Complications of Permanent Eye Makeup

Permanent makeup applied to the eyelids, eyelashes, and eyebrows is becoming more and more popular. Did you know that most permanent makeup is actually a tattoo? Blepharopigmentation, also called micropigmentation, is the application of iron oxide pigment along the eyelash line by a rotary needle.

While permanent makeup may seem like the answer for many people, you should be aware that permanent makeup application does carry a risk of complications.

Close up of permanent makeup procedure
Alina555 / Getty Images

Possible Complications

  • Infection: The tattoo industry is not a licensed and FDA-regulated profession. Dyes and inks used in tattoos are also not regulated. Most tattoos are applied with small needles that have the potential to transmit diseases and infections, such as hepatitis and staph infections.
  • Inflammation: Some people develop granulomas at the tattoo injection site. Granulomas are hard nodules of tissue that form around foreign material. A granuloma is the body's way of protecting itself from potentially harmful material. A granuloma can persist and cause ongoing inflammation.
  • Fanning: In some individuals, the permanent ink can slowly spread from its original site, usually caused by being injected too deeply. While fanning may not cause a medical problem, most people are not happy with the appearance.
  • Dermatitis: Some people are allergic to the iron oxide in the ink and develop a local allergic reaction, or dermatitis. Although allergic skin reactions to these dyes are rare, they create a significant problem because they have to be removed. Tattoos are not easily removed.
  • Keloid formation: A keloid is an aggressive scar that forms when trauma occurs to the skin. A keloid can develop from tattoo application. Keloids can also form when the skin is traumatized when removing a tattoo.
  • MRI complications: Although rare, some people experience temporary swelling around the tattoo area during an MRI. However, not following through with your doctor’s orders for having an MRI might be a much bigger medical issue and worth the risk.
  • Removal complications: Because the eyelid tissue is delicate, removing tiny tattoos could prove difficult. Removal procedures include surgical excision, scraping, injection of tannic acid, or treatment by a pulsed carbon dioxide laser. Removal also raises the risk of scarring and eyelid disfigurement.
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  • Is Beauty Skin Deep? Supplement to Review of Optometry, The Handbook of Ocular Disease Managment, Thirteenth Edition. 15 Apr 2011, pp 37-38.