I have a misguided character who will try anything to change their eye color. What are the likely outcomes of using a sharpie (permanent marker) for this?

Would the color stick at all? If so, how long it would last? What negative side effects would likely result?

I've tried and failed to find an answer to this on the web (other than the obvious DO NOT DO THIS).

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    $\begingroup$ This isn't really a worldbuilding question. You should probably call your doctor for an accurate answer. healthline.com/health/ink-poisoning#in-eye $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 2, 2021 at 13:42
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    $\begingroup$ Most likely consequences are eye infections, discoloring of the sclera, and visual problems (vision obscured). It would be extremely ineffective, as color just doesn't work like that. Also a sharpie wouldn't be very effective at delivering the color to the membranes in the eye. Worse case is corneal damage or massive infections causing permanent visual loss or blindness. Get contacts. Food color similarly risky and ineffective. aaopt.org/detail/knowledge-base-article/… $\endgroup$
    – DWKraus
    Jul 2, 2021 at 13:54
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    $\begingroup$ What is a sharpy? (The point being that the brand is basically unknown in Europe. Don't know about other parts of the world. From Wikipedia, it seems to be a sort of permanent marker marketed for general use. As such, it is probably neither toxic nor caustic -- because the manufacturer has obviously realized that the ink will come in contact with skin with 100% certainty. Don't American children casually scribble on their or others' skin with any available writing or painting implement? On the other hand, does the adventurous character know where that tip has been before?) $\endgroup$
    – AlexP
    Jul 2, 2021 at 13:57
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    $\begingroup$ If you're writing this as an eventual tragedy, I dare say you're on the right track. As long as he keeps this to the sclera, it will only be temporary irritation/blindness, but will still probably require medical intervention. If he insists on the iris (cornea), then permanent eyesight issues are likely (those don't like being scratched up, even by something we consider soft such as felt). Also, just don't search for eyeball tattoos. Trust me. We truly live in the stupidest historical era. $\endgroup$
    – John O
    Jul 2, 2021 at 14:12
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    $\begingroup$ @AlexP 'Sharpie' in American English is used as a word for a permanent marker. The same as 'Xerox' is used as a word for a copier/copy machine in Japanese and Russian. $\endgroup$
    – Otkin
    Jul 2, 2021 at 18:16

1 Answer 1


I'm no expert, but.....

Sharpies contain permachrome, which is ink/dye and ethylene glycol monobutyl ether (EGBE). The dye would mostly wash off, and the stain left behind would not last forever. Applying dye to the surface of an eyeball is used in some medical procedures, and it washes off after those procedures. An eye tattoo requires the ink to be injected just under the surface of the eyeball (this applies both to corneal and scleral eye tattoos). EGBE is an alcoholic solvent, and as such would cause severe irritation for no short amount of time (maybe a couple of hours), possibly coupled with permanent damage to the eye.


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