Not long ago tattoos were the epitome of taboo in Western culture, dedicated to the sidelines of our society. Now, they’re everywhere.
Tattoos have exploded in popularity in the last 50 years or so, with around 15% of all Australians thought to have at least one tattoo. As well as being more common, tattoos are also more visible, with employers and companies more open to their staff having visible tattoos, and more people taking up the opportunity to get inked on more visible skin.
The problem is that some people still want to stand out from the crowd with their tattoos, but it’s getting harder and harder to do that with the masses of inked up individuals in the world.
Enter eyeball tattooing….
Did you just say eyeball tattooing?
Yep, the latest thing from the world of body modification (as this goes one step further than simple tattooing) is eyeball tattooing. It involves inking the sclera, or the white area that surrounds the iris, but not everyone is on board. In fact, medical professionals have labelled the procedure “experimental, extreme and potentially carcinogenic”.
Pioneered by US-born body modification guru and tattooist Luna Cobra (who is based in both Melbourne and San Francisco), the trend has taken off in the last few years. It’s an irreversible process by which ink is injected straight into the eyeball and then left to spread under the top layer of the eye to colour it.
Luna Cobra claims he has been honing the technique for almost a decade, and started after trying to replicate a photo shopped image. Since then he has tattooed around 100 people, including 20 in Australia. Their jobs range from other tattoo artists to IT professionals and even tradespeople.
The eyeball tattooing process is entirely painless, and Luna Cobra believes that the trend is because regular tattoos were becoming more and more common. His clients are people looking for something to make them stand out a little more. Luna Cobra made note that he carefully vets his clients before the procedure, given the somewhat extreme nature of the change.
Australian Kylie Garth, aged 30, from Western Australia recently had her eyes tattooed a light blue colour to bring together her look, which includes intentionally designed scars, several tattoos and a number of piercings. Although she could confirm that the process was painless, she mentioned it was terrifying.
“I knew that it wasn’t painful but still, when you’re lying in a chair and there’s a needle coming for your eye there’s always going to be that moment where you’re like ‘f***.’
She also mentioned that because of her profession (as a tattoo artist) the response from her professional community and friends was likely to be different than in another job. Her advice was that people should consider their future employment options before having the procedure done.
However, Luke Arundel the Senior Resident Optometrist at Optometry Australia said difficultly getting a job could be the least of the problems with an eyeball tattoo.
“The practice can put people at risk of pain, infection, inflammation and blindness,” he said. “And these risks from a purely cosmetic procedure have led to the procedure being banned in some states of America and other overseas countries.”
At this rate though, you might not need to worry much about everyone around you turning into multi-coloured freaks, with even Luna Cobra saying the trend has probably peaked.
“It was an absolute shock to find out how many people would do it but it now feels like it’s at maximum level.”
Still, with at least a few wandering around Australia, you never know who you might bump into!