As much as I love makeup, I’m not the kind of girl who looks forward to waking up and applying it every day. I work at home, so I’m bare-faced most of the time. I do enjoy glamming up to go out, but I’ve always had a tortured relationship with eyeliner. Since middle school at least, I’ve always just dragged a pencil haphazardly across my waterline, creating a look that's dated but consistent.
I don’t really wear much eye makeup in general. I usually just quickly swipe on a little eyeshadow, and focus more on wearing awesome lipstick. I’ve mastered how to pencil in my lips, but my eyes were a much more complicated endeavor. As winged eyeliner became more and more popular, I started trying to branch out and do something different with my eyeliner look, but the results were less than impressive.
To add insult to injury, I’m also allergic to just about every eyeliner out there. I’ve tried every brand from low-end to high, and have only found a few (NYX, Yves Saint Laurent and Boots) that don’t make my eyes itchy and watery. Added to my usual bout of awful seasonal allergies, my eyeliner usually ended up accentuating the dark circles under my eyes instead of my actual eyes.
Earlier this year, my mother told me she was going to get permanent eyeliner. I was repulsed. I remembered too many bad eyebrow and liner jobs on women in the late ’90s, and I just knew that she was going to ruin her eye makeup. After the procedure, though, I saw the liner and, to my shock, it looked incredible. The technician had applied a thin line to both the tops and bottoms of her lids, accentuating her lashes with a subtle line.
I still wasn’t convinced, though, until I saw my cousin’s fiancée. She’s closer to my age and has the same deep-set eyes. Her liner was a bit thicker but still natural-looking and subtle. From there, I was sold. I just wasn’t sure how exactly I was going to splurge on $300 worth of permanent makeup.
Because they are awesome, my parents got me permanent eyeliner for Christmas this year. I never thought that my parents would be buying me a tattoo! I scheduled my appointment for December 19th and did tons of research about the procedure, including poring over about a thousand different permanent eyeliner looks. By the time I walked into the salon, I was confident about having my eyelids tattooed -- something else I never thought would ever happen.
Before whipping out her needles, my technician asked a battery of questions about how I wear my eyeliner. I ended up basing my eyeliner on a photo of work she had done previously: a simple black line, thicker on my top eyelid, and thinner on the bottom. Before permanent eyeliner, I didn’t really wear much eyeliner on my bottom lids, but I liked the way that it looked on women who’d had the procedure before.
The tattooing procedure itself is much less gruesome than it actually sounds. I sat in a chair that looks like something you’d find at a dermatologist’s office, and the technician applied a local anesthetic (similar to lidocaine) to my eyes. This was probably the most difficult part of the procedure -- waiting 20 minutes for the goopy anesthetic to take effect with my eyes closed.
Once my eyeballs were thoroughly numbed, the technician got to work. The tool used to apply the permanent eyeliner looks similar to an Epi-Pen, which is much less intimidating when it’s headed for your eye than your average tattoo gun. She did three passes across both eyes, top and bottom. Thanks to the anesthetic, I really only winced when she was in the corners of my eye, because of a little dragging from the needle.
If you have tattoos anywhere else on your body, permanent makeup is really a breeze. The most difficult part is keeping your eyes still, but a well-timed dose of my anxiety medication kept me from blinking and moving around. Once the procedure was over, I looked in a mirror and was extremely excited about the results. I moved to another chair, popped a bag of ice over my eyes, and waited thirty minutes before driving myself home.
Once I got home, my eyes were a little puffy and red, but otherwise looked fabulous. The liner was a little thicker than I originally had anticipated, but my technician advised that it would shrink as it healed.
The first day, my eyes were sore and tender, but nothing worse than a bout of allergies or post-breakup crying session. When I woke up the next morning, my eyes were more tender than they were before, but I was still able to go Christmas shopping all day without much discomfort.
Over the next week, my eyes healed almost completely. I had to do the usual regimen of washing the tattoo twice daily, along with applying Aquaphor to keep the eyeliner clean and moist. Putting Vaseline or Aquaphor on your eyelashes is a little weird, especially if you don’t do it lightly. More than once, I blinked huge globs of Vaseline into my eyes that had to be removed with a cotton swab. That was much worse than any pain associated with the eyeliner.
As it healed, the permanent eyeliner flaked just like a regular tattoo. I wasn’t concerned to see black scabs on my eyelashes because I had taken care of tattoos before, but it may be a little disconcerting for the uninitiated. Like tattoos on the rest of your body, the crust that forms over permanent eyeliner is to be left alone entirely, which is the most agonizing part of the process.
Permanent eyeliner gets itchy, and it’s extremely difficult to leave your eyes completely alone for a week or longer. I know that I got a little pick-happy in the process, but my impatience doesn’t seem to have damaged the tattoos. Permanent eyeliner needs about 30 days to heal fully, but my skin looks normal just a week later. I’m still applying a little Aquaphor to keep things moist, which has the added benefit of making my permanent eyeliner look freshly applied.
Now that the eyeliner has healed, I’m already ready for a slightly bolder look. The eyeliner that I chose healed to a perfectly natural thin line, but I think I need a little more to look my best. My gift certificate included a touch-up appointment, and I will almost certainly be asking my technician for a thicker line. My current look is perfect for a really casual day, but like a true Southern girl, I firmly believe that (a little bit) bigger is always better.
Waking up with eyeliner on is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, without exaggeration. If I’m having a good face day (i.e. no gross breakouts or clogged pores), I look fully put together with just a little lip gloss. Even on a bad day, my eyes look more awake, and I’m more confident walking around bare-faced. Most of all, though, I love the fact that no matter how tired I am or how bad my allergies are, no matter how many times I rub my eyes, my eyeliner is still perfectly in place. That's a Christmas miracle, for real.