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Tattoo You: Considering Permanent Makeup? What You Should Know

By HERWriter Guide
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Tattoo You: What to Know If You're Considering Permanent Makeup MonkeyBusiness Images/PhotoSpin

Some men and women would never dream of getting a tattoo. Maybe they think tattoos are too edgy, too out there, or even cheap looking.

But when we're talking about permanent makeup, that’s exactly what it is — a permanent, beautifying tattoo. And as with any tattoos, there are pros and cons to getting them.

So what’s the difference between a regular tattoo and permanent makeup? Tattoos are artistic “paintings” on the skin, often colorful and depicting scenes of nature, numbers, animals or names. They are frequently done to symbolize something important, or simply for the love of body art.

Permanent makeup is not art, in that sense of the word. It is a form of tattooing that colors part of the face, outlines other parts, and enhances the appearance so that a person wakes up looking more defined, fresher and put together without the bother of having to apply a lot of makeup.

Many men and women do this to improve self-esteem, having suffered hair loss from illness or a hair loss condition like alopecia. They simply want to look like their own selves again.

And for others, as EmpowHER’s Deborah Mitchell reports in her article about permanent makeup, there are other reasons. She quotes an interview with a micropigmentation specialist Charles S. Zwerling, MD, FACS, director of the American Academy of Micropigmentation, “Cosmetic reasons is one area, but there are many more practical applications," Zwerling said.

Putting on makeup can be impossible for many women with conditions that cause tremors like arthritis, MS, Parkinson's disease. Permanent makeup eliminates their frustration. Women with vision problems or who have had a stroke may not be able to apply makeup.

There are many options for permanent makeup. The most common are tattooing eyebrows, lips, eye lids (upper and lower) and even tattooing on eye shadow. Before considering this permanent solution, ask yourself:

Am I prepared to look like this forever?

If you’ve been wearing the same kind of lip and eye color for the past 30 years, then permanent makeup might be a good solution.

As we age, our eyebrows can thin out and we can lose definition in our lips as they become thinner. This kind of makeup can redefine the eye and put plenty of color into our lips.

While it’s possible to use lipstick over our chosen tattoo color, it may still come through. It’s very important to know that what you chose is how you permanently want to see yourself.

Classic colors that suit our coloring and style is best. Picking the latest trend may end up being something to regret. In this case, less is more so that we can enjoy the permanency of our new makeup, but still be able to play around with some possibilities.

Err on the side of caution. You can always go back for more, but you can’t easily rid yourself of what you get the first time.

Is your permanent make up artist fully qualified?

Going to a tattooist who specializes in artistic body work is not a good idea. A board-certified plastic surgeon or dermatologist who has experience, or a highly qualified esthetician are better choices.

Ask for a sit-down meeting, and request before-and-after photos of past patients. Ask your doctor to be both realistic and honest with you, before you make your final decision.

Make sure you discuss a plan in case of an allergic reaction, and after care. Use recommendations and check references.

Is permanent makeup safe?

There are always risks with tattoos. According to the FDA, the main concerns are:

- Infections and serious illness, like HIV or hepatitis, from unclean tattoo tools, practices or products

- Allergic reactions to the inks or stains can cause skin problems such as rashes

- Other skin problems like increased chance of sunburn, bumps, redness, or scarring

- Swelling and burning of the tattoo when you get an MRI test

- Pain and high costs if you want to remove a permanent tattoo

How long will it last and does it hurt?

A numbing treatment is often used so there should be relatively little pain. There can be swelling and discomfort for a week or two and makeup may seem exaggerated (too deep or too bright) for the first week or two as well. It should settle down.

Like any tattoo, permanent makeup can fade and may need a touch up every 10 years or so. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, especially if you’ll be ready for a new look.

Permanent makeup is a great solution for those with hair loss, loss of limbs, conditions with tremors. It's also a viable option for anyone who wants to enhance their beauty — even if it's just for the sake of beauty.

Knowing the pros and cons, and taking time to weigh them both, is the best way to make a permanent decision that’s difficult to hide if it goes wrong.

This is where referrals and the experience of your practitioner comes in. Choosing the right person, and the right kind of makeup style for you, can make all the difference in how you feel about yourself.


EmpowHER.com. “Permanent Makeup: How and Why?”. Web. Retrieved January 26th, 2015.

FDA.com For Consumers. Tattoos and Permanent Makeup. Web. Retrieved January 26th, 2015.

Reviewed January 29, 2015
by Michele Blacksberg RN
Edited by Jody Smith

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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