Waterline Tattoo – Just Don’t Do It! Here’s Why

By Emily M.| Last updated on December 7, 2022
waterline tattoo should not be done
⏱️ 5 min read

Darkening your waterlines with a black or deep brown eyeliner can look great. It makes the lashes look thicker and gives your eyes that sultry vibe. But as we blink, the waterlines are constantly wetted and the eyeliner cannot last out longer than a few hours, plus it often runs.

So many people started wondering whether they can get a waterline tattoo. And, no surprise, there are PMU artists out there offering this service.

But a waterline tattoo is a very risky procedure that can have detrimental, life-long consequences to your health, plus it doesn’t last long, and it’s not a look you want to commit to. It’s something the majority of artists simply refuse to do. Here’s why.

Waterline Tattoo Causes Dry Eye Syndrome

Dry eye syndrome, or dry eyes, is a chronic insufficiency of moisture and lubrication of the eye. It happens when your eyes aren’t producing a proper tear film – a combination of secretions that coat the eyeball:

  • A watery substance that moisturizes the eyeball
  • An oily substance that locks in the moisture and keeps the tear film from evaporating
  • A mucous substance that spreads the tear film across the eye surface

If the production of any of these is disrupted, a sensation of dryness and burning occurs. Everyday life can cause this to happen from time to time, like when we spend too much time in front of the computer screen or wear contacts for too long.

But when this condition becomes chronic, it can affect your well-being – your eyes are constantly irritated, and you have to use fake tears all the time. One of the things that can cause this chronic condition is a waterline tattoo.

One of the things that can cause dry eye condition is a waterline tattoo
Image source: Pexels

How Does a Waterline Tattoo Cause Dry Eyes?

The application of permanent eyeliner implies a needle of an electric tattoo machine piercing your skin over and over again to deposit pigments into it.

The stretch of moist skin between the lash line and the eyeball known as the waterline features a large number of tiny ducts from which the secretions of eye glands that produce the tear film are discharged. The glands themselves are very close to the surface of the waterline.

A needle piercing this surface can hurt the glands and the ducts, so that they can’t produce or discharge one or more components of the tear film.

Risk 1 – Damage to the Meibomian Glands, or Blockage of their Ducts

The meibomian glands produce the oily lipid substance that lubricates the eye. If there is insufficient oil in the tear film, your eyelids scratch the surface of the eye every time you blink – yes, it’s as uncomfortable as it sounds.

These glands are located close to the surface of the lower waterline, and their ducts are found all along its surface. The needle can cause the glands to stop functioning properly, or affect their ducts and disrupt the flow of the secretion.

As a result, your eyes burn, itch, you can have moments of blurred vision, and you constantly feel like you have a persistent grain of sand in your eye. These symptoms may not occur immediately after the procedure, but later on.

Risk 2 – Blockage of Lacrimal Gland Ducts

The lacrimal glands produce the watery component of the tear film. They are located in the upper eyelids, towards their outer edge, and their ducts are found in the upper outer corner of the eyes, and in the inner corners on both waterlines.

Trauma done to the waterline surface as part of the waterline tattoo process can damage the canals and disrupt the flow of the secretion. If there isn’t enough moisture, the eye surface can’t be cleaned properly, which causes irritation, but also poses a risk of infection.

Waterline Tattoo Doesn’t Last Long

Since the waterlines are covered in openings of tear duct canals, they are constantly wet, and the tears produced have a special chemical composition – it’s not just water, they also contain salt, although a very small amount.

The combination of constant wetting with this substance causes the waterline tattoo to fade very quickly. How quickly varies from person to person, but it’s generally a matter of months, not years like with regular PMU eyeliner longevity.

Waterline Tattoo Doesn’t Last Long
Image source: Pexels

The Tattooing Process Is Very Uncomfortable

The PMU application process inevitably implies an excess of pigments getting on the skin during the procedure.

In the case of the waterline, this excess gets straight into the eyes. Since there are many pigment formulas that contain alcohol, this will cause an intense burning sensation. Not only will that be uncomfortable, but it will also cause your eyes to water and make the waterline tattoo process very long and complicated.

Plus, the needle puncturing the very delicate stretch of skin right next to your eyeball is not a walk in the park either.

The Waterline Tattoo Makes the Eyes Look Smaller

Darkening your waterline closes up the eye and makes it look smaller. When the upper or lower waterline is makeup-free or colored in with white or beige eyeliner, the whites of the eyes look bigger, and so the whole eye looks brighter.

Coloring it with a dark shade has the opposite effect, which may look good once in a while when it’s balanced out by the rest of the makeup look, but you don’t want to wear this look every single day for months. That’s why it’s best not to commit to a waterline tattoo, because there’s a big chance you won’t like it after a while.

And before you ask, no, you can’t get a white waterline tattoo. White PMU pigments turn yellow very quickly due to their formula and you can end up with sickly-looking yellow waterlines.

It’s best to stick to good old removable eyeliner pencils, and get a regular PMU eyeliner above the lash line, or eyelash enhancement.

The Waterline Tattoo Makes the Eyes Look Smaller
Image source: Instagram @strut24x7

Final Word for PMU Artists

Okay, you may get clients asking for a waterline tattoo every once in a while and saying no to extra income can be a challenge. But as a professional, you have the moral obligation to protect the health and safety of your clients.

Performing the waterline procedure is very tricky and you can damage the client’s eye glands no matter how careful you are. You don’t want to be responsible for this!

The risk of waterline tattoo causing dry eyes syndrome is so great that most insurance companies won’t cover this treatment. Talk about a red flag.

Cover image source: Pexels



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