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In this article you will learn about some of the most popular under eye tattoo motifs and their meaning.

If you’re thinking of delving into the realm of face tattoos, an under eye tattoo can be a great place to begin your journey. As society shifts towards a more accepting attitude of tattooing in general, we are beginning to see a rise in popularity of designs being showcased on the face, and in particular-- beneath the eye. In this article, we will explore the historical roots of under eye tattoo symbolism, as well as the modern takes and meanings behind these designs.

Teardrop Under Eye Tattoo

When thinking about the origins of the under eye tattoo, one infamous symbol comes to mind: the teardrop tattooed under the eye. This symbol works to best summarize the early contemporary beginnings of face tattooing and its past association with fringe society and prison life. Traditionally, teardrop under eye tattoos were used to denote gang affiliation, mark violent crimes, and pay homage to loved ones lost.

While these tattoos used to exile their wearers from mainstream society, they are now donned by many influential musicians and celebrities alike. Instead of representing murder or lengthy prison sentences, the symbolism behind these under eye tattoos has shifted towards remembrance of lives lost and odes to past struggles. Most notably, rappers Lil’ Wayne and The Game have both chosen the teardrop symbolism beneath their eye to pay tribute to loved ones lost along their journey.

Triangle Under Eye Tattoo

Traditional Tattoo artist Myke Chambers is a living example of face tattooing’s roots and subsequent evolution. Myke suffered through a difficult childhood marked by addiction, alienation, and loss. As his journey progressed, he eventually ended up in a Texas prison for 4 years. Myke used this experience to better his life and hone his craft of tattooing. Today he is a highly respected artist and owner of Seven Swords Tattoo Company in Philadelphia. Myke sports a beautiful Polynesian style tattoo below his eye. When asked about the personal meaning Myke is quoted as saying that it represents “life through truth and honor”.

Within the Polynesian culture tattooing artwork on the upper half of the body is typically associated with the spiritual world. Tattoos of upside-down triangles are commonly used in Polynesian tattooing to depict enemies defeated. Perhaps this could be viewed as part of Myke’s own transformation: defeating his own personal demons by leaving a life of crime and hardship behind to embrace one of compassion and service.

In some ancient cultures and religions, upside down triangles are used to pay homage to feminine and lunar energy while honoring various female goddesses. Whatever meaning you prefer, the symbolism of an upside down triangle tattoo beneath the eye is strong, making it a popular choice for both genders.

Star Under Eye Tattoo

If you’re looking for a more feminine take on tattoos around the eye, there’s no better example than world-famous tattoo artist and makeup mogul Kat Von D.

Kat described the personal meaning surrounding her infamous star tattoos around her eye saying, “It is a symbol of being able to be heavily tattooed and still carry yourself in a feminine way”. She further added that her favorite Motley Crue song is “Starry Eyes” which also aided to inspire the iconic design.

Lightning Bolt Under Eye Tattoo

Kat also dons a super cool under eye tattoo—a lightning bolt beneath her eye. When asked about the meaning of the lightning bolt tattoo, she said she chose the design to represent her LA tattoo shop ‘High Voltage Tattoo’.

Aside from Kat’s personal take on the symbol, lightning bolt tattoos can also mean power, decisiveness or be used to pay tribute to fictional pop culture icons like Harry Potter or the Flash.

Numeral Under Eye Tattoo

An understated and classic choice for face and under eye tattoos is a simple numeral. The picture above demonstrates how to wear this under eye symbol in a clean and contemporary way!

Some famous examples of numbers tattooed on the face include late rapper XXXTENTACION’s “17”, which was tattooed on his upper forehead, Lil’ Pump’s “17”, which is tattooed on the side of his eye, and the “69” worn by rapper Tekashi 6Six9Nine which is tattooed above his eyebrow. These artists chose to adorn their faces with numbers that were considered milestones, lucky numbers and numerals representative of birthdates.

Choosing a numeral under eye tattoo is a simple and personal way to adorn the face.

Anchor Under Eye Tattoo

A unique and fun concept for under eye tattoos is the selection of a symbol or term that holds personal meaning. In this photo we see a classic ship anchor tattoo; the meaning behind this type of design is usually a reminder to stay grounded. Similar to mantras we may hang on our walls, using symbols and terms that invoke a sense of well-being, strength or luck can be a helpful subconscious reminder, especially when used on the face.

Tattoos under the eye hold a different meaning for each wearer, but when choosing permanent symbols for the face—why not select something that serves as a reminder to be better to yourself and others?

Cross Under Eye Tattoo

Crosses have long been part of the ritual of tattooing. The meaning behind cross tattoos varies depending on the time period and culture in which they are worn. Historically this symbol has long been used by Middle Eastern Coptic Christians as a sign of defiance and reverence in their predominantly Muslim society.

In the Western world, the meaning behind cross tattoos can be interpreted as signifying everything from gang affiliation to devotion to religious beliefs.

Featured above are some modern takes on this ancient symbol. Sporting a cross beneath his eye, tattoo artist and influencer Luke Wessman makes the symbol look classy and understated. Many celebrities are also donning cross tattoos around the eye and face like 21 Savage, Lil’ Wayne and Justin Bieber.

Hearts Under Eye Tattoo

Under eye tattoos have risen in popularity with women as well! More women are choosing feminine tattoos for the face like hearts, stars, upside down triangles and cursive words.

A heart tattoo under the eye, like the one shown above, does not traditionally have a particular meaning attributed to this specific placement, but can be used to denote love, a passionate personality or to simply just look cute.

Another popular design for men and women alike is a tattoo of a broken heart beneath the eye, typically meaning a loss of a loved one or the ending of an important relationship. Diamond tattoos have also risen in popularity for the face, usually meaning inner strength, beauty, power and wealth.

Dots Under Eye Tattoo

Dot tattoos beneath the eye have been commonly used in Western culture to symbolize allegiance to gang life. Tattoo’s showcasing three dots beneath the eye have become synonymous with the saying “mi vida loca” or “my crazy life”. This particular symbol and phrase does not belong to any specific gang, but rather represents adherence to the overall “gang lifestyle”.

Outside of gang culture the symbol of three dots has also be used to represent spirituality, religion, and balance within one’s life.

In the Christian belief system three dots may be used to represent the Holy Trinity, or the father, son and Holy Spirit.

In Alchemical circles three dots can signify balance in one’s life when placed in a triangular shape.

The usage of three triangular dots also holds meaning within the world of mathematics, symbolizing the “therefore” symbol, a symbol used to signify a “logical consequence”. People also sometimes get the semicolon symbol tattooed as well because of it's metaphor of solidarity with those who suffer from mental illness, suicidal ideation, and similar.

X Under Eye Tattoo

Tattoos depicting an “X” symbol make an excellent choice for those opting for a more subtle face tattoo. Although there is no one specific meaning assigned to the placement of an “X” tattoo beneath the eye, we will examine some of the more popular meanings ascribed to them throughout the years.

One of the most common reasons behind tattooing an “X” on the face or body is to represent that one is living a “straight edge” lifestyle. The “X”, or sometimes multiple X’s, are used to symbolize a lifestyle devoid of alcohol, tobacco and recreational drugs.

For those interested in numerology, the “X” symbol is also representative of the Roman numeral “10”. In numerology, this number symbolizes a return to unity, as well as the completion of a cycle in one’s life. 
The “X” tattoo has also been used to represent hardships one has faced in life, as well as recovery from hardship. Some individuals have chosen this symbol as a reminder to stay away from past vices or self-defeating cycles.

If you are looking for an under eye tattoo with highly personal meaning and mysterious vibe, an “X” tattoo can be a great selection.

Upside down Umbrella Under Eye Tattoo

Umbrellas have long been a popular symbol depicted in tattooing. Modern takes on this classic design are now being seen sported on the face, specifically under the eye.

While there is no official meaning for the placement of this design, umbrellas can be used to signify a variety of things. Many have taken this symbol as an embodiment of the adage “when it rains, it pours”, particularly when paired with raindrops. In that context, the upside down umbrella tattoo can also represent compassion, as it is catching the tears.

The upside down umbrella tattoo can be used to as a symbol of personal protection from life’s ills, and victory over hardships. The umbrella tattoo also has a history of representing magic, wealth and travel.

With so many various meanings, the upside down umbrella tattoo can be easily personalized to fit your needs.

The Evolution of Under Eye Tattoos in Western Culture

Although face tattoos, in general, have long been associated with outlaw lifestyles, violence, and death, the meaning and symbolism behind under eye tattoos have steadily progressed towards a more positive and creative direction. In today’s times, we see many familiar faces adorned with tattoos beneath the eye.

Although many people choose to get these face tattoos to stand out from mainstream society, these pieces, and their ascribed meanings, have also helped to bring people together and make many famous faces more instantly recognizable.

Would you ever consider getting a face tattoo? Check out the 250 best tattoos of the year to gain more inspiration for your next piece!

Jennifer R Donnelly
Written byJennifer R Donnelly

Freelance Journalist | Tattoo & Art Collector