Permanent Make Up – Is it Right for You?

This post is also available in: Spanish

I had my first permanent make up done in Hong Kong before internet was a resource to learn about other people´s experiences. My only contact with permanent makeup prior to having it done was in the real world, talking to ladies who had already tried cosmetic tattooing and going to permanent make up clinics to understand the procedure.

Eyebrow Tattooing – a lifestyle Choice

For me, permanent make-up was of interest for several reasons. Three factors provided the impetus for me to begin researching permanent make up and see if it would be right for me and my lifestyle:

  1. First I am blond and blue-eyed with very light facial hair, light eyebrows and light lashes, which I regularly had tinted slightly darker at a beauty salon about once a month. However, I still applied makeup as usual. Tinting my brows only fixed the areas where there was hair and did nothing for the sparse brow areas where there was nothing more than fine blonde wisps that didn’t take well to dye. It seemed there were always gaps in my eyebrows which I had to fill with a pencil. I was also forever applying eyeliner, especially in the heat where makeup doesn’t last long.
  2. The second reason was that swimming was my main form of exercise, often in the sea in isolated areas, but when I was in the city, I usually swam early in the morning before going to work, and then had to hurriedly apply my make up in the locker room.
  3. The third element was that as a career woman I had to look good all day, everyday. Being a journalist, I couldn’t spend my time on make up and how I looked when I had serious pressing matters to attend to and deadlines to meet. As an international correspondent, I was often sent on remote assignments where I still had to look good for the camera, but where there were no beauty salons.

Cosmetic Tattooing – Finding Your Shape

In Asia, especially China, permanent make-up is very popular, almost commonplace, because Chinese women have virtually no facial hair, no eyebrows, and the most invisible lashes I have ever not seen. Most professional women (in Hong Kong and the larger cities on the mainland, as well as Japan and other urban centers in Asia) have eyebrow tattoos and permanent eyeliner just to make it appear they have lashes. Since the art of permanent makeup originated in the East, its popularity is not at all surprising. However, at that time I was initially considering a permanent eyebrow tattoo, it was popular to have high arched brows with long slanted ends, and eyeliner that extended beyond the eye in a more theatrical “geisha girl” manner. So as I researched and observed the results of cosmetic tattooing and saw eyebrow tattoo pictures at clinics, I seriously doubted there would be a permanent make up artist who would be able to give me the natural look I wanted.

As I have said above, women’s fashion in Asia at the time was quite dramatic, with an arched brow and long extended liner around the eyes, I needed to find a clinic that would understand my need for natural. This proved much easier than I imagined because I was told that following the natural brow line is the easiest way to get eyebrows tattooed. All the clinics and eyebrow tattoo artists agreed. The women who wanted dramatic arched brows usually had ALL their natural brow removed by electrolysis first, and then had the tattoo totally replace their brows. I wasn’t interested in this and was therefore informed it would be very easy to simply follow the natural brow line without changing anything.

The first brow is always the easiest. It’s with the second one that you have to pay extra attention to because it can turn out uneven. If the natural brow shape for both brows is not the same, then it is imperative that the tattoo artist make slight corrections because the brow imperfections will become more pronounced being darker, and these slight differences in the natural brow will be accentuated and make them appear unnatural. Eyebrow tattooing, if done with care, can correct a natural defect in the shape of a slightly crooked or flawed natural eyebrow profile.

Eyebrow Tattoos – Selecting the Pigment

The first ladies I spoke with said that if I had eyebrow tattoos and permanent eyeliner done, it would appear too dark for a few days or weeks, but that it would fade into a natural look. They also said that if I wanted to fade the tattoo eyebrows faster I could use a little Retin-A or Glycolic Acid, and that chlorine from swimming pools also did the trick. Since I swam, I wasn’t too worried.
I was also told to ask for brown pigment mixed with some black (despite being blond) so that the end color for eyebrow or eyeliner, would not turn into an unnatural reddish-brown or blue-black which could happen if only brown or only black pigments were applied during the eyebrow tattooing procedure. Also, while the pigment selection for eyebrow tattoos can be close to your natural hair color, permanent eyeliner pigments should be darker and more dramatic, dark brown, black or even blue depending on how you usually apply your makeup. Light brown pigments are close to henna color and fade quickly and are most likely to turn an unnatural reddish hue over time. Pure black pigments turn bluish-grey over time.

For women who have naturally light hair, highlights or bleached hair, or who do not maintain the same exact shade of hair color from month to month or year to year, may want to go with a darker brow pigment for the initial eyebrow tattooing procedure and then slightly bleach the natural brow hair from time to time to match the tone of the most recent coiffure.

I was told not to panic about eyebrow color for at least 30 days after receiving the tattooed eyebrows. Naturally I wanted to see eyebrow tattoo pictures, the famous before and after pictures, and all the good clinics had large portfolios of such. I noticed that some of the darker brown brows faded into a grayish color and that the medium brown colors sometimes faded into auburn or pinkish hues that were not very appealing. However, aside from the usual before and after eyebrow tattoo pictures, there were also “after-after” pictures that showed the results of touchups weeks or months after the first procedure and in almost every case the results were very good. Touchups are almost required. So don’t panic if you see a color too light or a small gap here and there after the first tattooing.

Is Permanent Make Up Permanent?

The answer is YES. A tattoo is considered permanent because even after many, many years there will always be a slight hint of the tattoo, forever (unless removed by laser surgery). But NO it is not permanently the rich color you receive at first. Tattoos fade considerably and can become almost invisible over time, especially if you swim, are exposed to sun and clean you r face with astringents. Cosmetic tattooing is the same as artistic tattooing in regards longevity. The difference is the amount of color and the thickness of the lines in artistic tattoos that make the fading process less obvious. Tattoo pigments, in general, react differently to skin types, and there are also different qualities of pigments, some that last longer than others.
Eyebrow tattoos, and permanent make up, is only strong and fresh looking for about 2 years and can fade completely within 7 -10 years. This also depends on the thickness of the tattoo lines. A delicate brow or eye line will not last as long as a thick one. Most of the ladies I know who have had their eyebrows tattooed in a delicate and natural manner have had them refreshed every 3 to 5 years, just to fill in the faded areas and give a little refresher to the brow or liner. I have had touchups every 3-4 years.

Is it painful to get eyebrow tattoos or eyeliner?

The simple answer is yes. A fine needle vibrates and injects pigment into your skin so there is no way for it not to hurt a little. However I have never had the procedure without topical anesthetic having been applied. This helps a lot. Don’t worry about local anesthetic needles or being woozy from a sedative. It’s nothing like that. You are fully conscious throughout the procedure. A numbing liquid is applied, only to the area that will be tattooed, using a cotton swab.

Is it Safe and Hygienic to have Eyebrow Tattooing?

Yes. Even in the smallest clinic in the third world and on the streets of Bangkok and India, the tattoo needles employed these days are disposable. A new needle is used for each procedure, for each color and for each client. Just to be on the safe side, watch the tattoo artist remove the needle from the plastic wrap and insert it into the gun. If you arrive and the needle has already been inserted into the gun, ask for a new one to be put in. Afterwards the scabs that form are small, more like a thin crust over the tattooed area. If they have been disinfected they do not cause problems to a healthy person and heal quickly. Do not pick off the scabs. When they itch, splash your face with cool water and pat dry. I would only advise caution about getting cosmetic tattoos if you are a diabetic, heal very slowly or have a medical condition that makes you prone to bleeding or healing poorly. For most people a tattoo procedure, be it cosmetic or artistic, is not a serious health risk at all.

What to Expect After a Cosmetic Tattooing Procedure

On the day of my first procedure, I was asked to arrive at the cosmetic tattooing centre wearing my make up as I wished it would be when the permanent make-up was applied. I was given a mirror to follow what the tattoo artist was doing at all times and felt very much in control of the procedure.

I was told that if I was unhappy with the result, I should immediately (upon having a scab which is a normal part of the healing process), peel off the scab and apply glycolic acid, and keep scrubbing off the scabs until nothing remained. Then the brow could be redone. If the tattoos were allowed to heal completely, the pigment would be encapsulated, or sealed into the skin, and would be unable to correct without an eyebrow tattoo removal procedure at a later time.

Fortunately for me, my initial permanent make up procedure was expertly done and the results were more than satisfactory. I did have to return three times for touchups, mostly to darken areas that lightened too much when the scabs dried and fell off. However after about two months, when everything had healed and all the touchups were finished, I had exactly what I wanted, permanent makeup that didn’t smudge, rub off, or run down my face, even on the hottest days or while I swam in the sea.

By the way, I never had to pay extra for a single touchup. It is usually included in the initial price.

I have since had my permanent make up redone and added to several times in different parts of the world. I will write other articles about where to have the procedure done and a few suggestions for those of you who have had it done and are unhappy with your eyebrow tattoos.

I will address the issue of eyebrow tattoo removal because no woman should be forced to live with a face she doesn’t like. And there are alternatives, such as laser tattoo removal, which I hope to help you with in future posts.

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About the editor

Nena Argent, editorial director of EbT magazine since 2009, oversees online editorial content in English and Spanish. She joined EbT after ten years as an investigative journalist in Asia where she researched oriental health, nutrition and beauty treatments. Now based in Europe, she reports on the latest beauty trends, health issues, high-tech medical advancements and state-of-the-art cosmetic procedures from around the world.

Permanent Makeup / Cosmetic Surgery / Health / Beauty / Nutrition / Weight Loss / Diet Pills / Supplements / Hair Removal / Skin Care / Tattoo Removal / Eyebrow Tattoo / Permanent Eyeliner / Cosmetic Lip Tattoo / Eyelash Extensions / Cellulite Removal / Makeup Tips / Permanent Makeup Directory / Cosmetic Surgery Directory / Hair Restoration Surgeons Directory / Tanning Lotion / Natural Remedies / Low Calorie Foods / Acne Cream / Hair Transplant / Eyebrow Implants / Breast Implants / Liposuction, Liposculpture / Vaser Lipo / Tummy Tuck / Laser Hair Removal / Laser Tattoo Removal / Cosmetic Surgery Prices / Permanent Makeup Schools / Micropigmentation / Permanent Makeup Supplies / Permanent Makeup Equipment / Beauty Product Reviews

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The info in this site doesn't replace consulting with a dermatologist, micropigmentation expert, plastic surgeon or nutritionist prior to undergoing a dietary change or a cosmetic/surgical procedure.