Permanent makeup is a cosmetic procedure that uses tattoo work to create the illusion of makeup on someone’s face. Examples include tattooed eyeliner, enhanced eyebrows, or added color to the lips or cheeks. This is done in a process called micropigmentation, where the ink is placed beneath the upper layers of the skin.

Permanent makeup, when done by a skilled provider, allows you to keep perfectly, professionally crafted makeup on forever. You don’t have to worry about waking up early to put it on every morning or worry that your lipstick will smudge before a meeting, on a date, or in the rain.

There are several different types of permanent makeup, including:

Eye makeup

Permanent eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, and eyeshadow are available in a variety of colors. Eyeliner can be applied to line the top and/or bottom eyelids.

Eyeshadow can be applied in a variety of colors and in various styles, but it’s important to work with a skilled technician, as permanent eyeshadow is difficult to apply.

Eyebrow penciling — sometimes referred to as “microblading” can reshape your eyebrows or be used to make them look thicker, fuller, or darker.

Permanent eyebrow makeup creates the look of a full pair of perfectly shaped eyebrows. Skilled technicians can produce a realistic look that mimics the appearance of individual eyebrow hairs.

Lip makeup

Permanent lip liner and lipstick can be matched to a favorite shade or a more neutral look, which still allows for the application of lipstick and prevents the color from bleeding. Lip procedures can add fullness, or balance crooked or uneven lips. Skilled technicians are key in the application of color that goes beyond the outer edge of your lips.

Permanent blush and facial contouring

Facial contouring can create a permanent illusion of higher cheekbones, a thinner nose, or a more defined jawline using shadow and highlight colors. Blush is used to add rosy or bronze colors to the cheeks for a “healthy glow.”

Technicians can also create beauty marks, which are often placed just above the lip.

Permanent makeup won’t be covered by insurance, as it’s considered an elective cosmetic procedure. Depending on the quality of the salon, the area you live in, and the procedure you’ve chosen, a single procedure can cost anywhere between $50 and $800. This should include at least one follow-up visit, and post-procedure skin care products to improve the recovery process. If additional visits are needed, that may be included in the original price.

  • Beauty marks range from $50 to $150, and usually require only one visit.
  • Permanent eyebrows range in price from $400 to $600, and usually require two visits.
  • Permanent eyeliner ranges from $200 to $400 for just the upper or lower lid, and $400 to $600 for both. This may require two or more visits.
  • Permanent contouring or blush can cost from $400 to $900, and often takes more than one visit.
  • Permanent lipstick with lip liner will cost the client $600 to $800.

Procedures vary slightly, depending on what you’re having done. Across the board, your practitioner will have you sit back and detail exactly what you want. Bring pictures of the look you want to recreate. They’ll sterilize the area with alcohol and may apply a topical or injected anesthetic. Then they’ll use a small needle to place pigmented color in the upper layers of the skin.

Depending on the procedure, they may recommend that you get a sedative from your doctor. With eyeliner, for example, this can help you to relax and keep your eyes open without flinching. They may also recommend that you take a Benadryl or Motrin before your appointment; both may help with pain and post-procedure swelling, improve healing, and possibly have a slight sedative effect.

Permanent makeup is tattooed onto the face, so the same side effects as tattooing the body will apply. The procedure will be uncomfortable, and pain, swelling, and redness may be prevalent for several days following the procedure. The face is particularly sensitive, so swelling and irritation will be more common here, even if you’ve had other tattoos on your body with minimal swelling.

There may be some bleeding during the procedure. It’s normal to experience bruising. This may last up to a week, but should subside soon.

There are some risks that come with permanent makeup. These include:

  • possible interference with any future MRIs you may need
  • potential allergic reactions, which are rare but possible; talk to your doctor first if you believe you’ll have sensitivities
  • the formation of keloids, which are raised, dark patches of scar tissue
  • exposure to a type of pigment called azo-pigments, which may potentially release carcinogens into the system
  • the formulation of granulomas, which are nodules that form around anything the body perceives as foreign invasion (including chemicals)

Just as with all other tattoos, make sure you visit a high-quality provider. The use of unsterilized needles can cause infections like staph, and the reuse of needles can expose you to hepatitis B or HIV.

Immediately following the procedure, you may experience some redness, very minor swelling, and discomfort. The makeup will look heavy-handed, very bright, and thick immediately following the procedure. All of this is temporary, and everything will usually be resolved within three or four days.

Many procedures may need repeat sessions. Your makeup artists will likely be able to let you know upfront if you will need more than one session, and it will be included in the initial cost.

If you get permanent makeup and decide you’ve changed your mind, it can be removed. Traditional laser tattoo removal is an option except around the eye area. Keep in mind that this is an expensive, uncomfortable, and time-consuming process that requires multiple sessions. If you think you’ll have a change of heart, stick to the liquids and powders and creams until you’re sure.