Is Permanent Makeup Safe?

Is Permanent Makeup Safe?
October 20, 2014

Many people in today’s world have undergone permanent makeup treatments. In most cases, these treatments are successful. However, there are some potential complications that can sometimes make these procedures unsafe. This will take a look at whether permanent makeup is a safe solution.

What Is Permanent Makeup?

Permanent makeup is a form of cosmetic tattoo that simulates the ordinary application of consumer makeup products. In theory, permanent makeup is supposed to replace the need for eyeliner, lipstick, and general makeup. However, most patients who undergo these treatments will still need to use ordinary cosmetics to look their best. The advantage of permanent makeup is that it can make a person more naturally beautiful. This procedure is designed to permanently change the color of a patient’s skin. The skin color is changed by injecting a colored dye deep into the skin pores. In many ways, permanent makeup is very similar to getting a permanent tattoo. Like permanent tattoos, permanent makeup can last for several decades. Depending on how satisfied the patient is with their treatment, the permanent nature of this treatment can have advantages or disadvantages.

Potential Benefits

Patients often seek permanent makeup procedures to simulate eyeliner, enhance facial colors, or correct bodily irregularities. Permanent makeup can be used on a person’s eyelids and lips to give them a more desirable appearance. This procedure can also disguise scars and cover up white spots known as vitiligo. Some women even use permanent makeup to correct breasts that are not lined up correctly. The results of permanent makeup can be very long-term. Some patients can experience positive benefits that can last for the rest of their lives.

Procedure Limitations

Permanent makeup has some limitations that prevent it from working perfectly. Since everyone’s skin tone is different, doctors must carefully select the ideal dye color for a person’s skin. Unfortunately, colors that are slightly incorrect can create apparent lines on person’s face. A person’s skin tones can also change with age. Since the tone of this makeup stays the same, patients often experience undesirable tone lines as they get older. Permanent makeup procedures can also fade due to sun exposure, environmental effects, and genetic factors.

After the procedure is completed, patients can also experience fading in the short-term. It is not uncommon for patients to report darker skin tones for a couple of months after having the procedure. During this time, patients may need to wait to see how the final results will look. Depending on the results, patients may need to seek additional treatments from their care provider. However, one procedure is usually enough to give patients what they are looking for.

The most important limitation of permanent makeup is its lack of regulatory approval. To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not yet ruled on the legal status of existing treatments. However, these treatments have been around for several decades. At the time of writing, the FDA has not gone after any of the market leaders that were operating in good faith. The other primary limitation of permanent makeup is that it can cause adverse side effects. These negative side effects are particularly prevalent for individuals who choose to complete these procedures on their own. In most cases, professionally trained doctors can prevent most of these negative side effects.

According to the FDA

Unlike the tattoo industry, the permanent makeup industry has not been subject to the rules that are supposed to be enforced under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA). This legislation is supposed to require companies to seek FDA approval in order to market the dyes used for permanent cosmetic procedures. After several decades of existence, the permanent makeup industry has not received any authoritative guidance about its legality from the FDA. Due to this implied precedent, it can be inferred that the FDA views permanent makeup as safe. This has also been substantiated by interviews and statements made by some of the FDA’s leading officials.

The lack of regulatory guidance in the permanent makeup industry has been primarily driven by competing priorities. In today’s world, there are simply too many scams and illegitimate products that the FDA must investigate. Due to limited resources, the governmental agency has consequently been unable to justify offering official guidance. However, the agency has made efforts to facilitate state-level adoption of accreditation standards. The American Academy of Micropigmentation (AAM) is approved by the FDA to certify permanent makeup practitioners. In some states, approval from this organization is required for all individuals looking to practice in the permanent makeup field.

The implications of this lack of FDA guidance means that patients need to work with a permanent makeup provider that is approved by the AAM. Patients should also extensively inquire into a prospective provider’s experience. Online reviews can be a great place to discover whether a provider can be trusted. In some cases, it may even be a good idea to ask for references. Patients need to make sure that their provider is reputable to avoid getting permanent results that are undesirable.

Working With a Doctor

Some of the thought leaders in the cosmetics profession are starting to claim that consumers can complete permanent makeup procedures on their own. It is true that YouTube and online information can be useful for certain cosmetic procedures. For example, thousands of quality videos can be found online about how to apply lipstick. However, this does not imply that individuals can apply permanent makeup with basic instructions. These at-home treatments are possible, but the results are not going to be desirable.

When looking to have a permanent makeup procedure done, prospective patients need to make sure that they work with a licensed doctor. Doctors have been through at least a decade of professional training. During this time, doctors learned how to adapt to unique situations and protect patients from permanent cosmetic damage. The reality is that these procedures are unsafe to do from home. A specialized doctor is needed to ensure that these procedures are done right.

In today’s cosmetics marketplace, the reality is that some providers cannot be trusted. Studies conducted by the FDA have indicated that more than half of all permanent makeup professionals do not have a reputable certification. These findings should be seen as truly alarming for patients who are looking to have one of these procedures done. Without a competent doctor, patients are inevitably going to have complications that they do not know how to manage. If this happens, patients could be left with permanent damage to their skin tissue.

Potential Complications

The potential complications of a bad permanent makeup procedure can cause the opposite of the intended effects. During self-administered treatments, patients often experience infections. These infections can cover a broad area of a person’s face. In the worst situations, patients could even be exposed to Hepatitis and HIV. Allergic reactions to the skin dyes are also very common. As a result of these reactions, many patients experience permanent scarring. Unfortunately, this can necessitate more invasive plastic surgery to partially fix the damage.

The problems associated with permanent makeup procedures can also be experienced by patients who visit a licensed doctor. Until researchers have a full understanding of the human genome, no doctor can predict how a person’s body could uniquely react to certain chemicals being introduced into the skin. For this reason, all patients take some risk when they decide to do a permanent makeup procedure. However, a reputable doctor would know that these problems can mostly be avoided by testing a single area before treating the entire body. Below are some of the most common adverse side effects of a permanent makeup procedure.

Allergic Reactions

The most common side effect that patients experience is an allergic reaction. In most cases, allergic reactions are relatively minor. Even the FDA has said that allergic reactions related to a permanent makeup procedure can usually be cured with consumer Benedryl. However, the permanent nature of these makeup procedures can make an infection difficult to get rid of. If a patient has an adverse reaction to one of the chemicals that were used, the allergic reaction could be permanent. As a result, the affected area could swell up severely. In some cases, this can require professionals to amputate the affected area.

Allergic reactions only occur in a minority of procedures. However, it is still important for patients to be prepared for them. Doctors are trained to test an area before treating the entire body. If the sample area reveals an allergic reaction, doctors can try other chemicals that are less likely to irritate the skin. Doctors can also take action to minimize the damage that allergic reactions can cause. Therefore, patients who use a doctor are much less likely to suffer a severe allergic reaction.

Artificial iron oxide is the primary ingredient used for permanent makeup procedures. Organic permanent makeup procedures attempt create the same effects by using herbs, extracts, and even animal byproducts. With most consumer products, organics and natural products are usually seen as a more healthy alternative. Unfortunately, unethical cosmetics manufacturers have been trying to convince consumers that organic permanent makeup supplies are less likely to cause an allergic reaction. The reality is that the opposite is generally true due to artificial compounds being more sterile. Most importantly, they contain fewer byproducts that are likely to cause an allergic reaction. This means that medical-grade iron oxide is much safer than artificial alternatives.

An allergic reaction can cause severe side effects. The most common side effect is an uncontrollable rash. Most patients can fight these rashes with the assistance of a professional doctor. However, these rashes can quickly get out of control. Patients who attempt to complete a permanent makeup procedure on their own could let the rash grow for several days. By the time that the patient ends up in the emergency room, the hospital may have to amputate the affected area. Other side effects include infection, uncontrollable growths, and scarring.


An allergic reaction can quickly turn into an infection. If the treated area becomes infected, harmful bacteria and pus can quickly take over. When infections are treated promptly, patients are usually able to prevent more serious side effects. However, patients are often embarrassed about going back to their doctor because of an infection. Some patients are also uninformed about the potential dangers of an infection. As a result, these patients are the most vulnerable to a severe infection that can quickly take over the entire body.

Patients who fail to immediately fight an infection could face very serious consequences. Patients could need to have the affected area amputated by a professional doctor. Other patients could experience an infection that spreads throughout the entire body. However, these problems can be prevented by working with a professional doctor after completing the procedure. Reputable doctors will usually tell patients to return for several follow-up procedures to ensure that the skin is healing properly. If doctors notice an infection, they can immediately take steps to minimize the potential harm that it could cause.

Some patients can also experience infections long after a permanent makeup procedure has been completed. Certain environmental factors can cause infections to emerge. Studies have shown that electromagnetic radiation could be one of the primary cause of these spontaneous infections. Individuals who work near high-powered electrical equipment may need to be careful to ensure that an infection does not form.

These infections can also be experienced by individuals who receive an MRI. Due to the high amounts of electromagnetic radiation that this medical equipment emits, the magnetic iron oxide can sometimes cause an infection. These infections are usually very mild. The existence of iron oxide can also cause MRI results to be distorted. As long as patients inform their doctor about their permanent makeup, this is not a problem.


Granulomas are undesirable masses that manifest themselves inside of the tissue around a foreign substance. These granulomas have been known to form after a permanent makeup procedure. In most cases, the can simply be cut out. However, it is important to work closely with a medical professional to ensure that they do not come back.

Nodules are inflamed tissue and fluid that can quickly turn into an infection. These can sometimes form under the skin of patients who have undergone permanent makeup procedures. Nodules are not cancerous, but it important to assess them immediately to prevent thyroid problems, mineral deficiencies, and blood poisoning.


Keloids are severe scar tissue that can form in areas treated with permanent makeup. These can have lasting effects that can reverse the potential advantages of permanent makeup. Although these are somewhat rare, they are especially prevalent with patients who administer their own care. Keloids most commonly occur when permanent makeup is removed. However, patients should still monitor the treated area to ensure that keloids do not start to form.

The Verdict

Permanent makeup procedures that are done by a trained practitioner are usually safe. However, self-treatment is not appropriate for the application of permanent makeup. There are too many potential complications that non-specialists could not possibly be aware of. Self-treatment can also result in negative results that look far worse than a person’s natural skin. If you are considering the possibility of having a permanent makeup procedure done, make sure that you work with a reputable doctor. Your doctor should be certified by the AAM. You should also check online reviews to ensure that your prospective treatment provider is truly reputable. By doing this, you can expect to get positive results from a permanent makeup procedure.