When it comes to makeup, no one loves a short-lived look that fades by midday. Perhaps that's why permanent makeup (aka, cosmetic tattooing) is on the rise in the U.S. While the results take the #IWokeUpLikeThis trend to a whole new level, there are important factors to consider before you ink. To learn more, we chatted with Joan Freedman, Principal of the Whitney Center for Permanent Cosmetics.

Permanent vs. Semi-Permanent
There are two types of makeup tattoos: permanent, in which pigment is placed in the dermis and will last forever, and semi-permanent, in which pigment targets the outer epidermal layer and is designed to fade away after a year to 18 months. Make sure you understand what kind you're getting. Permanent makeup means it's everlasting (though, like any tattoo, touch-ups may be required every few years to combat fading). The biggest risk to going permanent? "Removing it is a very difficult and expensive process, so do your research well and look up the reputation of the technician and business,” says Freedman.

It Is a Big Time-Saver
Instead of having to apply a ton of makeup every morning, permanent cosmetics allow you to look done up 24/7. While you may still want to add a little foundation or eye shadow every now and then to complement your inked brows, eyes or lips, makeup tattoos do save time in the day-to-day. And when performed by a highly skilled pro, the tattoo pigment "actually [looks] more natural than any topical makeup,” according to Freedman.

Is It Painful?
Although permanent makeup is considered a tattoo, there is very little discomfort, says Freedman. Similar to professional tattoo artists, the choice of tool and method of application is key. "After applying a medical grade topical cream that numbs the skin to create a painless experience, we implant the cosmetic pigment with a traditional coil or rotary machine, which gets the color in with ease and provides stability and vitality of color for years.” Downtime should be minimal, according to Freedman, who says that clients can typically return to business as usual immediately after.

Choose Your Technician Carefully
Now is not the time to bargain hunt. A well-done look "is fated in the provider,” says Freedman.

A few tips for selecting the right technician:

1. Research the reputation of the specific technician you're considering through internet reviews—and don't be shy about asking for client testimonials. This is a big step, and you should be sure you're getting what you bargain for.

2. Ask to see photo books of the technician's work. Carefully examine the images and ask yourself if you truly like what you see. If you feel any hesitation, keep searching.

3. Always visit the center before committing, and note whether it appears clean and sterile.

4. Don't be afraid to ask questions, including how exactly the permanent makeup is applied, and how long it will take to finish the job. And once you've found the right technician, make sure you inquire how to properly prepare for your procedure.

Long-Lasting Alternatives

Permanent Makeup - Embed

Love the idea of permanent makeup, but apprehensive about taking the plunge? Then choose long-lasting temporary makeup instead. For bold eyes, we love innovative waterproof formulas like Buxom Pen & Ink Long-Lasting Eyeliner ($20; sephora.com) and Lancme Le Stylo Waterproof Long Lasting Eyeliner ($27; sephora.com). To create bold brows, try Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Pen ($21; sephora.com), an at-home arch-shaping tint. Add a little color to your pout with a bright, glossy stain like Yves Saint Laurent Rouge Pur Couture Vernis à Lèvres Glossy Stain ($25; sephora.com), or opt for a lipstick blend like Stila Stay All Day Liquid Lipstick ($24; nordstrom.com), which provides up to six hours of colorful coverage.

Scroll to Top