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Permanent Makeup - Risks and Dangers

Updated on March 27, 2016
Jayne Lancer profile image

A beauty consultant by profession, Jayne has been advising on correct skin and hair care, makeup, and other cosmetics for almost 20 years.

Are you fully aware of the risks and dangers of permanent makeup? Before getting it done, here are a few things you should know in order to weigh up the pros and cons—after all, it could change your face forever.

The Pros of Permanent Makeup

The idea of perfectly shaped eyebrows and expertly applied eyeliner and lip liner day and night is tempting. You’d look good no matter where you are or what you’re doing, and you’d save time putting on your makeup each morning.

Another wonderful thing about permanent makeup is that it’s relatively non-committal. That’s why some practitioners call it "semi"-permanent makeup. It fades completely after two to five years, which gives you the opportunity of having it redone in the same way as before, or, if you’re bored of that style, trying something new, or just leaving your face as nature intended.

If only it worked like that.

What is Permanent Makeup?

Just like tattooing, applying permanent makeup is a micropigmentation procedure. In theory, it isn’t the same as tattooing, because the ink isn’t placed as deeply beneath the skin’s surface, which means it should fade and disappear after a few years. The trouble is, time has proven that it never completely fades and disappears.

Comparisons Between Permanent Makeup and a "Proper" Tattoo

Permanent makeup really is permanent and requires the same commitment as a "proper" tattoo. Therefore, you can assume from the outset that you’re going to be stuck with the eyebrows, eyeliner and lip liner your practitioner has endowed upon you for the rest of your life, although they might start to look different after a while.

Like a proper tattoo, permanent makeup fades over the years, so, unless you get it refreshed, you’ll have to use makeup over the top of it, which rather defeats the object. And unlike a proper tattoo, undesirable color changes may occur (even as early as within the first six months), which you’ll have to disguise with makeup. This usually happens when a practitioner uses organic colors.

You can assume from the outset that you’re going to be stuck with the eyebrows, eyeliner and lip liner your practitioner endows upon you for the rest of your life.
You can assume from the outset that you’re going to be stuck with the eyebrows, eyeliner and lip liner your practitioner endows upon you for the rest of your life.

Organic Colors

If something is described as "organic", the tendency is to believe that it's particularly safe and healthy, but using organic pigment for tattoos of any kind can trigger autoimmune allergies—sometimes years after the procedure was carried out. Organic yellows and reds are even suspected of causing cancer.

Synthetic pigments are the safest.

FDA Approved Colors

It’s interesting when practitioners claim to use FDA approved colors. It’s a little scary, in fact. The FDA does approve colors formulated for things like food and auto paint, but not for tattoos and permanent makeup. So, if the practitioner isn’t lying when she says her colors are FDA approved, what type of colors is she using?

Hygiene

Your practitioner should perform the procedure under sterile conditions with new needles straight from their sealed packaging. You otherwise run the risk of contracting HIV, hepatitis and/or other infections.

Check Out Your Practitioner

To minimize the risk of contracting a fatal disease, developing an autoimmune allergy and/or getting a botch job, make sure the practitioner you choose is reputable.

The problem is that in many states there are no restrictions on who can perform micropigmentation procedures. And because there are no formal, state approved qualifications for this type of work, even a certificate might only mean the practitioner has attended a weekend course to learn her skill.

As a general rule (and that’s all you’ve got to go by), an accomplished practitioner has been in business for at least ten years, or performed the procedure at least 1000 times. Ask for evidence of this before undergoing treatment.

Remember, too, that the work illustrated in the portfolio the practitioner shows you might not be hers. The same goes for testimonials, which she may have written herself. If possible, speak to real clients and pay special attention to their faces.

To minimize the risk of contracting a fatal disease, developing an autoimmune allergy and/or getting a botch job, make sure the practitioner you choose is reputable.
To minimize the risk of contracting a fatal disease, developing an autoimmune allergy and/or getting a botch job, make sure the practitioner you choose is reputable.

Can You Remove Permanent Makeup?

If your girder-like eyebrows have become somewhat passé, half your eyeliner has peeled off while the other half has turned an exotic green-gray, and your lip liner is crooked because the practitioner wasn’t quite the steady-hand you thought she was, then you might want to get your face back to normal.

Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to rid yourself of any kind of tattoo—and remember, that’s what permanent makeup actually is.

A painful laser procedure can sometimes neutralize the color of a tattoo, but even after two or three sessions, it often only alters the color. The remaining option is to place a corrective tattoo over the top of your permanent makeup, but that won’t help your girder-like eyebrows as far as size is concerned. And even if it is possible to remove your permanent eyeliner, few laser specialists will agree to carry out the treatment if it’s too close to your lash line, unless you’re prepared to lose your lashes.

If you’ve gone as far as having blush and eye shadow tattooed onto your face, only major plastic surgery and skin grafts can help, especially if it’s caused you to develop an autoimmune allergy, as permanent makeup so often does.

Weighing Up the Pros and Cons of Permanent Makeup

Removing permanent makeup is certainly more expensive, time consuming, frustrating and painful than having it done. Apart from that, you might not be able to remove it at all, and if you can’t, it will mar your face for the rest of your life. Is it really worth it? With a little practice, any woman can apply her regular makeup perfectly and expertly, and it doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes each day.


© 2010 Jayne Lancer

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