Tired of filling in your sparse eyebrows every day? Is your eyeliner not dramatic enough? Do you need to add definition to your lips? Are you sick of having to put on a fresh coat of lipstick throughout the day, every time it smudges?
Well, there are a bunch of companies out there that advertise the virtues of permanent makeup, promising to “enhance your natural beauty” so that you can “wake up each day with perfectly applied makeup” and have “a healthy, youthful appearance.” Companies with names like Forever Fabulous say that permanent makeup is the answer for “anyone who wants to improve their appearance, self-confidence, and have the convenience of lip color, eyebrows and eyeliner that won’t rub off or smear.”
One and Done
Permanent makeup is also known as permanent cosmetics, cosmetic tattooing, dermapigmentation, reconstructive pigmentation, and micropigmentation. The bottom line is that permanent makeup is actually a tattoo: permanent pigmentation of the dermis.
The field of permanent cosmetics is a growing industry that came into its own in the late 1970s when tattoo artists began offering “cosmetic tattooing.” Advancements came out in the 1980s as training programs were implemented throughout the country, and it’s been growing in popularity ever since. The diverse group of practitioners who have added this specialty to their portfolio of services includes electrologists, estheticians, tattoo artists, cosmetologists, nurses certified in aesthetic skin care, and physicians who are licensed skin care specialists and board certified in micropigmentation. To date, hundreds of thousands of women and men have had permanent makeup procures performed.
The appeal of permanent makeup is that you can rise every morning with perfectly designed eyebrows, stunningly defined eyes, and sensual-looking lips without lifting a finger. Companies promise that permanent makeup won’t wear off, and they market this cosmetic procedure to busy people who want to look their best at all times.
Other than for aesthetic enhancement, people obtain permanent makeup because it can camouflage scars, including scars left from burns or surgery. It can also conceal white spots like those caused by vitiligo. Permanent makeup is also used after breast surgery to restore or enhance the breast’s areola. People may opt for permanent eyebrows if they’ve lost them due to old age, chemotherapy, or a disease such as alopecia totalis. Permanent lip liner can correct uneven lips and provide a fuller appearance.
The procedure for lips, lip liner, eyebrows, and eyeliner is similar to applying a body tattoo; color is injected using a tattoo machine, and remains in the skin permanently. There’s also a specialized rotary pen–type machine that’s used for permanent makeup application. Pigments created from approved compounds are manufactured specifically for use in permanent cosmetics. Definition is rendered to lips, eyelids, and eyebrows utilizing various styles and colors, from soft, natural-looking lash enhancement to sharply defined lines.
Some patients prefer both upper and lower eyeliner; others choose to have permanent eyeliner applied to either the upper or the lower eyelid. A local anesthetic is typically injected for lip work, but not for eyeliner or eyebrow application. When first applied, some colors appear dark while others look too bright because the color remains in the outmost epidermal layers. But over time, excess pigment sheds and a layer of healed skin on top of the pigment masks and softens the initial color as the upper layers of epidermis are replaced by new epidermal cells. Even though the color is permanent, one can always apply a different color of lipstick over the permanent color as a change of pace, whenever the mood strikes.
Permanent makeup is just as safe as tattooing any other part of the body. Performed properly by a trained clinician, with single-use sterilized needles for each application, there is limited risk for disease transmission. Only a very small percentage of patients with permanent makeup will experience skin irritation or cutaneous swelling if they have an MRI, due to iron oxide in the pigment. Permanent makeup costs about $250 to $500 or more depending on where applications are applied.
Initial swelling and oozing occur after application. Outer healing for eye procedures takes about 3 to 6 days and about 7 to 10 days for lip procedures. Inner healing takes approximately 1 to 2 months. Colors continue to soften and should look natural by that time. Multiple sessions may be required. If that’s the case, the patient must wait a full 2 months for the first application site to heal completely. Certain medications like Accutane can adversely affect color integrity, as can overexposure to the sun.
There are a few inconveniences one must endure in order for the traumatized tissue to heal. For example, patients are instructed to use cold packs to minimize swelling. They’re also advised not to sleep face down on a pillow, not to peel or pick at the scab, not to expose the wound to sun or light from a tanning bed, and not to scrub harshly. There’s also no swimming allowed for at least 2 weeks. Obviously, no cosmetics should be worn anywhere on the face, and OTC pain killers can help during the healing process. Aftercare kits include eye drops, ointments, cotton pads for rinsing and patting the wound dry, plus a supply of straws for eating and drinking during the lip-healing process.
“I Think I’ve Changed My Mind”
Removal of permanent makeup is more painful and laborious than the actual application; it’s the same process as when one wants to remove any other tattoo. Common removal techniques include surgery, laser resurfacing (basically a bleaching process), and dermabrasion. Camouflaging, which is adding new pigment to counteract the original tattoo color in order to emulate normal skin color, is considered the least effective method. So buyer beware.
The popularity of permanent makeup in some segments of our society speaks to people in an era that expects the ultimate in modern technological convenience and the elimination of everyday drudgery.
- Gordon S. Permanent makeup isn’t always pretty. ABC News website. June 27, 2013. http://abcnews.go.com/Health/Healthday/story?id=4507730.
- Permanent makeup FAQ. SPCP website. http://www.spcp.org/thinking-of-getting-a-cosmetic-tattoo/permanent-makeup-faq/.
- Permanent makeup at permanent makeup cosmetics (up to 60% off). Three options available. Groupon website. http://www.groupon.com/deals/permanent-makeup-cosmetics?utm_campaign=us_dt_sea_ggl_txt_ttt_sr_cbp_ch1_nbr_k%2Apermanent+makeup+cosmetics_m%2Ab_d%2Anew-york-rtc-root_g%2Artc-permanent-makeup-cosmetics-broad_c%2A44163172243_ap%2A1t1&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google.
- Permanent makeup. Aura of Beauty website. http://www.auraofbeauty.info/instructions.html.
- Skin Care of NJ website. http://www.skincareofnj.com/.