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Eyeliner tattoo removal: Is it a thing and how do I do it?

Cosmetic tattooing (aka micropigmentation, permanent makeup and permanent eyeliner) was designed to allow people to enhance their facial features for a long-lasting natural look. Unfortunately, the most common complaints are that the colors are too harsh, not what they asked for, the shape is all wrong or irregular, the line looks smudged, or the color migrated. Help is needed!

Can it be done? 

Yes, it can. While technologically and medically cosmetic eyeliner tattoos can be removed, it’s not easy, it’s uncomfortable and costly. Sometimes the pigment is nearly impossible to remove. What's more, there’s also serious potential risk to your eyes and the skin surrounding your eyes if not done correctly. There are several ways to lighten and remove cosmetic eyeliner tattoos.

How can it be done? 

You’ve probably heard about tattoo removal creams that claim to fade and lighten pigmented ink from the skin. Except, most topical creams do not penetrate the skin deep enough to reach the pigment. The chemical ingredients used in these creams are not regulated and often use bleaching agents. The creams do no more than peel away the top layer of your skin. Using these creams so close to your eye is not particularly safe and could cause burning, permanent scarring, discoloration, and inflammation. 

Simply, creams don't really work and are not worth the risk.

Non-Laser Saline Solution is a very effective way to draw out the pigment, especially on recent cosmetic tattoos (within the last 60 to 90 days). This method works well on lighter pigment colors. It is safe for all skin types and ideal for people with darker skin, sensitive skin types or people who’ve had allergic reactions to the pigment used. 

This process requires opening the skin to allow the area saturated with pigment to bond with the sterile saline solution. The ink is being drawn up and out to the skin’s surface. The skin will ooze body fluids for several hours after the treatment that scabs over in a day or two. The scab should fall off naturally, otherwise scarring may occur. Because this process causes injury to the skin, the post treatment care is very important for proper healing. Keeping your eyes dry and avoid picking at the scab can be challenging. 

You will need several treatments to see a significant result. However, color migration of eyeliner is one of the easiest problems to resolve with noticeable results even from the first treatment. Although, in some cases, the pigments may never be completely removed.

There are fewer risks of hypo/hyper pigmentation, blistering and scarring associated with this method. 

Laser Removal is a safe and effective way to remove cosmetic eyeliner. If you think that getting close to the eye with a laser is dangerous, you are right. Much of the removal safety effectiveness depends on the laser’s energy, and the technician’s training and skill.

Eye protection is vital. Patient comfort is managed with a topical numbing agent on the lids. An ophthalmic numbing ointment is dropped into the eyes, then an interocular shields are comfortably placed directly on the eyes. Often, it takes longer to get numb than it takes for the actual session.

Non-thermal laser energy is the safest for eyeliner removal because no heat is created that could damage the epidermis. The energy generated by new laser technologies such as the Enlighten III produces light energy delivered at a trillionth of a second to the targeted area without damaging the surrounding skin. The light hits the ink, shattering it into smaller molecules that can easily be eliminated through the body’s lymphatic system. 

Immediately after the laser hits the tattoo, the pigment will appear frosty, ashy, or whitish. Within minutes, the color normalizes and appears a little darker than it was before the session. Over the next few weeks, this color will begin to fade, and lighten slightly. Following the removal session, the skin will be red, have mild pinpoint bleeding and be moderately swollen. This should subside within 24 to 36 hours.

Laser removal is best used on cosmetic tattoos that are older than six months. Otherwise, the ink is in a much higher concentration and the process to remove it will be longer, thereby increasing the risk of scarring. Multiple sessions are required with a minimum of 6 to 8 week to heal between sessions. 

Are there risks? 

Whenever someone is working close to your eyes, you want to have confidence that the practitioner is well-trained, experienced and competent to conduct the treatment. Without doubt there is a real possibility that the treatment has the potential to cause damage to the eyes or a discoloration from the pigments used. 

Adding a correcting color causes more problems than it helps. DO NOT let a technician fix it by tattooing over with flesh colored pigment. Flesh or skin-toned pigments are opaque and contain titanium oxide. When placed on top of another pigment, it looks unnatural because the skin there loses its translucency. Plus, when hit by laser light, the pigment oxidizes and returns to its natural state – dark grey or black. This situation can be managed with laser and/or non-laser treatments, although it will take several additional sessions to do so.

Should it be done? 

You should have a thorough consultation to find out if you’re a good candidate for either type of removal treatment. No matter which method of eyeliner removal is best for you, be sure to do your homework. Be careful where you place your trust. We’re talking about your eyes, so find a competent and professional clinic to help you.

The number of sessions you’ll need to remove the pigment will depend on the color, type, and depth of the pigment, and on your body’s immune system’s ability to expel the pigments. Often, if the factors considered such as the color, density, and change desired, the possible risks and adverse side effects outweigh the benefits of removal, the technician should not recommend removal. No matter how much you want it!

What are the benefits?

Removal sessions are generally quick, although the visual difference is not immediately seen. Over time, pigment will continue to fade on its own, even after removal sessions. 

A combination of treatment methods can offer you even better results than just having one or the other.

The biggest benefit to having unwanted pigment removed is that you have a clean slate (or nearly) and can start over if you want to.