The Dangers of Getting an Eyeball Tattoo

Ask the Optician

By Emma Moletto
Reviewed by Beck Jinnette
Beck Jinnette

Reviewed by

Beck Jinnette
Beck has over 17 years of experience in eye care, holding her Certificate IV in Dispensing in Australia.
An eye tattoo is a dangerous cosmetic body modification. Learn about the risks and side effects.
example of an eye tattoo with blue ink

Disclaimer: Due to the high risk of serious complications and the lack of legal safety standards, medical professionals strongly advise against eyeball tattooing. Eye health should be prioritised above any cosmetic or aesthetic preferences.

What is eyeball tattooing?

Getting an eyeball tattoo is a type of extreme cosmetic body modification.

It’s also known as scleral tattooing and is a highly controversial and risky cosmetic procedure in which ink pigment is injected into the white part of the eye (the sclera).

The purpose of this procedure is to change the colour of the eye or create a specific design or pattern on the eye’s surface.

As the tissue of the eye is very different to that of the skin, the process is not like any other tattoo procedure and it’s extremely dangerous.

It involves injecting tattoo ink (like purple liquid or any other colour) into the thin layer of tissue that covers the sclera using a needle or specialised tattooing equipment.

The injected pigment then spreads within the eye’s tissues, creating the desired effect. The risk is that the ink can spread beyond the injection sites and cause permanent damage.

Eye Anatomy
Eye Anatomy

What is the history of eyeball tattoos?

The history of eyeball tattoos (also known as sclera tattoos) is relatively brief and marked by controversy.

While body modification and tattooing have been practiced for thousands of years, the specific practice of injecting ink into the eyeball for aesthetic and cosmetic reasons has emerged much more recently.

Owing to the severe health risks and potential for vision loss associated with eyeball tattooing, it has been met with widespread disapproval from medical authorities (Hida et al. 2022).

It has also prompted legal restrictions or bans in several countries. Eyeball tattoos are also uncommon because few tattoo artists are comfortable or willing to do them.


An eyeball tattoo or sclera tattoo, is a highly dangerous cosmetic body modification. It is done by injecting ink pigment into the eye’s white part (sclera) to change its colour or create a design.

What are the risks and side effects of scleral tattooing?

The eye is a sensitive, delicate organ that must be treated with care. Scleral tattooing is a dangerous and irreversible procedure, with a high likelihood of severe complications and side effects (Rohl et al. 2021).

Additionally, since sclera tattooing falls outside the realm of traditional tattooing, there is currently no established formal training, licensing or certification process for a tattoo artist to perform this procedure.

Here are some of the many potential health risks of getting an eye tattoo:

  • Vision issues (blurred vision, decreased vision or double vision)
  • Partial vision loss 
  • Blindness
  • Eye infections
  • Inflammation of the eye
  • Retinal detachment
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Loss of the entire eye
Eyeball tattoo risks
Eyeball tattoo risks

Even if this high-risk procedure is done without damaging the eye, it still poses challenges for future eye examinations by healthcare professionals in assessing your eye’s health.

Plus, there’s no scientific research on the long-term side effects of sclera tattoos yet, as the first reports of this practice only date back to 2007.

Even the developer of the procedure, body modification expert Luna Cobra, advises against it.

Are eyeball tattoos legal?

Although this is a relatively new procedure, the dangerous nature of eye tattooing has already been recognised (Rohl et al. 2021).

The legality of eyeball tattoos varies from country to country and even within different states or regions.

Some countries and regions have outright banned eyeball tattoos due to the significant health risks associated with the procedure. In other places, it may be allowed but strictly regulated.

For example, in the United States, sclera tattooing is now banned in states like Oklahoma, Indiana and Washington.

In Australia, eyeball tattooing is prohibited by law unless performed by a medical practitioner or other prescribed persons.

Safer alternatives to eye tattoos

It’s vital to prioritise your health, even if you don’t like the colour of your eyes. A safer alternative to getting a sclera tattoo is to use coloured contacts (also known as cosmetic contacts or costume contacts). 

Coloured contact lenses can change the appearance of your eye colour without the need for any invasive procedures.

They are available with or without a prescription and can offer a wide range of natural or vivid colour options.

Remember that it’s also essential to consult a qualified eye doctor before using any cosmetic eye products or considering non-surgical enhancements.

They can provide guidance on the correct size and brands and ensure that any chosen method is safe for your eyes and vision.

If you have any questions on this matter, you can reach out to one of our certified online opticians.


Hida, S., Chiambaretta, F., & Malecaze, J. (2022). Tatouage scléral : Une Mode émergente dangereuse. Journal Français d’Ophtalmologie, 45(6), 608–611.

Rohl, A., Christopher, K. L., & Ifantides, C. (2021). Two cases of PEN ink scleral tattoos and a brief review of the literature. American Journal of Ophthalmology Case Reports, 21, 101015.



Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *