Swelling After Permanent Eyeliner – Why It Happens & How to Handle It

By Emily M.| Last updated on October 21, 2022
Swollen eyelids after an eyeliner tattoo
⏱️ 4 min read

All permanent makeup procedures entail breaking the surface of the skin, and that can bring about a bunch of side effects for which you may be more or less prepared. One of those reactions is swelling.

With permanent eyeliner, the reactions can be a particular nuisance and sometimes even scary. But to ease your mind and distinguish between normal reactions and something going wrong, let’s discuss swelling after permanent eyeliner.

Is Swelling After Permanent Eyeliner Normal?

Yes. It’s the body’s natural reaction to the trauma inflicted during the treatment and it should subside on its own after a few days.

Swelling can start as soon as halfway through the actual treatment. As a needle punctures the skin of your eyelid, your body identifies this as trauma and potential hazard, so it triggers a response meant to minimize the damage. Lymph fluid is sent into the area and the swelling is supposed to “cushion” the trauma, so to say.

The body’s logic is, if the skin is swollen, the needle won’t be able to penetrate deeper into the tissue.

After the treatment, the swelling can last for several days. It takes some time for things to calm down and for the lymph to get drained out.

Swelling after permanent eyeliner Image source: Instagram @flawlesspermanentmakeupbyelsa

But None of the Before&After Pics I Saw Show Swollen Eyes!

It’s true that most examples of freshly done eyeliner tattoos don’t show much swelling, but it’s natural that artists don’t post pics of extremely puffy-eyed clients! This doesn’t mean they don’t get any.

The degree of swelling you get is very individual, and it depends on many factors, so it’s totally normal if you get no swelling, just like it’s totally normal if you get some intense swelling.

Although it’s rare, some clients report their eyelids got so swollen they couldn’t open their eyes all the way up. This is possible and it may sound (and look) scary, but as long as it subsided on its own and it’s not accompanied by other complications, it’s no cause for concern.

How Long Does Swelling After Permanent Eyeliner Last?

In general, up to 3 days of swelling after permanent eyeliner is no cause for concern, it’s a normal part of eyeliner tattoo healing.

The swelling may get worse before it gets better. Some clients don’t get much swelling on the first day, only to wake up on day 2 with puffy eyes that look like they’ve just cried their heart out. This can be a distressing experience if you’re not prepared for it.

If your swelling lasts longer than 3 days, you might want to contact your artist. Check for other signs of infection or allergies: redness, puss, itching, fever. Some complications may be emerging and you want to tackle them as soon as possible.

Eyelids swollen after eyeliner tattooImage source: Instagram @daniq.nl

Is There a Way to Avoid Swelling After Permanent Eyeliner?

There are some tips you can try to minimize swelling, but if your body is generally prone to this type of reaction, there’s no way to avoid it altogether.

You can avoid certain things that make the swelling worse:

  • Don’t sleep on your face or in a flat position. If you elevate your head slightly so it’s in a higher position than the rest of your body, gravity will help minimize the swelling. Add an extra pillow.
  • Don’t expose your face to heat. Heat makes the vessels in your eyelids expand and the swelling will be worse.
  • Don’t overapply your aftercare cream. The wound needs to be moisturized, but it mustn’t be suffocated. If it’s covered with a thick layer of cream, it won’t be able to breathe and the swelling can worsen.
  • Avoid any products that weren’t approved by your artist. The skin is sensitive from the procedure and harsh products with unsuitable ingredients can cause a reaction.

Keep up with your permanent eyeliner aftercare routine to prevent further complications.

Can I Use an Ice Pack to Minimize the Swelling?

You can use some sort of cold compress, but not straight-up ice. Ice is too cold and plus your eyelids need to be kept dry outside of the cleaning routine.

Moisten a couple of cotton pads and put them in the fridge for about an hour. Take them out of the fridge and put them in a clean plastic baggie. Put the baggie on your eyes and keep it for a few minutes (as long as it’s comfortable). You can repeat this every hour or so.

The compress should be cool, not icy cold. Make sure you don’t apply too much pressure on your eyes, and avoid any rubbing motions.

How Do I Recognize If Something’s Going Wrong During My Healing Process?

Now that we’ve explained how much swelling after permanent eyeliner is normal, let’s reflect on scenarios which are not. If you notice any of the following in the days after your permanent eyeliner procedure, contact your artist:

  • Swelling past day 3 which isn’t subsiding or is getting worse.
  • Redness past day 3.
  • Rashes or similar skin irritation, extreme itchiness or pain.
  • Puss or extreme scabbing.
  • Fever.

These may be signs of infection or allergic reaction to the pigments or topical numbing used. You might need treatment, so the sooner you react, the better. Send a picture of your eyelids to your artist and let them assess the situation. You may need to visit a dermatologist.

You can find more information on potential eyeliner tattoo complications here.

permanent eyeliner healing process

Final Note – Insist on a Patch Test

Swelling after permanent eyeliner can point to allergies to the pigments or the numbing used. The best way to prevent allergies is to do a patch test before the treatment.

This can be a bit of a hassle, since you’ll have to make multiple tricks down to the salon, and more and more clients are choosing to skip the patch test (and artists don’t really insist on it), but it’s definitely worth it. If there’s a way to prevent at least one of the possible complications, why not take advantage of it?

Cover image source: Freepik



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