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How Deep Does Permanent Makeup Go?

How Deep Does Permanent Makeup Go?

Are you considering permanent makeup on your lips or eyebrows or eyeliner, but the process scares you?  You have heard there is a needle and pigment injected into your skin.  Yes, there is.  You’ve had a tattoo and it was painful and you want to know if permanent makeup will hurt also.  So how deep does permanent makeup go?  Will it hurt like a tattoo?

You want to know how deep permanent makeup goes?  Compare the thickness of a dime to the length of a needle injection for permanent makeup.  A dime has the thickness of 1.35mm. 

So, how deep does permanent makeup go? The permanent makeup deposits pigment right below the epidermis which is usually anywhere from 50 to 100 cell layers or an average of .1mm.  This is the uppermost layer of the dermis where pigments for permanent makeup are deposited.

The thickness of skin varies from person to person and on different areas of your body.  It is a fact that men usually have thicker skin than women. (Literally speaking not metaphorically speaking of course) And older skin is typically thicker than a child’s skin.  So the thickness of your skin is individual, but the needle for cosmetic makeup injection will still only go as far as .1mm deep.  When you go to have permanent makeup the injection level doesn’t depend on the thickness of your skin or what process you are having.  The injection level is uniform, regardless of your age or sex. 

The Skin

Everyone’s skin has three layers:

The epidermis is the outermost layer of the skin that provides a waterproof barrier and creates our skin tone.

The dermis is beneath the epidermis and contains tough connective tissue, hair follicles and sweat glands.

The deeper subcutaneous tissue (hypodermis) is made of fat and connective tissue. 

The permanent makeup is deposited right below the epidermis.   Whereas tattoos are depositing ink in the deeper subcutaneous level, the hypodermis. 


Permanent makeup procedures are performed using different devices depending on the technician’s preference.  The devices include the pen or digital rotary machines, which is the most used, the traditional tattoo coil machines and the non-machine or hand device. 

All of the devices use depend on a single use hollow needle to place the pigment color granules under the upper layer of the skin.  The cosmetic tattoo machine is smaller than the average tattoo gun and is shaped like a pen.  It does not inject the pigment as deep into the skin as a traditional tattoo machine.  The smaller machine, the hollow needle are the reasons that the pigments are not injected as deep as a traditional tattoo machine and tattooing needles.


With a needle depositing pigment into the first layer of the skin, there are two types of eyeliner used for permanent makeup.  The first is the tightline.  The tightline involves placing the pigment between the layers of your eyelashes to darken the lash line.  It is a subtle enhancement. 

The other type is a “step above” the tightline for the eyeline application.  Still using a hollow needle the pigment is actually applied above the lash line and it is drawn as if you were putting liquid eyeliner on. 


The technique varies from technician to technician.  The most common steps involve the technician having the eyebrows drawn on with an eyebrow pencil that has been disinfected before the procedure begins.  Then with a sterilized hollow needle pigment will be placed underneath the upper layers of the skin following the line of the drawn eyebrows.  Your eyebrows are now tattooed ‘permanently’.  It is called permanently because the tattoo cannot be washed off. 

  • LIPS

For the lips you can either have lip-liner or add color to your lips.  The tools for the lips consist of the same, the coil machine, the linear device or the digital rotary machine.  Whichever machine is used, attached will still be a hollow needle to deposit the pigment or tattoo the line.

If you are trying to make your lips look fuller without adding without adding collagen or any artificial gunk into your lips tattooing a lip line is another way to go.  The best technician will not try to give you Angelina Jolie lips if you start with Jennifer Aniston lips, but they can make your lips look slightly fuller with a lip tattoo

The technician will outline a new lip line for you.  The technician after applying an anesthetic will begin the tattoo process.  This will consist of a hollow needle placing pigment .1mm into the skin along the newly drawn lip line. 

However, if it is color that you are adding, a permanent lipstick to your lips, the same tools will be used.  You and the technician have already decided on a color that is suitable for your face.  Again with a hollow needle attached the technician will be placing color pigments directly into your lips. 

The lips are the most painful of the procedures, not because the pigment is placed deeper than an eyeliner or eyebrow procedure, but because the lips are the most sensitive.  Go ahead pinch your lip, it’s going to prick a little.  Now imagine a needle inserting pigment into your lips.

You can do both the lip liner and lip color to enhance your appearance and speed up your day.  But you should consider doing them in separate sessions. 


While a few of the permanent makeup procedures are similar to tattooing, specifically the eyeliner and the lip liner, that is where the similarities end.  The tattoo artist uses needles that penetrate much deeper than the cosmetic technician. 

The permanent makeup is deposited right below the epidermis, the first layer of the skin.  Whereas the tattoo is deposited deeper in the subcutaneous level.  This is also why you will feel a prick with little or no bleeding from the cosmetic makeup and the pain and bleeding, not to mention the scabs from a tattoo. 

The thickness of a dime is 1.35mm and the needle that deposits pigment into your skin penetrates .1mm.  This is how deep a cosmetic needle goes.  It penetrates the epidermis the first layer of your skin.  This why cosmetic tattoos are not permanent, while the pigment may stay in your skin the color will eventually fade with the ever-regenerating skin cells.

So go ahead, get that consultation with your permanent makeup technician.  They aren’t going to probe a needle deep into your skin.  This isn’t a tattoo, it is a cosmetic procedure to enhance your confidence, and give you more time during the day.  And at just .1mm who doesn’t want that?

Learn More

If you are interested, here is a link to the Makeup section on Amazon.