What is permanent make-up?
Permanent make-up (also called semi-permanent make-up, cosmetic tattooing, or micropigmentation) is a procedure where pigments are placed under the skin using a topical anaesthetic cream. This process is more commonly known for its use cosmetically for creating nicely defined eyebrows, eyeliner and lips. Nowadays, however, ‘medical tattooing’ is becoming very popular, and can help to greatly improve the appearance of disfigurement caused by surgery or accident trauma, in people of both sexes. The pigments used are not classic tattoo inks; they are non-toxic, hypoallergenic, inorganic minerals, mainly titanium dioxide and iron oxides. Like all tattoos they will fade with time, and regular top-ups may be required – on average every couple of years. That’s why many practitioners prefer calling cosmetic tattooing ‘semi-permanent make-up’.
Who can have permanent make-up?
Some people choose this procedure purely to avoid applying make-up every day. Permanent make-up practitioners are also used to dealing with patients undergoing chemotherapy, people with cleft lips, scars, and other skin and hair conditions. Medical tattooing is also very commonly used after breast surgery for recreating the areolae.
Can permanent make-up help with facial palsy?
When living with facial palsy, the loss of facial expressions is particularly difficult to accept. Cosmetic tattooing can bring some character to a person’s face, and help restore its symmetry.
Pictured right: Bethan, age 26, who has bilateral facial palsy, before having cosmetic tattoos.
Redesigning the brows and drawing eyeliner on the top and/or bottom eyelids are the most effective procedures.
‘Having permanent make-up has changed my day-to-day appearance. I feel happier about myself, more comfortable and no longer embarrassed about my morning look. I even think it gives me some expression.’
Eyebrows: they are the frame of the face. When designed properly according to bone structure and face shape they can lift the eyes and give a more youthful appearance, warmth and depth. Ultra-fine needles and a blend of shades are used to draw realistic hairs. Short brows can be lengthened. Thin and sparse eyebrows can be made thicker and given more fullness. When expertly redesigned, eyebrows may appear to ‘lift’ dropping eyes.
‘My eyebrows have changed a lot since I started this process. My practitioner designed them in several stages, to ensure it was the right look for my face. I am very happy with the result. I’ve been told to apply sunscreen on my tattoos before going outside. I use a quick-drying, non-greasy spray.’
Eyes: permanent make-up can revitalise tired eyes and bring back their lost sparkle. Having eyeliner tattooed can help make the eyes look more open. It will also stop your make-up smudging and running. This is a perfect solution for people with poor eyesight, where putting on make-up can be very challenging. Traditional eye make-up can also cause watery eyes, persistent eye infections or even allergies in people with sensitive eyes.
‘I have had my bottom lids done. I am unable to wear eye make-up due to the gel I have to use to lubricate my eye, and because I am prone to eye infections. It is very difficult for me to apply make-up anyway, as I can’t see properly out of one of my eyes. I definitely feel more of a woman since having my eyes done.’
Is permanent make-up painful?
The procedure is done using a topical anaesthetic, such as Emla Cream or LMX, and so the tattooing feels more like a vibration rather than pain.
‘My bottom eyeliner tattooing was more comfortable than the eyebrows, although I was more worried as I have very sensitive eyes and have had many procedures including platinum chains.’
How can I choose a permanent make-up practitioner?
Cosmetic tattooing is not regulated in the UK, so it is essential to choose a good, experienced and qualified practitioner. Ask to see pictures of their work and, if possible, speak to previous clients. Before any tattooing takes place, they should show you the results you can expect by applying traditional make-up. It is also necessary, for legal reasons if nothing else, to have a patch test at least 24 hours prior to the treatment to ensure there is no reaction to the pigments.
Your practitioner has to be very understanding about your needs and you have to trust them and feel comfortable with them before starting the process. As this is a process and not a procedure it should involve two appointments at least a month apart to evaluate the initial result, and then top up as required. The pigment can be applied as subtle or as dramatic as you like, but remember that often ‘less is more’. For more information about choosing a practitioner click here.
Can permanent make-up be removed?
It can be either removed or lightened, but only in very rare cases should it be removed by laser. Laser cannot be used around the eyes for example, and the safest way is by use of a product which will remove the pigment from the skin the same way that it went in – out through the skin surface. Be very careful when choosing a technician to remove permanent make-up, because neither the procedure itself nor its removal is regulated in the UK.
Last reviewed: 27-04-2016 || Next review due: 27-04-2018