Micropigmentation: Is Permanent Make-up Right For You?
Reviewed by Yael Halaas, MD
Micropigmentation — also known as dermagraphics, permanent make-up, cosmetic tattooing, and dermapigmentation — is very popular right now. It is an option for eyeliner, eyebrows, lip liner or even full lip color.
Micropigmentation involves the use of tattooing to permanently enhance or restore facial features. The pigments used are natural and hypoallergenic, and are available in a wide array of cosmetic colors as well as colors that complement your skin or hair. These pigments are carefully matched to your skin tone by a skilled technician.
By some estimates, permanent make-up saves as many 100 hours a year in make-up application!
There are many potential ways that micropigmentation can be used to enhance, refresh or restore your facial features. They include:
Some people are unable to grow eyelashes or can grow only sparse ones. This may be due to alopecia, chemotherapy, medication side effects or even obsessive plucking. Blepharopigmentation can help. During this permanent make-up procedure, pigment is "implanted" in a dot-like matrix fashion into your lid margin at the base of your eyelashes with a tiny tattoo needle. Latisse, a drug that promotes eye lash growth, is another option. Eyelash transplantation may also be an option for people who are unable to grow eyelashes.
Tired of constantly putting on and then taking off your eyeliner? Permanent eyeliner involves applying pigment in a thin line along your lid margin, just where conventional eyeliner would be applied. It can define your eyes or enhance the appearance of the eye and surrounding area.
This can be done in a continuous line, a very faintly smudged "smokey" line or as a series of very close dots. This micropigmentation procedure can be painful, as this is a delicate and sensitive area of the face.
Your eyebrows frame your face, but if they are sparse, pale or unruly they can throw your whole face out of whack. Do-it-yourself eyebrow shaping can be time-consuming and the results are often less than stellar. Micropigmentation is a time-saving option. Remember that your new eyebrows will be permanent. Steer clear of anything too trendy or unrealistic super-high arches. Eyebrow hair transplantation is also an option.
Permanent Eye Shadow
This is a specialty application. It requires a great deal of skill on the technician's part. The color needs to be applied so that it looks translucent, which takes skilled blending and proper placement. Avoid committing to the latest trend when choosing permanent eye shadow. Go for a more classic look instead.
Permanent Lip Liner
Permanent lip liner can even out any asymmetries in your natural lips, or create the appearance of a more defined lip line. It can even make your lips look fuller just as lip augmentation procedures can. Permanent lip liner also has some reconstructive potential. People who were born with a cleft lip are often left with an asymmetrical upper lip. Sometimes this can be corrected with micropigmentation.
Full Lip Color
Full lip color micropigmentation combines permanent lip liner with permanent lipstick. Essentially, you are having color tattooed on your whole lips. Don't pick a color that you will regret in years to come, especially as your skin tone changes with aging.
Tattoo Beauty Mark
Think about Cindy Crawford or Marilyn Monroe and a beauty mark just under the eyes or above the lip comes to mind. If this look appeals to you, micropigmentation can make it happen.
Other facial areas that are ripe for micropigmentation include your cheeks. Technicians can use this technique to provide permanent blush. Permanent make-up may also help camouflage certain facial scars.
Are You a Candidate for Micropigmentation?
Cosmetic tattoo is a good choice for you if you are very active, don't wish to reapply your make-up every day, or frequently engage in activities like swimming. It can also be a very good choice if poor vision or poor hand control has affected your ability to apply make-up. Micropigmentation is also helpful to those with alopecia areata or alopecia universalis (loss of hair due to an immune problem), vitiligo (patchy loss of pigment in the skin), cosmetic allergies or chemotherapy side effects. Tattooing can help fix a lip outline or eyebrow marred by a scar.
That said, not everyone is a candidate for micropigmentation. If you are prone to scarring problems such as hypertrophic scarring or red, raised keloid formation, micropigmentation may produce such untoward scarring. If you have significant allergies, there is a chance you could have a reaction to the pigments. A spot test can help determine how you will react.
Checking a Technician's Training and Background
The best way to maximize your outcome and minimize any risks is to choose a qualified technician to perform your micropigmentation. Licensing requirements vary among states. In California, for example, no licensing is required to perform micropigmentation.
Board certification by the American Academy of Micropigmentation and the Society of Permanent Cosmetics Professionals helps assure that the technician has been appropriately trained. Some board-certified plastic surgeons and facial plastic surgeons may also perform micropigmentation.
Make sure to ask potential technicians how long they have been performing micropigmentation and how many procedures they have performed. Ask where they trained and if you can see any certificates of training.
Look through the technician's portfolio and ask if you can speak with past clients. Look to see if this technician's work reflects your own cosmetic style. Ask yourself some questions as well when looking through the portfolio. For example, does the permanent make-up look natural? Is the technician open to your wishes? Do you like the colors the technician has to offer? Your technician must carefully match these colors so that they match your skin type and tone.
Although tattoo removal is an option if you don't like the final results, you should consider micropigmentation to be permanent.
Permanent Makeup Procedure
Before starting, the technician puts on a pair of surgical gloves and inspects your skin to make sure you have no cuts, scrapes or other types of broken skin. The area is either swabbed with alcohol or sprayed with an antiseptic solution (or both).
Permanent make-up is applied using needles that are typically attached to a tattoo gun/pen. The needle bar moves up and down very fast, forcing the needles into the top one or two layers of the skin and implanting the chosen pigments. Your technician holds the machine with a steady hand while guiding it along the skin. The speed and power is controlled by a foot switch or pedal much like a sewing machine.
The level of pain in micropigmentation really depends on you. Some people's pain threshold (or tolerance) is high, while others are more sensitive to discomfort. The level of pain also depends on the tattoo site. The eyelids, for example, are extremely sensitive.
The procedure takes about an hour. If you are having more than one area done, it may take more time, but you can break it up into multiple sessions if necessary. When the technician has finished, the tattoo is sprayed with water and antiseptic, and a layer of antibiotic ointment is applied. You will be given specific instructions on how to care for the area; follow them closely. It takes seven to 10 days for a tattoo to heal.
The cost of permanent makeup varies based on the area of your face being treated. For example, permanent eyebrows may be $100. If you have multiple areas treated, the cost will be higher. Make sure you get an estimate before scheduling your treatment.