When it comes to body modification, it’s no surprise that certain people go to great lengths to both express and adapt themselves. For some, the length they’re willing to go stares you right in the eye. Eyeball tattooing is not necessarily a new phenomenon, as records indicate that as far back as 150 AD, Galen, a Roman physician and philosopher, was practicing the procedure, specifically known as corneal tattooing, to hide leucomata of the eye. Though corneal tattooing has existed throughout history, the actual dying of the whites of the eyeball is a new procedure that was first performed in 2007.

The first man to attempt this controversial modification is appropriately known as Pauly Unstoppable. Howie (whose last name cannot be found) of LunaCobra.net, was the person who performed the procedure, and his first attempt took an estimated 40 strikes using a traditional hand-poked technique with standard tattoo ink. Despite Howie attempting this procedure on another 2 subjects, including Sharon Larratt, the founder of BME (Body Modification Ezine), the eyes were not dyed evenly or fully. Larratt stated that there is virtually no pain experienced during the process, since there are no nerve endings where the injections reach, and that aftercare in his experience was as simple as antibiotic eye drops and a patch.

Five years later, Howie with-no-last-name has officially mastered the practice. And it’s growing too, with other modifiers, such as Emilio Gonzalez (mithostattoo.com) and Roni Lachowicz (x-roni-x.com), offering the service. Both were featured on BME.com for their black-eye dye jobs. Naturally, this tattoo wound up in prison. In 2010, possibly before Howie perfected his practice, 2 inmates, David Boltjes and Paul Inman, created their own strategy to tattoo the eye. David, 27, who is currently in jail for a white collar crime, was the first to have his eye worked on. Paul, convicted for conspiracy to commit murder, assault, and arson, was reluctant to get the tattoo. Perhaps the lack of arts and crafts classes led to his eventual agreement? Neither inmate has released any information on how they created the tattoos, although David hinted that he possibly used a hypodermic needle…possibly, hopefully.

As it turns out, there can be quite a dark side to a darker eye. It is believed that more than 10% of the people who receive these tattoos will have permanent “black” eyes. What this means is that some of the ink, whatever color that was selected, is somehow settling under the eye. So if the ink used was black, it recreates a fresh shiner. Repairing any damage done is unlikely, at least from what the practitioners know so far. A Finnish tattoo artist, Mechanical Devil, has prominent black ink underneath his eye, and despite tattooing flesh tones on his skin, the ink remains highly visible. It seems that the devil does, indeed, work in mysterious ways.

Currently, practitioners have no viable understanding of what causes this, with no clear answer in sight. The problem is that the ink is embedded much deeper than in standard tattoos, making it difficult to correct. And being that the procedure itself is only 5 years old, there are many other discoveries to be made. As it stands, this procedure has the potential to lead to infection, hemorrhaging, damage of the blood vessels, perforation, and possibly blindness. There is no knowing what possible effects this may have in the long term or if it is even carcinogenic. Also unknown is whether the dye fades, if the procedure can be reversed, etc. So while it’s a trend that’s gaining popularity, it may not have a long life or be wide reaching. Time will tell—or at the very least, a “black” eye always will.


  1. Khan BS. Eye tattoos to eye piercings.  The Times of India. May 29, 2011.http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-05-29/health/29594586_1_tattoo-artist-body-modification-coloured-lenses.
  2. Larratt S. The black eyeball club. BME News. Octiber 10, 2012.http://news.bme.com/2012/10/10/the-black-eyeball-club/.
  3. Larratt S. Eyeball tattoo risk: permanent black eye. BME News. September 20, 2012.http://news.bme.com/2012/09/20/eyeball-tattoo-risk-permanent-black-eye/.
  4. Larratt S. Three blind mice. BME News. July 2, 2007.http://news.bme.com/2007/07/02/three-blind-mice/.
  5. Simcha. Bod mod trend: eyeball tattoos. The Frisky. January 7, 2010.http://www.thefrisky.com/2010-01-07/bod-mod-trend-tattooing-your-eyeballs.