Keratopigmentation, the Procedure That Allows You to Permanently Change Eye Color

Ever wish your eyes were blue or green? Well, now you don’t have to turn to contact lenses or risky artificial iris implants to make your dream come true. You can simply have your own eyes permanently tattooed.

Originally developed as a way of dealing with patients suffering from disfiguring corneal opacities, keratopigmentation, aka ‘corneal tattooing’, has seen a boost in popularity among people seeking a mere aesthetic change. Safely changing eye color has long been an impossible dream, but today there are actually several types of procedures that allow you to do just this. Ten years ago, we wrote about the controversial artificial iris implant that came with provided excellent results but came with its share of health risks. Then, in 2017, there was the revolutionary laser surgery that could change eye color from brown to blue in just 20 seconds. Nowadays, however, it’s all about kaeratopigmentation, a seemingly safe procedure that uses advanced machinery and biologically compatible pigments to permanently change eye color.

Photo: Amanda Dalbjörn/Unsplash

A person’s eye color is a genetic trait that is determined by the amount and distribution of melanin in the iris. For example, someone with darker eye colors, like black and brown, has more melanin, while people with light eye colors like green and blue, have less melanin in the top layer of the iris. Only a a few years ago, changing your eye color from black to light blue was nothing more than a fantasy, but today, thanks to medical and technological advancement, it’s not only possible but increasingly popular.

The keratomigmentation procedure consists of crafting a fine intracorneal tunnel in the patient’s eyes with the help of a laser, and then inserting a special pigment to alter the color of the iris according to their wishes. Unlike other, more complicated techniques, keratopigmentation only affects the surface of the eye and thus doesn’t involve complications such as hemorrhages, infections, retinal detachment or glaucoma.


A keratopigmentation procedure usually takes between 30 to 45 minutes for both eyes and is completely painless, thanks to the use of a topical anesthetic. It’s also completely reversible, so if someone has second thoughts about their eye color change, they can simply go back to their original one.

The purely aesthetic application of keratopigmentation has been the topic of debates and medical studies over the last few years, but so far, the general consensus among ophthalmologists and eye health experts is that it appears to be relatively safe. Of course, given the relatively short time it has been used as a cosmetic procedure, it is impossible to predict long-term effects, but most of the scientific evidence so far suggests that, when done correctly, it doesn’t pose serious risks to the patient’s health.


At the time of this writing, one of the limitations of keratopigmentation is the availability of biologically compatible pigments. There are currently only a few colors medically-approved colors available, and while some experts assume that the use dermatological pigments should work as well, there are potential negative side effects to consider. Many of these pigments react to light, so oxidation could occur in the long term. That is why it is important to opt for clinics that only work with ophthalmologic pigments.

“This topic will probably progress immensely in the coming years along with the increase in clinician experience and the development of more appropriate, specific, and diverse corneal pigments,” Professor Jorge Alio told Ophthalmology Times. A new corneal surgical perspective is now available with a good level of published evidence in support. I envision a promising future that will follow this group of new surgical techniques.