Semi-Permanent Eyeliner 101: I Woke Up Like This

Semi-Permanent Eyeliner 101: I Woke Up Like This

We asked cosmetic tattoo artist Amy Kernahan about everything you need to know when considering semi-permanent eyeliner.

For those of us who are lacking in makeup skills, a steady hand, or aren't the best at mornings — semi-permanent eyeliner may be the right choice.

Who among us hasn’t struggled to apply their eyeliner in the wee hours of the morning, winding up with a sad excuse for a cat eye at 8:00 am? Successfully applying eyeliner is an incredibly difficult skill to master. God forbid you skip the step entirely, you’ll receive the inevitable, “oh wow, you look tired. Are you sick?” Enter semi-permanent eyeliner.


The cosmetic tattoo industry is revamping those early 2000’s permanent makeup classics again, and this time they’re going straight for the one that matters most. So if you’re tired of looking tired, and of waking up early, running a pencil across your lids and hoping for the best — you’re in luck. We recently sat down with the cosmetic tattoo artist Amy Kernahan to learn a little more about the seemingly frightening process of permanent eyeliner.

Permanent eyeliner by Amy Kernahan (via IG-amykernahan) #permanentmakeup #eyeliner #cosmetictattoo #micropigmentation #AmyKernahan

Tattoodo: Can you explain the process of applying permanent eyeliner?

Amy Kernahan: I think the biggest question I get is, “does it hurt,” because obviously it’s on the eye, so we do apply a topical anesthetic along the lash line — top and bottom. After about 10 or 15 minutes then we go ahead and start applying the pigment in between the lashes, and then once we get that color into the lash bed, we can start doing — depending on what the client wants — a smokey look or a defined look.

Permanent eyeliner and brows by Amy Kernahan (via IG-amykernahan) #permanentmakeup #eyeliner #cosmetictattoo #micropigmentation #AmyKernahan

Can this procedure cover or disguise old cosmetic tattooing?

Yes and no. The old eyeliner that I’m seeing is usually done with ink. If I have somebody that comes in, and got theirs sometime [around] 20 years ago, I know it’s ink, because the color is still there. Typically we are using pigments now. If they’ve had it done with pigment and it’s really faded, we can usually correct it or go over it. If the eyeliner was done with ink, it’s deeper in the skin than the pigment would be, so it would be really hard to cover that. We can definitely try, but typically the old ink will pull through.

Permanent eyeliner and brows by Amy Kernahan (via IG-amykernahan) #permanentmakeup #eyeliner #cosmetictattoo #micropigmentation #AmyKernahan

Is the procedure dangerous? A small bundle of needles near your eyeball sounds a bit scary.

If you’re in the wrong hands, it absolutely can be, so you wanna make sure your artist is well trained, and has been doing it a long time. We are taught and trained to position the eye so that it’s very safe. Obviously things can happen, but it’s very rare. Our stretch techniques that we’re taught keep the eye very safe. Look at their work, and I think you can get a great idea from that.

Violet eyeliner by Amy Kernahan (via IG-amykernahan) #permanentmakeup #eyeliner #cosmetictattoo #micropigmentation #AmyKernahan

Are different eyeliner techniques available? For example, could someone get a cat eye if they were looking for a more dramatic effect?

Yes, it can be done, but I personally don’t do anything too dramatic. I like this to be a base, and it can last anywhere from one to 10 years. Everybody is so different with how they’ll hold color, so I don’t want to give anybody a really dramatic cat eye. Once that pigment is in there, it’s really hard to get out — if not impossible — so I typically stay within the lash line, but there are artists out there that can do beautiful cat eyes, and different styles.

Eyeliner by Amy Kernahan (via IG-amykernahan) #permanentmakeup #eyeliner #cosmetictattoo #micropigmentation #AmyKernahan

What does aftercare look like? Are there any specific products you would recommend?

It’s actually pretty easy! Obviously you just want to use a very mild cleanser. You don’t really want to rub the eyes until it’s completely healed. I usually send my clients home with an A&D ointment, and they’ll put a very thin coat on top and bottom for about seven days. It keeps it moistened, and it helps the healing process. Don’t touch it, keep it clean.

Permanent eyeliner and brows by Amy Kernahan (via IG-amykernahan) #permanentmakeup #eyeliner #cosmetictattoo #micropigmentation #AmyKernahan

What does upkeep look like? Does the eyeliner have to be retouched, and if so, how often?

I typically tell my clients [that after] between one to five years they’re going to want to come in for a touch up. If it’s a very thin line, like a lash enhancement, I would say 12 to 18 months to keep it really fresh. If it’s a thicker, more pigmented eyeliner, they’ll probably get a little more wear out of it, like two to four years. It’s not going to completely fade out of the skin, but they’ll probably just feel like they’re filling it in with regular makeup, and that’s when they’ll want to come in for a color boost.

Eyeliner by Amy Kernahan (via IG-amykernahan) #permanentmakeup #eyeliner #cosmetictattoo #micropigmentation #AmyKernahan

Is there anything else you think clients should know before making the decision to receive permanent eyeliner?

Yes! The biggest thing that I always tell clients before they book is that a lot of people are using the lash growth serum, like Latisse and Rapid Lash, that causes major sensitivity. I like my clients to be off of that for at least three to four weeks, but at the absolute minimum 10 days. This also can’t be done on people that have lash extensions, so you’d have to go to your lash artist, get those off, and then do your procedure. There is a touch up that’s needed about a month later, so I tell people to leave their lashes off, get your touch up, and then once you’re healed 10 days later from your touch up, you can go ahead and get the lashes back on.


You can book an appointment with Kernahan here, or check out the rest of her work on Instagram. As always, be sure to check back for more on the latest in cosmetic tattoos.

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