What is Semi-Permanent Makeup?

Laura Phillips

Semi-permanent makeup is a beauty procedure where permanent pigments are placed in the dermal layer of the skin by sterilized needle or electric pen tool. Essentially, it is a tattoo that is applied by a specialist, and it fades over time — usually in two to three years. Procedures typically are safe and are conducted under medical supervision. As a precaution, a skin patch test is usually done first to test for allergic reactions.

Semi-permanent makeup is a tattoo designed to fade over time.
Semi-permanent makeup is a tattoo designed to fade over time.

The pigments are typically made of pure, inorganic minerals that are hypo-allergenic, fragrance free, and emollient free. On average, the procedure takes an hour or two to finish. Costs can range in excess of $800 US Dollars (USD), as it takes tremendous skill to create a natural look. Although the majority of patients feel only slight discomfort, the process can be painful for those with a low pain threshold. Topical anesthetics usually are applied beforehand to minimize pain or discomfort.

Some makeup tattoos, including eyeliner applications, can be permanent or semi-permanent.
Some makeup tattoos, including eyeliner applications, can be permanent or semi-permanent.

Like any procedure, there are risks to getting semi-permanent makeup. The risks are similar to the risks of getting a tattoo — namely, the risk of getting hepatitis or human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) from a dirty or shared needle. To avoid this risk, it can be important for a person to be sure that the professional is using a new needle. Additional risks, though uncommon, include blistering, cracking and peeling skin, serious disfigurement, and difficulty eating and talking.

Anyone considering semi-permanent makeup should also be aware that it is difficult to remove. Like tattoos, additional procedures are required for removal of unsatisfactory results. There is also the possibility that scars will form after the procedure. Because of all these risks and possibilities, it usually is important for a person to carefully consider the risks — and whether the risks are worth the reward — before having the procedure performed.

Avoiding skin products, such as Retin A, Glycolic Acid, and Alpha Hydroxy Acids (AHA), as well as the sun could help people who have undergone treatment to preserve their permanent makeup. Additionally, sun block could be used to prolong effectiveness. Touch-up procedures, however, may still be necessary to perfect lines and darken pigment over time.

Semi-permanent makeup can be ideal for people with hypo-allergenic sensitivities, and also for chemotherapy or hypothyroidism patients who may have lost eyebrow hair. It is extensively used by people who have birthmarks, scars, or burn marks they might want to cover. Treatment areas include eyebrows, eyes, lips, beauty spots, and freckles. The results may be referred to as permanent blush, permanent eye liner, permanent lip liner, or micropigmentation.

Treatments can be effective in making eyelashes and lips look fuller, eyebrows look arched, and lips and other features look even. All changes are drawn on before permanent application to ensure satisfaction and avoid mistakes. Shades are chosen to suit the complexion of the patient and are skillfully applied to complement natural features. Though semi-permanent makeup has often received a bad rap because of poorly done eyebrows and other features, a skillful technician making right selections of modifications usually can create satisfactory results.

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