An aesthetic doctor once told me that "only plastic surgery" could significantly reduce dark circles. Whilst my dark circles weren't tragic, they were visible enough to make me feel uncomfortable. However, I did not want to go under the knife, so I resumed my hunt for a non-surgical treatment that could visibly brighten my sleep-deprived eyed. A few years ago I wrote an article about under-eye concealer tattoo, but at the time it was not available in Australia. Fast forward to 2023, the procedure finally landed in Australia and I immediately booked an appointment with Katerina from New Me Sydney. The under-eye concealer tattoo intrigued me, because the pigment is injected into an area that "shields" the darkness from being visible underneath the skin. Although the procedure sounds effective in theory, I was sceptical as to whether it would significantly soften my dark circles. Read on, as I unearth my personal experience — from the entire process, to my final results, after-care tips and potential risks.

What is an under-eye concealer tattoo?

Dark circles are not located on the surface of the skin, instead the darkness is caused by visible blood vessels underneath the top layer of the skin (epidermis). Think of it like this: the blood vessels are more opaque than the skin, so the darkness can show through to the epidermis. The under-eye concealer tattoo injects nude pigment between the blood vessels (area causing darkness) and the epidermis; this essentially creates a barrier that shields the darkness from showing through to the surface of the skin.

The general procedure. Tattoo Artist: Princess Lash and Brows Academy

Before the procedure

I went to New Me Sydney for this procedure, and my cosmetic tattooist was Katerina Dobriakova. She was realistic about what the procedure could achieve — informing me that it would not completely eradicate dark circles, but rather reduce the darkness by 80 – 90%, and impart a soft-focus glow, akin to applying brightening powder.

Prior to starting the procedure, Katerina marked the area where the pigment will be deposited. After examining my skin tone, she created a custom pigment that was closest to my natural skin colour. Katerina mixed a white pigment with a nude pigment; the nude pigment helps conceal the dark circles, whilst the white tone adds radiance and prevents the colour from oxidising over time.

A nude pigment is mixed with a white pigment to create a custom colour. Tattoo artist: New Me Sydney (Katerina Dobriakova)

The tattooing process

The first step of the actual procedure involved Katerina using needle to create micro holes under my eyes, to open up the skin in preparation for the pigment to be injected. This mechanism is similar to microneedling and helps stimulate collagen production. The pigment is injected approximately 0.3mm under my epidermis using both gentle patting motions and short strokes.  Katerina recommends using one fine needle to inject the pigment, because it allows for more control and precision. Some tattoo artists use a multi-needle tool (e.g. 4 needles are inserted into the skin in one go), but this can cause an unnatural patch of colour to appear under the eyes. In many under-eye concealer tattoo videos I often saw excessive pigment spill onto the client’s skin, like splattered paint. However, Katerina ensured that just the right amount of pigment was injected beneath my skin.

Katerina prefers to apply numbing cream right after the first round of injecting pigment underneath the skin, because the pigment is more evenly distributed through this method. The reason? The numbing cream makes it more difficult for the pigment to be injected, thereby requiring stronger physical force and consequently causing my trauma to the skin.  Despite the absence of numbing cream, the injections only felt like very soft finger taps — nothing painful or uncomfortable. After the first pass, she slightly stretched my skin to see if there were any hidden areas that required more pigment. When Katerina was satisfied with the placement of the tattoo, she gently massaged my under eyes to maximise the absorption and smoothness of the pigment. For the final step, Katerina applied a soothing sunscreen because the skin is more sensitive to UVA and UVB rays immediately after the procedure.

Post-procedure side effects and after-care tips

The pigment is not immediately visible post procedure — so the darkness will not immediately appear concealed. The healing process is different from lipstick, eyeliner, or eyebrow tattoos, where the pigment is initially very strong, and gradually fades into a more natural colour. Instead, the under-eye concealer tattoo is only visible after 30-40 days, because the pigment needs time to expand and become more opaque. Further, the pigment is injected at a deeper level and the skin needs time to regenerate, so the pigment can “rise” closer to the skin’s surface. Be aware that on day 3,  your fine lines may be more pronounced as the skin will be dry and flakey. This is because the needles cause micro-injuries, which activates the body’s healing process; damaged skin will peel off  to reveal fresh new skin. Luckily, the flaking only lasted for about 4 days and it was imperceptible, unless you came an uncomfortably close distance to my face.

Katerina Dobriakova from New Me Sydney

Post procedure, there was minor swelling and redness that lasted approximately 2 hours. There were also tiny dots that looked like micro traces of concealer. This disappeared in about 3 days, as the pigment gradually expanded and settled in. I initially told Katerina that the darkness appeared visibly softened just a few hours post procedure. However, she said it was most likely the swelling that created the visual perception of plumper under eyes. I did not experience any bruising or have any visible red needle marks, even immediately after the procedure.To accelerate the healing process, Katerina advised me to keep the area hydrated; I highly recommend Bepanthen ointment to reduce flakiness and dehydration. It is recommended to not wear makeup for 24 hours post procedure, and was advised against using any active skincare, such as acids (AHA, BHA) and retinol for 2 days. In the long-term it is also best to avoid undergoing laser treatments underneath the eye, as the pigment may be drawn closer to the skin and potentially result in micro dots filled with pigment appearing under the eyes.

Immediately after the procedure, redness is minimal

Final Under-eye Concealer Tattoo Results: First session

Two sessions are recommended, because the pigment needs to be gradually layered to avoid an unnatural result. The first treatment is to ascertain whether there are any sensitivities to the pigment, and the second treatment is to build upon the pigment and increase the concealing effects. Katerina says minimal amounts of pigment are injected during the first treatment, so the outcome is subtle. The biggest difference will be seen in the second treatment, as the purpose is to conceal darkness that is not sufficiently covered by the first treatment. After the first session, my under eyes were visibly lighter approximately one month post procedure. The pigment was initially strikingly bright at the one-and-a-half month mark, but it gradually faded to a subtle lightness after a week. The pigment settled into its final form at approximately two months, and my under eyes also appeared firmer and smoother, with fine lines visibly reduced. The overall result was a subtle, airbrushed luminosity that made me look more fresh and alert. Although my dark circles were not completely eradicated, there was at least a 30% improvement; there was a pretty light-diffused dewiness to my under eyes that no concealer on the market has been able to replicate.

 A before and after courtesy of Katerina Dobriakova from New Me Sydney’s client

Second session results

In terms of concealing capabilities, it was after the second session that I noticed my dark circles were significantly lighter, with areas that were previously still dark after the first session, transforming into a nude skin colour. The biggest difference after the second session, was the texture of my under eyes —  the skin appeared tighter, more lifted and the fine lines more visibly softened. After two sessions, there is still some darkness, but the intensity of my dark circles has been taken down several notches. I now feel comfortable walking outside the house without concealer, as the procedure imparts makes your under eyes look slightly airbrushed. I was initially worried, the result would look like a slab of heavy paint; however, far from a mask-like effect, the darkness was diffused by a radiance so subtle, that looked as though I was born with naturally bright undereyes. Admittedly, I still use concealer, but I only apply one layer now, whereas I previously needed 4 layers to look like a functioning human!

My results by Katerina from New Me Sydney

Story by Kristina; Holding shot via @rosiehw.

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