Since getting eyeliner tattoos is kind of an unusual thing to do, I thought it would be wise to write up the whole experience in case anyone is on the fence about it. Or never considered it before this very minute but suddenly wants it really badly. Or just enjoys reading about people having needles buzzing millimeters from their eyeballs.
This is not a drawing of a penguin, though. This is an eyeball. A big fake eyeball.
I had toyed with the idea of getting this done for YEARS, but never followed through on it. Imagine how great it would be to wake up first thing in the morning and look at least partially well put together! Days when you're sick as a dog -- you look good. Days when you got 5 minutes of sleep -- you look good. Just ran a marathon? Looking fabulous. Just had a baby and haven't put on makeup in a month? Don't worry -- you look good.
Sweat won't melt it. Sleep won't melt it. Crying won't melt it.
Friends, having eyeliner tattooed on has a great many benefits.
This penguin is smokin a doobie.
When I finally decided to pull the trigger, I just googled "cosmetic tattooing" and found that there is woman who does it in Seattle, with excellent reviews (If you're curious, the place was called "Another You Permanent Cosmetics" and the tattooer is a lady named Danette Proszek). I called her to ask about pricing and to talk about the procedure.
She told me that the cost to have both top and bottom eyeliner tattooed was $550, so it's certainly not cheap. The tattoo is supposed to look fantastic for around 5 years, after which point it may need to be touched up. But given my tendency to wear clothes 10 years after they should have been donated and eat food a week after it should have been thrown away, I'm guessing I'll get at least 15 years out of this before I feel the need to get it touched up.
She also told me that she would use a numbing agent before tattooing, since it would be borderline impossible to do such a precise tattoo so close to someone's eyes without it. This made me feel better about the whole thing -- after all, I have quite a few tattoos, so I know exactly how it feels to get inked without numbing agent. I couldn't imagine holding perfectly still while my eyelids were tattooed.
It was Friday when I called, and she said a cancellation had left her with an appointment available for the following Monday. I gulped and said I'd take it.
This penguin is eating birthday cake.
On the day of my appointment, I showed up wearing my normal amount of eyeliner, as the tattooist needs to get an idea of what you consider "normal". Maybe you prefer to look really natural; maybe you prefer to look like an 80s transvestite -- she doesn't judge. I normally wear a pretty thick line of dark brown on my top lid, and the lightest possible wisp on my bottom lash. I also usually draw the line out past my eye a bit, making a subtle cat eye.
You know ... subtle.
Danette immediately broke the news that the cat eye would be impossible with a tattoo. First off, the skin right at the outside corner of your eye is so incredibly thin, trying to tattoo it would be a nightmare and it wouldn't last at all. And secondly, there's the whole ageing thing to take into account: if she draws a cat eye extension right now, it might look like this:
But as I get older and gravity starts to pull on my eye skin, that cat eye is gonna start to make me look like an even bigger sourpuss than I do already:
Other than that, she said my usual eyeliner would be fine.
We filled out the forms and she took a "before" picture. She then drew the eyeliner on with a marker and showed it to me in a mirror for my approval. And then it was go time.
The whole thing started out with the numbing, and let me tell you, the numbing was the worst part by a thousand miles. Oh god, my eyes are watering right now just remembering it. The fumes from the numbing agent waft directly into your eyeball, and it's like someone is chopping a very pungent onion an inch from your eyes. The tears flow like ... like tears from the eyes of someone who is having lidocaine applied four millimeters away from them. I was not allowed to hard blink -- just those delicate little fluttering butterfly-kiss kind of blinks were the only respite I got. It was awful.
This penguin has changed his mind. Good job, penguin!
But the numbing thankfully didn't take long. Within a few minutes, my lower lids on both eyes were numbed enough to start tattooing. As for the tattooing itself, I honestly didn't feel a thing. Just vibration as the tattoo gun buzzed next to my eye. The worst part of this was that 1) I had to hold my eye open no matter what, which became increasingly difficult as the skin got more and more irritated and swollen; 2) she had to wipe the skin with a moist towelette every few seconds, which felt indescribably weird and gross on my numbed skin. It felt like the towelette was somehow removing my skin entirely, as if there'd be nothing left but eye socket and bone afterwards. It was a bizarre sensation.
It took about 15 minutes to complete the bottom lid on my right eye, and then she started numbing my upper lid (which was a blessed relief, as I was allowed to gently close my eye. No fumes!!) She then got the left lower lid knocked out and moved back over to get the top right.
The top lids took a lot longer than the bottom, simply because there was a lot more ink being applied there. But I got to keep my eyes closed, so I didn't mind. At times, when the needle was flush against my eyelashes, it felt as though she was about to tattoo my eyeball itself. And of course, she was a perfectionist. This kind of tattoo is so visible that it's critical it be done perfectly. And this meant that every time she thought she was finished, she'd notice one more spot that wasn't quite as dark as it should be or that wasn't quite as smooth as it should be, and she'd say "hang on, just one more spot here." I think I got "one more spot"ed at least five times per eye. It was cruel.
At long last, top and bottom lashes on both eyes were finished. When I left the office, it was an hour and a half after I had first arrived -- so an hour and a half to fill out paperwork, take pictures, get numb, get the tattoos, and get cleaned up afterwards. Not too bad.
This penguin is riding a unicycle.
The drive home was ... interesting. While my eyes themselves were fine and my vision was not impaired, my eyelids were very swollen and felt heavy, like I'd just had a hard cry. I looked like I'd been pepper sprayed at a goth club -- big red swollen eyes with very VERY dark, very thick, very black eyeliner around them. I had to wear sunglasses to drive, and when I stopped at the store on the way home, I wore my sunglasses inside as well. It seemed better to be thought of as the kind of weirdo who wears sunglasses indoors, than to be the kind of weirdo who gets stung by bees on their way home from a Marilyn Manson concert.
I took this picture of my eyes as soon as I got home, and if you can't tell how swollen they are, compare them to this picture of my eyes that I just took today:
The next day, they were still swollen, but not nearly as badly. I did have to apply Vitamin A&D ointment to the tattoos with a Q-tip, and of course it all ended up gooping up in my eyelashes and making me look like I had an eye infection. But no matter -- it was done! Within a few days, the tattoo was completely healed and looked amazing.
Eyes Day 2: still swollen but not quite as disfiguringly so:
Fully healed, just woke up in the morning and haven't even combed my hair yet shot:
But the EYES look fantastic! The rest of me will need a lot of work.
Four weeks later, I went in for my touch-up. Since the eyes swell up so dramatically while they're being tattooed, it can be really hard for the artist to tell if they're truly even while she's working. So everyone has to come back for a touch-up once they're fully healed. Mine definitely had a couple of places that were not even, and I decided I wanted a bit more thickness at the outside of the top lashes.
The touch-up was a breeze compared to the original process. I was in and out in under an hour, and my eyes look awesome now.
Close-up of the eye with absolutely no additional makeup on:
And seriously -- I haven't worn anything but mascara since then. Life is good.
Here I am today, at work, wearing NO MAKEUP AT ALL:
Now I just need to get laser hair removal and I can self-actualize to maximum laziness!
This penguin agrees 100%.