Cosmetic tattooing, also called micropigmentation, has been growing in popularity since the 1980s when it got its start. Although it might seem like a time-saver at first to simply have your eyeliner permanently tattooed onto your eyelids, there are quite a few pitfalls to this practice, especially if you already struggle with dry eye or other common eye ailments. Here’s what you need to know about permanent eyelid makeup and its risks.
What Is Permanent Makeup?
Like its name suggests, permanent makeup consists of carefully placed tattoos designed to look like regular makeup; only they won’t rub or wipe off. The two most common locations for cosmetic tattoos are on the eyelids along the lash line, to resemble eyeliner, and along the edges of the lips, to resemble lip liner.
The process of cosmetic tattooing is essentially the same as regular tattooing. It requires pigment, or ink, to be injected into the skin using a needle in order to create the desired look. Then, every several months, most people require touch-up sessions to keep their cosmetic tattoos from fading.
Although cosmetic tattooing was first used to fill in thinning or lost eyebrows due to alopecia, this practice has now become available to, and popular with, many people who simply want to save time getting ready every morning. While the concept behind this trend is certainly understandable, there are a few notable risks to seriously consider before opting in for permanent makeup, especially on or near your eyes.
Eyelid Tattooing Risks
Anytime you are getting a tattoo or having surgery near your eyes, there is an increased risk of complications. Because tattoos involve needles and creating tiny channels within the skin, one of the biggest risks is infection, including HIV, hepatitis and staph infections . The FDA also reports that there have been instances of allergic reactions to certain inks used for cosmetic tattooing, particularly when placed near the eyes. In some cases, people have developed allergies many years after initially having permanent makeup applied .
To make matters worse, if you are experiencing an allergic reaction or other adverse effect caused by eyelid tattoos, these tattoos can be very difficult, if not impossible, to fully remove . Although laser tattoo removal can be very effective at removing both black and colored inks, because of the placement of eyelid tattoos in such a delicate area, this method of tattoo removal can be particularly challenging.
Lastly, many people who obtain cosmetic tattoos end up dissatisfied with their final results, especially years down the road. Unlike regular washable cosmetic products, permanent makeup does not offer the freedom to change or update your look to match the current cosmetic and fashion trends, which can leave you with an outdated look that’s costly to remove or change.
Caring for Your Eyelids
Many people don’t realize that caring for their eyes and eyelids is just as important as properly caring for their teeth. Dirt, bacteria and even microscopic mites can build up on the surface of your eyelids and eyelashes, which can result in a number of eye problems, including dry eye syndrome, eye allergies and an inflammatory condition called blepharitis .
To help alleviate these common eye concerns, as well as keep your eyes healthy and happy, it’s important to cleanse your eyelids on a daily basis, just as you brush your teeth everyday. If you do choose permanent makeup, maintaining good eyelid hygiene is especially important, although anyone with dry, red, itchy or otherwise irritated eyes should be using a gentle, non-irritating daily cleanser or wipe.
The Bottom Line
Before jumping on board the permanent makeup fad, do a little research to better understand the risks and help you make a well-informed decision. Whether or not you choose a cosmetic tattoo, it’s still a good idea to practice good eye hygiene to minimize bacteria growth and potential complications.
 U.S. FDA
 Mayo Clinic