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So...What's the Difference?Permanent Makeup vs. Standard Tattoos

Pretty redhead with both permanent makeup and standard tattoos
Pretty redhead with permanent makeup and tattoo

There are many differences: Permanent makeup vs. Standard tattoos. But let's start with the main ones and then go into the detail of each.

First and foremost is the depth of where the pigment is placed. Traditional tattoos also considered Standard Tattoos place the ink much deeper into the skin and it is deposited into the dermis. Permanent Makeup pigment is placed in the "sweet spot" of just below the epidermis where it meets the dermis. The depth really determines how our bodies attempt to get rid of the pigment. The lymphatic system removes - or tries to remove - the tattoo ink. Our skin (also known as the integumentary system) pushes the permanent makeup pigment up with other skin cells that are ultimately shed off and replaced by new skin cells. This is a layman's quick interpretation of a very complex process. Therefore, permanent makeup fades over time whereas, tattoo ink doesn't really fade at all - well, some of the colors fade but it takes a very long time.

Another difference is the pigment/ink itself. Permanent Makeup pigments are highly regulated. Your permanent makeup artist should note the pigments' lot, manufacturer and expiration date on your chart and should never use any pigment or anesthetic that is expired. Rarely, but it can happen, someone may have an allergic reaction to permanent makeup pigment. If you do, your artist will report that to the manufacturer and can provide the manufacturer with the lot number so they know exactly what pigment caused the reaction.

Although I don't have any traditional tattoos, I only have permanent makeup tattoos, I know from interviewing people that have them, traditional tattoo artists don't use anesthetic. There are a couple permanent makeup procedures where the artist may prefer not to use anesthetic as, depending on what type of topical they choose, it may change the pigment and texture of the skin which may compromise the pigment retention. But for the most part, permanent makeup artists use anesthetic to make experience as comfortable as possible for the client/patient.

Also, permanent makeup artists can do illustrative designs. I offer alternative areola tattoos which can be flowers, heart shape, etc. Illustrative designs can also be done to cover a scar or otherwise hide an imperfection. However, traditional tattoo artists - unless they have permanent makeup training (and in NJ are certified) they should not offer permanent makeup.

With permanent makeup, many factors affect the healed result. It is important that the permanent makeup artist has a deep understanding of color theory and they should, also, identify the client/patient's skin undertone, their ethnic background, and the overall shade of the skin which is also called their "Fitzpatrick". A Fitzpatrick 1 is someone with very pale skin to a Fitzpatrick 6 who would be very dark (lots of melanin in their skin). If doing lips (liner, blush, full) the amount of "blue" in the lips comes into play. A permanent makeup artist should not be afraid to turn someone away because they don't feel as though they can come, at least close, to the client/patient's expectations or otherwise provide them with a good result.

In closing, the only negative, which could also be considered a positive, is that permanent makeup fades over time. After the first session, the client/patient should expect significant fading and then, after touchup (4 to 8 weeks later), a touchup will be needed at some point but most permanent makeup tattoos should not require touchups until, on average, 2 years. Some last even longer. My 3D areolae were touched up over 2 years ago and they still don't need another one yet.

Making permanent makeup more permanent (say that 3 times real quick) is how you care for it and that involves putting sunscreen on it to preserve it as long as possible. I always say...Wear sunscreen every day!!

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