What You Need To Know About Permanent Makeup

by Elizabeth Broadbent
Originally Published: 

I’m one of those women who won’t walk to the mailbox without a full face on. I use a whole counterful of products, but the two I can’t live without have remained the same since the beginning of time: concealer and eyeliner.

My love affair with eyeliner started with punk rock in the late ’90s, when Catholic school rebellion meant Doc Martins and a hefty dose of the darkest liner Maybelline could offer. I wore that dark liner for years until I got more sophisticated. Now I still hate people to see me without it, though my eyes are, by all estimations, pretty big already. I just love my liner. And I hate taking it off to go to sleep. So I started to think, What if I never had to take it off? What about permanent makeup?

By which I mean, yes, cosmetic tattooing. Or what the pros call “micropigmentation.” It used to be this kind of thing looked a lot like getting a regular tattoo, according to Fashionista. You got it done in a tattoo parlor, and it used pretty much the same techniques as traditional tattooing — needles and black ink. But as they say, most of us associate cosmetic tattooing from the ’80s and ’90s with “harsh colors and fuzzy-edged lines for a reason.” The stuff that makes your tattoo last also makes it feather and fade, which is a real bitch when it’s on your face.

But we’ve come a long way since traditional tattooing methods were used for permanent makeup. Permanent eyeliner will not scar, cosmetic artist Dominique Bossavy told Refinery 29, and “doesn’t cut into the skin with a blade.” Bossvary uses “a gentle, non-invasive procedure that uses mineral-based pigment, a low frequency tiny needle, a unique injection technique (what Bossavy coined “NanoColor Infusion“)… plus some numbing cream for a comfortable experience.”

Apparently, it just feels like a vibration on your lashes — at most, like someone scratching on your skin.

She goes over your lash line two or three times, and the whole process takes about an hour. You need to come for a free touch-up about 4-12 weeks later, which can last about another hour. You can expect, Refinery 29 says, “The illusion of thicker eyelashes, like your eyes are really popping in the same way a tight-lined lash might appear.” But she’ll tailor that to your makeup wants and needs, so girls like me who want a thicker line could get it.

In addition to permanent eyeliner, other common permanent makeup includes lips.

Microblading, which is semi-permanent procedure, that adds fullness to eyebrows.

Refinery 29 does not reveal the cost of Bossavy’s procedure. She has clinics in Los Angeles, New York, and Paris, which should tell you quite enough about what she might charge. In 2017, The New York Times reported her prices to start at $1,500, and that was before the trend really took off.

So what’s your average, permanent-makeup-wanting gal to do?

Refinery 29 has some recs for you. Get it done in a doctor’s office, says Michael Gold, MD, founder of Gold Care Skin Center in Nashville. It’ll cost more, but the technician will be more skilled — and if you’re getting a freaking face tattoo (which, let’s face it, permanent makeup is), you want someone who knows what they are doing really, really, really well.

Once you pick a person to tattoo you, ask to see their license and make sure it “lines up to state regulations.” Then ask for before and after pics. Better yet, ask for people, in the flesh, so you can see the real work they’ve done — and make sure “it’s your preferred aesthetic.” I wouldn’t want to go to someone who would give me a wimpy-ass skinny line, and someone else wouldn’t want the heavy-handed liner I’m enamored with. In that vein, you need to know exactly what you want. Think of your daily routine. Think of mimicking it. Bring pics. Real pics, not insta-filtered selfies.

Remember also, there’s always a risk of infection. Makeup can change as you age, as you get sun damage, as you wrinkle. Be prepared. Use sunscreen and get touch-ups every few years to keep your eyeliner looking in tip-top shape. Also, it’s basically a tattoo. You need to take care of it. Especially since it’s on your face.

As for me, I’m still up in the air. I’m investigating, looking around to see who in my area uses the best practices. Maybe, maybe not. But at least I know more about it. And knowing, as they say, is half the battle.

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