Eyelid Piercing [The Publisher’s Ring]

Eyelid Piercing
The trend to end all trends.

“Lo, this only have I found, that God hath made man upright; but they have sought out many inventions.”

- Ecclesiastes 7:29

A long time ago I made the mistake of answering the question “is there anything that can’t be pierced” with “eyelids.” A few days later, Kelly from Yonge Street Tattoos in Toronto showed me a photo she’d taken while at a convention in Florida. She told me that he said the piercings didn’t bother him, but that she thought his eyes did look pretty irritated.

I pretty much wrote it off as a “stupid human trick” and so did most of the piercers I knew. Even though I later tracked down that person’s story — their red eyes were due to allergies, and that’s why they took the piercing out — I don’t think I ever took it seriously. They said they’d get it redone when allergy season was over. I never heard from them again so I assumed it didn’t happen, probably wasn’t viable, and it had become one of the many “tried it once, but never again” stories we seem to enjoy here.

However, more eyelid piercings have come out of the woodwork, and I’ve had a chance to talk to some of the clients and piercers doing this unusual procedure. First, meet Joe Amato of Tatts Taylors Tattoos in Fort Lauderdale, Florida (1929 S Federal Hwy, 954-525-7910). On St. Patrick’s day this year he performed an eyelid piercing on his friend Kevin Magee.

BME: What was the procedure you used for this piercing? What steps did you take to minimize the risks?

JOE: When we did Kevin’s eyelid, we put serious thought into not just doing the piercing but into how he was going to take care of it afterwards to make sure that first, it did not damage his eye, and second, that it would heal quickly and comfortably. To approach actually piercing the eyelid I used a small set of sponge forceps that I polished the grips off of so I wouldn’t scratch or damage the inside of the lid. I handmade “shorty” needles about 3/8 of an inch long so I could pierce from the inside out and not have to cause any extra trauma to the eyelid itself by pulling out enough to get a 2” needle through it.

BME: What was the piercing like?

KEVIN: It was scary as hell, but there was very little pain. It was noticeably uncomfortable immediately afterwards and throughout the night. The next morning it was pretty swollen, uncomfortable, and slightly annoying. I had redness on my eye, and a little crusting and dry blood… but it was only slightly painful when my eye dried out.

BME: Did you take anything?

KEVIN: An Aleve, 50mg of zinc, and H2Ocean throughout the day.

JOE: The primary aftercare agent we used was H2Ocean, which really was the biggest reason this healed so well.

The salinity in this product is measured off of tears to be as close to the body’s natural level as possible; so spraying it in his eye every day never burned or caused any damage. In addition, we had him using a saline rinse three times a day to remove any debris inside the eyelid itself, and Renu eye drops to keep the eye as moist as possible so it wouldn’t hurt his eye, or the contacts he wears. Lastly, we had him take zinc daily throughout the healing to help it along and Aleve for the first couple days to help minimize any swelling, so there would be no extra pressure from the ring on his eye.

BME: What was the healing like?

KEVIN: The second night I had no trouble sleeping, but when I woke up in the morning there was a large amount of pus under my eyelid. It was easily cleaned out with H2Ocean and a Q-Tip, and didn’t happen again. My eye was swollen and felt bruised, and it was mildly painful to close my eye tightly or open it widely. The redness was starting to fade though, and it mostly just felt like an eyelash caught in my eye.

BME: Did you take any other steps to monitor the healing?

JOE: I checked his eye every day with a 10x jeweler’s loupe to make sure there was no damage to the white of his eye. And, to this day, it has never scratched one of his contacts — which anyone who wears contacts knows is unbearable and impossible not to notice! I had Kevin make a journal of his experience with healing it, and made sure he paid great detail to writing down everything he used.

KEVIN: By the third day of healing, the redness was gone and there wasn’t any crust. It still felt bruised and it was still a little swollen… I was beginning to get used to the eyelash feeling, but it was still irritating. The day after that the swelling went down some more, and it didn’t hurt any more except when I closed my eye really tight.

Over the next few days I got more and more used to the feeling of having something this close to my eye. By the end of the first week of healing I was used to it, and at two weeks in it was totally comfortable.

BME: Do you still have to do anything to take care of it?

KEVIN: I still use H2Ocean several times a day to stave off infection, and Renu eye drops when necessary. I have had no problems with my vision, and all in all it has been a good experience. It’s been two months since I got it pierced and I’ve still got it and I don’t even feel it.

…The only problem I’ve had is people shrinking away from me in horror in the elevator!

BME: No doubt! Thanks for talking to us.

We also had the opportunity to chat with our old friend Nick Anzalole at Under the Needle in Seattle, Washington (2511 6th Ave, 206-448-6613). Like nearly every piercer I know, he wasn’t able to shake the idea after seeing that first blurry picture from the tattoo convention. His friend Ty, also fascinated by the piercing, volunteered.

BME: So, what made you think this was a good idea?

NICK: Ty already had extensive mod work, including a split tongue, so I told him we would try it, but that it would probably be very uncomfortable, and might have to be removed very soon after being pierced. He said that was fine and we went ahead with it. This was back in June of 2002. He was lucky enough to have sort of a little free space in the corner of his eye.

BME: What do you mean by that?

NICK: As in his eyelid didn’t touch his actual eyeball in the corner — I thought this would be the best place to pierce it.

BME: What was your procedure?

NICK: I placed a small Pyrex glass receiving tube under his eyelid so as not to nick the actual eyeball — I warned him that if he jumped the needle might just go straight into his eyeball! Then, using a 14 gauge needle, I simply pierced into it, following through with a 14 gauge 5/16” captive bead ring. I held tight onto the eyelid to make sure the skin didn’t “roll” with the needle. It was over quickly, and only a single tear had left his eye. The ring itself appeared to not even touch the actual eyeball, and just kind of float in mid air.

BME: How did the healing go?

NICK: I kept in good contact with Ty for several days afterwards to monitor him. He said it didn’t really bother him all that much — only when he woke in the morning did it irritate him. He took care of it like you would any other piercing, and soaked it in warm saline solution several times a day.

He still had it in about twenty days later, when, after a night of drinking, he stumbled and fell, and kind of caught it on a nail in a doorway! It was still in, but bleeding and had torn a little. I was there and told him it should probably come out. He wanted to try to leave it in, but after about three more days he took it out… I believe there was a very good chance it may have healed, but his was too damaged from the fall. I may do it again some day. I do still enjoy the fact though that as far as I know, I was the second piercer ever to pierce an eyelid.

BME: Do you think people should be doing this piercing?

NICK: Well, this is the kind of thing you really should never try, nor should you ever ask your piercer to do it for you. The man who I did this on, Ty, was a good friend of mine, and I did it only after he bugged me for a very long time, and I was sure he understood all the risks involved. If someone without the needed skills tried this they could easily blind their friend.

BME: Thanks for talking to us about this!

Now, I need to be very clear and upfront and say that this is not yet something I’d consider a viable piercing. It shows a lot of promise and it may well be possible to safely do these, but the jury is far from in. That said, until about 1980 people thought that tongue piercing was absolutely insane and that it would cripple a person… but as it’s turned out, it’s one of the safest and most common piercings out there.

Risks from eyelid piercing are largely centered around infection from the damage to the eyelid (risk to the scelra or white of the eye is minimal assuming proper jewelry is used). The main risk is bacterial conjunctivitis, better known as “pink eye”, a bacterial infection. If the eye becomes increasingly swollen and red, or the infection spreads to nasal or ear congestion accompanied by fever or cold and flu symptoms, this could be escalating into a serious problem. If yellow or green discharge is present you may need antibiotic treatment, and if it gets worse, surgical intervention is not unheard of. It is important to note that while this risk is most prominent in the first few days, it will never entirely go away.

I should also note that if you have any jewelry allergies, you’ll show the symptoms above for as long as you have the piercing. In my opinion anyone who suffers from allergies should not attempt this. Finally, styes, infections in the glands at the edge of the eyelid are also possible. If this happens you’ll note swelling, pain, and itching right in that area — warm compresses can help.

Modification of the eyelid and eye itself is on the verge of erupting. Eyelid tattooing is a common cosmetic procedure these days. Even eyeball tattooing (where the white of the eye is tattooed) is considered a “safe” procedure, as is the implantation of metal designs under the white of the eye. It makes sense though — the eyes are the focal point for all of our social interactions. We can sense where someone is looking from across the room, and we can express some of the most subtle emotions through our eyes alone. “You have beautiful eyes,” is a compliment that crosses all cultures and is one of the few universal truths in aesthetics.

So for those of us who think piercing is beautiful, maybe a pierced eyelid makes sense?

Shannon Larratt

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About Shannon Larratt

Shannon Larratt is the founder of BME (1994) and its former editor and publisher. After a four year hiatus between 2008 and 2012, Shannon is back adding his commentary to ModBlog. It should be noted that any comments in these entries are the opinion of Shannon Larratt and may or may not be shared by BMEzine.com LLC or the other staff or members of BME. Entry text Copyright © Shannon Larratt. Reproduced under license by BMEzine.com LLC. Pictures may be copyright to their respective owners. You can also find Shannon at Zentastic or on Facebook.