Tattoos have become part of the mainstream culture as a new survey indicates that 4 in 10 American adults aged 18 to 69 have at least one inked on their bodies. And while no one might be fazed at, say, the sight of a new mom sporting a sleeve tattoo, other types of ink, such as the eyeball tattoo, might cause you to do a double take as its very bizarreness can be jarring even to the most unflappable person.
For most people, the mere thought of a needle getting too close to your eye can be horrifying, but a growing number of individuals are getting these tattoos to give their eyes a distinctive look. If you’re considering undergoing this procedure, it’s important to know about the risks, the short and long-term effects, and how your future may be affected by this unconventional tattoo trend.
How It All Began
All trends have their beginnings, and in the case of the eyeball tattoo, it was US-based tattoo artist Luna Cobra who first thought about injecting ink into the sclera, which is the white part of the eye. In a 2017 interview with HuffPost UK, Cobra said that he started doing eyeball tattoos about 10 years ago and that he carried out research and consulted doctors before beginning this practice. He also revealed that the most requested color is black, followed by any other type of color ranging from a cool blue to a fiery red. After undergoing this procedure, a person who chooses to have tint injected into his eyes can expect to look like a character in a sci-fi movie, and once it’s done, there’s no going back.
Shannon Larratt, one of the first three people who got the unconventional procedure in 2007, blogged about his experience at the time, revealing that he chose a vivid blue hue to permanently stain his sclera. Larratt said that the procedure was “relatively painless” as he used lidocaine drops which helped to numb his eyes before Cobra did his eyeball tattoo. He also claimed that the after pain was “fairly minor,” albeit with some bruising and slight discomfort.
Why are People Getting Eyeball Tattoos?
Apart from being a conversation-starter, there are various reasons why people are choosing to get this type of tattoo. One main reason, as with all types of body art, is self-expression. Vancouver-based tattoo and body modification artist Russ Fox told VICE that all kinds of people—from construction workers to circus performers—have asked him to do eyeball tattoos. One of his clients, Dan Malette, who chose a black tint, told the media outlet that people always mistake his unusual ink for contacts. And while he’s had no problem getting construction work, Malette also said that some people would avoid sitting beside him on the bus.
Meanwhile, a man who answers to the moniker Burns The Dragon said that getting the purple tint injected into his eyes was one of the steps to “turning from head to toe into a dragon” as he always thought that he was meant to be the mythical creature in his final form. The sideshow and carnival worker said that his eyes may have been the reason why he was fired from a job that he’s had for quite some time.
“I guess they said I was the devil,” said the performer to VICE. “I had that job for four years.”
Warning: There are Irreversible Health Risks Involved
If you’ve ever toyed with the idea of looking like one of the characters from the “Dune” series, know that there are very real health risks involved if ever you decide to get an eyeball tattoo. Model Catt Galinger is a recent example of what could happen after a botched tattoo. The Canadian native got purple tint injected into her eye in September 2017, and it caused her to have blurred vision and pounding headaches. Galinger told USA Today that she regrets having the procedure and that it was not worth the risk.
Philip Rizzuto, an ophthalmologist and spokesman for the American Academy of Ophthalmology, also told the news outlet that it’s possible that people can lose an eye or go blind after getting an eyeball tattoo.
“I would strongly recommend against it,” said Rizzuto.
Your Future After an Eyeball Tattoo
Though some people may have had no problems after getting an eyeball tattoo, there is a high probability of getting botched ink, especially since the eye is one of the most delicate parts of the human body. Moreover, not many tattoo artists are trained to do this highly dangerous procedure. There is always the possibility of going blind or losing an eye. Your finances could be affected as well as having eerily-tinted eyes could cause you to miss out on promising job opportunities. If you still want to experiment, perhaps a pair of colored contact lenses may be your best bet—and for your safety and health, go to a licensed tattoo artist and keep all tattoo art strictly confined to the skin on your body.
Resources and Further Reading:
1. New Survey:4 in 10 US Adults Have a Tattoo, WMAR Baltimore, https://www.wmar2news.com/news/national/infographics/4-in-10-us-adults-have-a-tattoo
2. Eyeball Tattoos: Here’s Everything You Need To Know, Huffington Post UK,
3. Three Blind Mice, BME News ModBlog, https://news.bme.com/2007/07/02/three-blind-mice
4. What It’s Like Living With Eyeball Tattoos, VICE,
5. Don’t Tattoo Your Eyeball. Just Don’t Do It, USA Today,