What is Cosmetic Tattooing?

Marjorie McAtee

Cosmetic tattooing, also known as permanent makeup, is a type of cosmetic para-medical procedure typically used to give patients the appearance of wearing cosmetics all the time. Cosmetic tattooing generally works the same way as any other type of tattooing, in which small needles are used to inject medical-grade dyes and pigments into the dermis of the skin. Because these colors are injected directly into the skin, they don't typically wear off, but they can gradually fade, just like most other types of tattoo. Cosmetic tattooing is seen to be an appearance enhancement option for men and women who can't wear traditional cosmetics due to allergies or other circumstances. People who choose to get permanent makeup may do so because they have trouble applying traditional cosmetics, because they are too busy to regularly apply cosmetics, or because they wish to maintain the illusion of wearing makeup throughout all of their daily activities, even those that aren't generally compatible with cosmetics use, such as swimming.

Permanent lipstick is a cosmetic tattoo applied to the lips.
Permanent lipstick is a cosmetic tattoo applied to the lips.

Permanent makeup is generally applied to the face, in the same places where traditional cosmetics are typically applied. Men and women may choose to have permanent makeup applied to the eyes, lips, eyebrows, and cheeks. Cosmetic tattooing can also be used to hide scars. It is sometimes incorporated into more complex reconstructive procedures, such as breast reconstruction, in which cosmetic tattooing is often used to restore the reconstructed nipple and areola to a normal appearance.

Permanent eyeliner is a cosmetic tattoo applied around the eyes.
Permanent eyeliner is a cosmetic tattoo applied around the eyes.

This cosmetic procedure is considered a para-medical procedure, and it is typically performed by a doctor or nurse who has received additional training in cosmetic tattooing. Traditional tattoo machines are often used to apply permanent makeup. The application of permanent cosmetics can take one to two and a half hours, depending on the individual patient's needs and wishes. Most patients will have at least one follow-up consultation, in which the results of the procedure are evaluated and touch-ups can be done, if necessary.

When performed under the appropriate sanitary conditions, by a skilled professional, cosmetic tattooing is considered very safe. Side effects can include bruising, bleeding, soreness, and swelling of the treatment area. These side effects can last for several days. The pigments used often appear very bright during the first seven to ten days of recovery. Once the treatment area has completely healed, the pigments usually fade to their normal hue.

Cosmetic tattooing is considered a means of applying permanent cosmetic pigmentation to the face and body. These tattoos can fade with time, and may need to be retouched periodically, usually every few years. Once the treatment area has healed, traditional cosmetics may usually be applied over the cosmetic tattoos any time a change in appearance is desired.

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