Micropigmentation, also called permanent makeup, is especially helpful if you are a person who wants to look their best while avoiding the physical challenges of applying makeup. Eyebrows, eyelashes, eyelids, lips are common treatment areas. Considerations include number of treatments needed, complications and out-of-pocket costs.


What is micropigmentation?

Micropigmentation, also known as permanent makeup, permanent cosmetics or cosmetic tattooing, is a cosmetic procedure used to improve or replace lost coloring on your skin. Micropigmentation is most often used on your face – to enhance eyebrows, eyelashes, eyelids (as eyeliner) and lips. It’s also used to camouflage or improve scars, even out skin coloring and restore color to areas of skin that have lost color.


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Who are good candidates for micropigmentation?

Anyone – male or female – can get micropigmentation. If you are a person who wants to look their best while avoiding the physical challenges of applying makeup, micropigmentation may be especially appropriate for you.

Some medical conditions that make applying or using makeup challenging include:

  • Conditions that result in unsteady hands, such as severe arthritis, multiple sclerosis or Parkinson’s disease.
  • Conditions that result in poor eyesight, such as cataracts or macular degeneration.

Micropigmentation may also be a treatment or solution to some medical conditions including:

  • As a follow up to reconstructive surgery to the face.
  • To replace eyebrows that are thinning due to age or underlying medical conditions.
  • To camouflage lack of color to the skin due to vitiligo.
  • To recreate an areola (area around the nipple) after breast surgery.
  • As a permanent solution if you have allergies to traditional, temporary makeup.

Micropigmentation procedures are also considered for purely personal reasons, such as:

  • You don’t like applying makeup on a daily basis.
  • You’d like to have fuller looking or better defined eyebrows or eyelashes.
  • You’d like better defined or richer colored lips.
  • You have scars you’d like to improve with tattoo pigment.

Special note to young people: If you are a young person, you really need to think carefully if you want a micropigmentation procedure. What’s “hot” in beauty fashion today, may not be tomorrow’s trend and you don’t want to be stuck with an undesirable look. Also, facial features change as you age.

Procedure Details

How is micropigmentation done?

Most procedures only require a topical anesthetic to numb the skin and keep you comfortable during the procedure.

Typically, micropigmentation can be performed in an office setting. The procedure is performed with a pen-like instrument or standard tattoo gun. The needle will penetrate a few millimeters into the middle layer of your skin (dermis) and an iron oxide pigment is injected. Your cosmetic specialist or plastic surgeon will be wearing medical gloves while performing the procedure.

Most procedures take from 30 minutes to several hours to perform (from preparation to end of procedure; time depends on complexity of procedure). After the procedure, your specialist will give you an antiseptic to keep the treated region clean. In addition, you may be given an ointment to keep the area soft and promote healing. Sometimes a bandage may be applied to protect the area for several hours after the procedure.


What is the follow-up care after a micropigmentation procedure?

Some patients may require more than one treatment to achieve the desired result. Make sure you understand exactly how many treatments you will need for the procedure you want. As the pigment fades over the years, you also may have to undergo additional treatments to maintain the look.

Risks / Benefits

What are the risks of micropigmentation? Is it safe?

There are several risks or complications to micropigmentation. These include:

Infection: When there are needles involved, there’s always a chance of infection if sterilized needles are not used or if the ink is contaminated. Infections due to these concerns are typically much less likely if the procedure is done in a trained cosmetic physician’s office (compared to an unregulated tattoo parlor). Unsterile needles can transmit such diseases as hepatitis, HIV and staph infections.

Allergic reaction: You can be allergic to tattoo ink color (the pigments used) or type of tattoo ink. (Before your healthcare professional performs your procedure, they should perform a scratch test behind your ear or on your finger to see you will have a reaction.)

Eye complications: Micropigmentation procedures around the eye can result in loss of eyelashes, severe eyelid injury, crusting, and ectropion (the eyelid turns away from the eyeball).

Nodules and scar tissue: Your body can react to the tattoo ink as a “foreign substance” and may form nodules (called granulomas) around particles of pigment. Keloids are scars that can form when your skin is injured or traumatized. Keloids tend to be larger than the injured area of skin.

MRI complications: There have been some reports of tattoo ink pigments interfering with the quality of an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) scan. There are also a few cases of swelling or burning in the tattoo area of patients’ faces who have undergone MRI imaging of their heads.

Ordinary reactions to be expected following micropigmentation include a little bleeding, swelling and some crusting.


Recovery and Outlook

What should I do at home after the micropigmentation procedure?

You will return home the same day as your procedure. You can usually return to work or other activities immediately after your procedure.

Expect some swelling and redness in the treated area. Your cosmetic specialist or plastic surgeon will instruct you on how often you should ice the area and what type of ointment you can apply to the area.

You will be given specific instructions to follow for the procedure you had performed. Please follow all instructions given to you. Never hesitate to call your cosmetic specialist if you have any questions or concerns.

When To Call the Doctor

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Contact your cosmetic specialist or plastic surgeon immediately if:

  • You experience excessive swelling, pain or redness.
  • You develop a fever or rash.
  • The area feels excessively hot or burns.

Additional Details

Is micropigmentation really permanent?

Yes, but. . . Although the ink never washes off, it fades over time because skin cells are constantly replaced. However, you should think about micropigmentation as being permanent because it can be very difficult to remove. It can be a long, painful, expensive, multiple procedure process and all of the link may not be able to be removed.

What research should I do before undergoing micropigmentation?

Be sure to find a cosmetic specialist or plastic surgeon who has experience in your desired procedure. Set up an initial consultation. During this meeting you’ll discuss your expectations. Be sure to be honest about why you want micropigmentation so your specialist understands all of your concerns.

Some questions to ask this healthcare professional include:

  • Can I see your credentials? Ask how long they’ve been doing your desired cosmetic procedure?
  • Am I a good candidate for this procedure? Are my expectations realistic?
  • Can I see before and after photos of past work on other clients?
  • Can I contact a current or former client?
  • What anesthesia/type of anesthesia will be used for my procedure?
  • What are the risks and complications of the particular procedure I’m interested in? How are these complications handled?
  • What can I expect during my recovery period?

A good specialist should be able to answer any and all of your questions. Make sure you feel comfortable communicating with your specialist and that you feel open to ask anything that's on your mind.

After your initial consultation appointment, expect your healthcare professional to examine your skin for tone, texture and complexion to best match your natural colors with the proper pigment. Your cosmetic specialist or plastic surgeon will ask about your medical conditions, past surgeries, medications you are taking and history of allergies. They will also take photos.

Does insurance cover micropigmentation?

No. This is an elective, cosmetic procedure that you will have to pay for on your own. Costs vary depending on the procedure you request and the experience of the practitioner.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed on 07/02/2020.

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