Permanent marker can be a problem when you get it on something you don't mean to. It's even worse in fiction where permanent marker is permanent on skin. This can be part of a plot thread, as the character tries to wash it off or hide it with makeup, or it can simply be a gag where the character has to grin and bear it.
Naturally, this isn't Truth in Television because skin produces a protective oil which breaks down most ink and makeup, so even permanent marker will wear off on its own. Even substances which permanently stain or damage the outer layer of skin will disappear when the skin itself is shed and replaced. Permanent tattooing involves having the pigment placed between layers of skin (and even tattoos and scars can fade over time).
As Tropes Are Flexible, this can apply to other stationary supplies permanently marking the skin.
- In One-Punch Man, Crablante wants to murder a kid who drew nipples on him using a permanent marker. Crablante notes that the marker could be scrubbed off, but as he has two giant crab pincers for arms, he can't possibly clean it off himself.
- In Photon, the titular character is so annoyed after his sister writes "idiot" on his forehead that he does the same to a Mysterious Waif that he discovers in suspended animation. Although the visible markings eventually go away, it becomes a Chekhov's Gun when the Big Bad tries to transform her into a power source that will give him godlike abilities, and the marking confuses the computer and screws up the process.
- In a joke 4koma based on Mobile Fighter G Gundam, Domon Kasshu's x-shaped Rugged Scar on his cheek is revealed to be a marker. During his Training from Hell under Master Asia, whenever Domon would make a mistake, as punishment, Master Asia would draw an X on his cheek. Domon in this gag series is even more of an Idiot Hero than canon, so he messed up enough that the mark became permanent.
- One Foxtrot had Jason try to remove an ink goatee from Peter (having tricked him into using a blue permanent marker), which unfortunately smeared all over his face instead. He went to school the next day with his face entirely blue... with the effect that the guys thought he looked like a Star Trek alien, while the girls thought he looked like Leonardo Di Caprio towards the end of Titanic.
Peter: So between the teasing and the google-eyed fawning, it averaged out okay.
Jason: Huh. I thought girls liked Dicaprio.
Peter: You and I share so many genes, and yet...
- Basically the plot of the book Purple Green And Yellow, wherein the child protagonist gets a set of "super-indelible, never come off till you're dead or maybe even later markers." You can guess what happens next.
- In Tales of MU Amaranth writes "Nymph's Toy" on Mack's forehead with a literal magic marker at one point that only comes off if she uses the attached eraser.
- Kherishdar: Ai-naidar nobles mark their subjects with a dye that lasts roughly a year in an annual ceremony. The emperor marks his personal servants with a more concentrated permanent version of the dye which is also mildly toxic.
- Redwall: In Lord Brocktree, the Blue Hordes of Ungatt Trunn get their names from the fact that they are made to wash in permanent blue dye on the day they're inducted, showing that they belong to Trunn permanently. Over the course of the book, the vermin discover that walking while up to their necks in seawater for several hours will wash out the dye, leaving only their heads blue (and marking yet another symbolic victory against Trunn, who by that point is holed up in Salamandastron without food and with an increasingly unruly and hungry army).
- Averted in The Malloreon: Belgarath finds that the scroll holding a prophecy he seeks was made of human skin. This frustrates him, however, because human skin is terrible at holding ink, and the prophecy is now unreadable. He promptly rants that Angaraks were so preoccupied with being gratuitously evil that they forgot practical considerations.
- In The New Treasure Seekers, the Bastables' unpleasant cousin Archibald gets his comeuppance when Jane the maid substitutes Maple's dark bright navy-blue indelible dye for soap when he takes a bath (and turns the lights out so he can't see the difference until too late). The dye does eventually fade, but it takes weeks.
- In one segment of The Amanda Show, a character played by Drake Bell is dared to draw glasses and a mustache on himself with permanent marker. He laments several times it'll never come off.
- In the fifth season finale of Friends, "The One in Las Vegas", a drunken Ross and Rachel draw on each other's faces with permanent marker. Ross calls the manufacturer and is told that it's not coming off, so they go around the casino with marked-up faces. Come the 6th Season premier, they've disappeared with no explanation.
- In Scrubs, J.D.'s brother Dan is shown in a flashback writing the word "Prom" on J.D.'s forehead with a permanent marker, forcing him to go to prom with the tattoo. It really was permanent, too, since J.D. had to have surgery with "skin from his ass" to get rid of it.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000: In At the Earth's Core, Jonah and the bots get frustrated at how quickly their temporary tattoos wear off, so they invent Permanent Temporary Tattoos: you apply them to the skin like temporary tattoos, but they never go away. "All you gotta do is set 'em, wet 'em... and then live with them forever."
- In Butterfly Soup, Min draws one of a dagger on her arm as a young child, which can be seen in all of the flashbacks (although it isn't clarified if it lasts, or she just keeps redrawing it). In the present, as a pre-teen, she prefers to carry the actual thing.
- Inverted in Life Is Strange: Before the Storm. Chloe can potentially get a black eye in the first episode. If she does, Rachel will cover it up with makeup about halfway through the episode, which hides the bruise for the rest of the game (even though Chloe takes a shower at the start of the third episode, two days later, which is nowhere near long enough for a black eye to disappear).
- In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, Téa draws a smiley face across everyone's hands as a friendship gesture in the first episode. Joey points out afterwards that she used a permanent marker. Several episodes later, it becomes a Brick Joke when she asks if everyone remembers the friendship symbol. Even Tristan does, because it took him several weeks to scrub the marker off.
- In El Tigre, Frida is signing autographs after becoming a one-hit wonder and accidentally writes an F on Manny's forehead. Manny isn't mad and thinks it will come off until he sees a label that says "Does Not Come Off".
- In The Simpsons, Homer was sent to a mental institution and marked with an "INSANE" stamp on his right hand. Once he is declared sane, he has a very difficult time taking it off.
- Justified in one episode of Jackie Chan Adventures, when Jade scribbles a magical symbol on herself as a fake tattoo. It becomes permanent because of the magic it invokes, and turns her into Queen of the Shadow Kahn.
- Trollhunters has goblins who all look alike identify their leader by being the first one to pick up the last leader's permanent marker and draw on a moustache. The only way for the goblins to get a new leader is for the old one to die. It happens a lot: goblins are not very bright.
- Inverted in The Powerpuff Girls where after Blossom and Buttercup lose their colours from a monochromatic Rainbow the Clown in one episode, Bubbles tries to recolour them with crayons.
- In one episode of Dragon Tales, the characters accidentally use permanent paint for fingerpainting and find out that they can't wipe the paint off their fingers and rubbing vigorously at it only causes it to spread to the rest of their bodies. They have to perform an elaborate ritual that involves rubbing their bodies with magical berries and leaves to get the paint off.
- In countries that don't use electoral roll systems, sometimes an indelible ink is used to mark the fingers of voters so that they can't vote a second time (while still keeping votes themselves anonymous). It normally contains a substance that semi-permanently stains the skin, like silver nitrate.