For years, people have been visiting the tattoo parlor to have permanent ink added to their skin in the form of text or a graphic to showcase proudly on their body. This traditional procedure is known as a tattoo. A newer and very similar trend starting to take over is the act of having permanent makeup added to people’s faces. 

Since these both involve getting permanent ink added to your body or face, a very understandable question can commonly be asked:

Is permanent makeup the same as a tattoo? Though they both involve adding ink to a part of the body, permanent makeup uses pigments that look more natural than tattoo ink, which is usually brighter and vivid. Additionally, tattoo ink on your face can cause intense infections that could be extremely harmful.  

While these do share a few similarities, it’s safe to say permanent makeup isn’t quite the same as getting a tattoo. There are a few other key differences between the two when it comes to the types of ink involved and the procedures. I’ve highlighted a few differences and extra information diving into permanent makeup and how the pigments work.   

The Difference Between Permanent Makeup Ink and Tattoo Ink

Traditional tattoo ink is not used on your skin when applying permanent makeup. Each respective ink contains ingredients that work in different ways for the face and body. Here are the key differences in each: 

Tattoo Ink: 

  • Bright, sometimes colorful, stands out vividly 
  • Isn’t safe around facial areas, especially eyes and can cause infection on these areas
  • Can cause the makeup to easily blur 
  • Contains carbon which makes the tattoo stay bright for longer and not fade easily 

Permanent Makeup Pigments: 

  • Blend better with your skin, looking more natural and subtle like normal, everyday makeup
  • Nonreactive, so it’s safe to apply on different areas of the face making infection uncommon
  • No carbon involved in the ingredients, so the pigment can’t migrate under the skin causing it to blur or look smudged
  • Fades a lot quicker, so the look isn’t as intense or obviously bold 

Two Main Types of Pigments

Rather than using strong and intense ink, smaller and subtler pigment particles are used when applying permanent makeup. There are two different pigments that are utilized together as the main ingredients found in permanent makeup: organic and inorganic pigments. They each contain two separate color ingredients. Organic uses lake pigments and inorganic has pigments called iron oxides. Below are the qualities each contain: 

Organic (Lake) Pigments: 

  • Stronger, certified and intensified colors to provide a bolder makeup look 
  • A colorant that is dryer than iron oxides and is ground up to become a fine powder 
  • Also referred to as metal salts 
  • Normally works to make makeup look bolder 

Inorganic (Iron Oxides) Pigments:

  • Work to keep the stability of the makeup staying on your face and not smudging 
  • Are non-toxic and safe on skin
  • Create solid colors that are often found in different makeup like blushes, foundation or eye shadow 
  • Are an ingredient found in some sunscreens, foods, and medications 

How The Different Procedures Work 

Tattoos and permanent makeup do require certain methods and procedures in order to get them properly placed onto the skin. These are both operated in different ways. 

Tattoo Procedures 

These will normally require a coil tattoo gun and different types of needles. With this procedure, the needle, whether it’s big or small, usually digs deep into the hypodermis. This is what makes a tattoo more of a permanent decision. Since this type of needle is deeper and a lot more powerful, it’s dangerous to have around certain sensitive areas of the face, especially the eye area. So this type of procedure is never used for permanent makeup. 

Permanent Makeup Procedures 

In order to properly apply the pigment to a person’s skin, permanent makeup artists will either use a cosmetic tattoo machine or a tool shaped like a pen. They both use needles that are thin and tiny so the artists are able to be more certain and precise when adding this makeup to your face. 

Does Applying Permanent Makeup Hurt? 

Since it’s a permanent procedure that involves needles, it’s easy for someone to assume there’s a large possibility that this could cause pain. Since the needles are a lot smaller and thinner than the usual intimidating tattoo needle, most people don’t experience as much pain as a regular tattoo. If you still want to attempt to reduce the pain, most cosmetic tattoo artists can offer a gel or creamer to apply before the procedure begins in order to limit the pain.

Does permanent makeup fade after the procedure? 

Since permanent makeup doesn’t contain regular ink found in tattoos, it will begin to fade quicker than the time it would take a regular tattoo to fade. Because of this, the darkness of your makeup will start to get lighter as days go on. Some people will see this start to happen with their lipliner and eyeliner. 

Most permanent makeup wearers see this as a good thing since they’d rather their makeup not stay so bold throughout the entire time of wearing it as some get tired of the intensity. 

How often should you touch up your permanent makeup?

While the makeup is still permanent and easily seen on your face, it will still start to fade soon so a touch up is almost always necessary. Many makeup artists will recommend touching up your makeup approximately 12 to 18 weeks after you first got it applied in order to maintain an even and presentable appearance. 

Average Cost of Permanent Makeup Procedure

Both of these procedures are similar as they both involve you sitting in a chair getting permanent ink added to your face or body, but they both vary in the different costs depending on various factors like location, color, detail, etc. Many tattoos will vary greatly in cost depending on the tattoo artist and size of the tattoo ranging anywhere from $50 to $300. Below are the approximate costs of permanent makeup according to Cost Helper Health

  • Permanent eyebrows: $400 to $600
  • Permanent eyeliner: $200 to $400 
  • Full lip color with liner: $600 to $800 
  • Yearly touchup: $100 to $250

Are There Any Risks or Complications with Permanent Makeup? 

A large benefit to using permanent makeup is people normally see little to no complications or infections when getting the cosmetic makeup procedure. This is because the human body has never shown any type of reactions to oxides and lakes so far. Because of this, you shouldn’t find any problems during or immediately following the procedure, but you may see some if you don’t take care of your face afterward. Here are some ways to keep your skin healthy to prevent any infections from arising. 

  • Always wash your hands before and after applying cream or skincare given to you by your cosmetic tattoo artist
  • Limit yourself from putting your head underwater when swimming in lakes, the ocean or pools as much as possible
  • Your face may swell a day or two after the procedure. Try not to touch the swollen area unless applying ointment given to you by the permanent makeup artist

Are Tattoos and Permanent Makeup Essentially the Same? 

As we examine the above qualities found in both tattoos and permanent makeup, it’s pretty easy to determine that they aren’t quite the same, but do share similarities. Either way, deciding whether or not to invest in either of these procedures is an important decision to make that will impact how you look for the rest of your life. Because of this, you must carefully explore the positives and negatives of purchasing either of these procedures.

Learn More

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