount of pigment will stay visible for up to 5 years.
So we can only give you a general window – 1 to 5 years.
Image source: Instagram @bespoke_esthetique_academy
Will I Lose Some Color During the First Week?
Just like it’s the case with all permanent makeup procedures, some of the color will fade in the first week.
You might think that the semi permanent eyeliner is too dark and dramatic right after the treatment, but it will fade a bit in the first month. So don’t panic. Chances are, it’ll look much better after 7 days, and you’ll definitely get the look you desired after the touch up.
Browse through our permanent eyeliner before and after gallery for more results.
Eyeliner Tattoo Side Effects & Risks
What Are the Risks & Side Effects of Semi Permanent Eyeliner?
Semi permanent eyeliner is a serious cosmetic procedure and therefore must be performed by a licensed, well-trained professional.
Some of the risks and potential complications that should be aware of before the treatment are:
- Infection. Unsterile equipment and needles can easily pass along infections, from mild ones, to hepatitis and staph bacteria.
- Allergic reaction. Even though rare, allergic reactions to PMU pigments can be very serious. That’s why you should always insist on a patch test.
- Granulomas. These are nodules that may form around the substance the body perceives as foreign, in this case the pigments.
- Scarring. If you are prone to developing scars, you may be at risk of keloid formation.
- Removal problems. Removing PMU is a tiresome, slow process. It can take several sessions, and it can get expensive and cause the same side-effects as above.
- Changing trends. Although it may seem tempting to always have the on-point winged eyeliner, consider that today’s looks might seem dated in a few years.
Permanent Eyeliner Styles & Colors
How Bold Should My Eyeliner Be?
Different clients like different styles, and many of them can be achieved with tattoo eyeliner.
The most important thing, however, is to determine how bold you want your eyeliner tattoo to be. You should definitely take your current eyeliner preference into consideration – how thick do you wear it now? But bear in mind you will wear the semi-permanent eyeliner every day, on every occasion.
There are 4 basic permanent eyeliner styles that you can opt for:
This is a very subtle version of the eyeliner tattoo. It can be done in two different ways, as either a thin line that does not leave the lash area, or as a dot next to each eyelash. This style does not give the look of an eyeliner tattoo, though, but rather makes your eyelashes appear fuller and thicker.
This is a great option for all clients who want their eyelashes to appear thicker. It’s also the style most male clients opt for.
Image source: Instagram @natalija.permanent
Even a thin line can make your eyes pop, and this is the best alternative for all clients who don’t like to wear thick eyeliners. This is a good option for many, because it allows building up the eyeliner and making it thicker with regular makeup, while still having that thin eyeliner line in the morning when you wake up.
Image source: Instagram @lauraacp
Classic, medium-thickness eyeliner
This option is the best for women who wear makeup every day and want a look that’s somewhere between natural and bold.
Image source: Instagram @suzana.matias.397
Thick, smokey eyeliner
This one may not be for everyone. It’s a good option for clients who wear a significant amount of makeup on a daily basis. It’s usually done with a smokey effect. If you want to opt for a thick tattoo eyeliner, you need to be ready to commit to a permanently bold makeup look.
Optionally, the wing can be added.
Image source: Instagram @freya_vera
PMUHub Tip: Remember, you can always add to the eyeliner. So bear in mind that you really need to be sure about the thickness that you want before opting for the actual procedure.
Think about current trends and if you want to have them tattooed on your eyelids. Also, bear in mind that the wings can lose their shape due to the fact that skin sags over time. This is why lash enhancement and subtle eyeliner tattoo styles are most popular.
What Color Should My Eyeliner Tattoo Be?
Next up, you will have the option of choosing the color of your tattoo eyeliner.
Even though you probably apply pitch-black eyeliner most often, a better option is deep shades of brown, and that’s what most clients go for. Black PMU pigments can fade into an unattractive blue/grayish shade, while browns are more stable.
Many artists also offer more diverse color options, such as green, blue and violet, but you need to bear in mind that you’ll have to stick to the color that you choose for a couple of years. Are you sure that you want to have colorful eyeliner every day for the next 1-5 years?
Blonde clients who have light skin most often go for subtle brownish shades.
Permanent Eyeliner Removal
Can Permanent Eyeliner Be Removed?
It is possible to remove a permanent eyeliner tattoo with laser or saline removal.
Laser removal breaks down the pigments so that they can be absorbed by the body, while saline removal works by opening up the skin, depositing a drying solution into it, and having the pigments pulled out by the scabs formed.
Both options are generally effective, but they require several sessions, which can get expensive. On top of that, not all saline removal specialists perform the treatment on eyelids, so it may be difficult to find one in your area that does.
Semi-Permanent Eyeliner Tattoo Cost
How Much Does an Eyeliner Tattoo Cost?
The prices of tattoo eyeliner can vary a lot, from $500 to over $1000, depending on the style, color, and thickness of the eyeliner. The average price is around $560.
The touch-ups can cost anywhere from $150 to the full treatment price.
Check out our Permanent eyeliner cost guide for more info on the price of eyeliner tattoos.
Permanent Eyeliner – Main Takeaways
Permanent eyeliner can be a great time-saving option that will make your life easier. It can give you the look of wearing your favorite eyeliner style without reapplying for years.
That said, think carefully about the style and the color you want, and make sure you want to commit to them. You also need to do thorough research before you decide on the artist, so you don’t end up with a botched eyeliner tattoo and have to deal with removal.
Take time to consider all your options before booking an appointment.
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