This page is the main story. But, if you are considering having this treatment, there are a lot of specific topics you need to know about, to get an in-depth understanding of your options, and to help you make choices. These are all listed in the sidebar on the right. This is how they work:
- ‘Why the shape of your face matters’ – A very important factor affecting what shape of eyebrow will work best on your face, is the shape of your face. This group of pages tells you about the various typical face shapes, how to work out which one you have, and how that should affect your choice of eyebrow shape.
- ‘Why the shape of your eyes matters too’ – The same thing, but this time for your eyes.
- ‘Find your ideal eyebrow shape’ – Armed with the knowledge about your face shape and your eye shape, you should be able to narrow down your choice of eyebrow shape. This section tells you about some other ways to do this, and ways to check out how a particular shape should look, before you commit to the treatment.
- ‘Eyebrow colours’ – Finally, this section tells you how your skin tone and undertone will affect the pigment colours, and it tells you how to go about working out what you undertone is.
These are all topics you can dip in and out of while reading the page text. For convenience, I have added this right sidebar on many pages where the topics are relevant.
Now on to the main subject ….
What micropigmentation is
Micropigmentation is a technique for replacing some forms of daily makeup with semi-permanent versions.
The most common uses for micropigmentation are: colouring the eyebrows, shaping and extending the eyebrows, creating eyeliner, and colouring lips.
In time, the pigment will fade or change colour, as happens with all forms of tattooing, and you will need a touch-up.
Micropigmentation is the name we are using. There are many other names: permanent cosmetics, semi-permanent cosmetics, derma pigmentation, derma graphics, cosmetic tattooing, micro-pigment implantation.
Semi-permanent v permanent makeup
In this website we have lumped all the eyebrow and other cosmetic tattooing procedures under the heading ‘semi-permanent makeup’. But the micropigmentation procedure is performed with the intention that it will produce a permanent result, and the skin does not automatically revert to its pre-tattooed state after a period of time. The Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals in the United States says that it is more accurate to regard the results of micropigmentation as ‘permanent’ makeup, rather than ‘semi-permanent’.
How it is done
Micropigmentation is a form of cosmetic tattooing. Literally, the needle creates a hole and pigment is dropped into it. Pigment granules are implanted below the epidermis (your top main level of skin) in the dermis layer of your skin, where it should remain for a considerable period of time, giving you the colour effect you want.
The treatment employs a specially designed machine for creating cosmetic tattoos. These machines are less dramatic than normal tattoo machines. The working end is usually a pen-like device which the technician holds, and it contains tiny needles of different sizes to give the technician scope for producing different desired results.
The equipment is intended to deposit pigment in the top layer of the dermis, not in the deeper layers. So, the result is intended to be more superficial than a standard tattoo.
Micropigmentation does not involve the use of standard tattoo ink. The pigments used are usually based on iron oxides.
Reasons to choose micropigmentation
Someone has calculated that you should save up to 100 hours a year in time spent applying makeup to your eyebrows. Micropigmentation may appeal to someone who wants a permanent natural-looking enhancement to a feature, such as their eyebrows – particularly someone who doesn’t want to give up her valuable time every day applying and reapplying make-up at the beginning of the day and before going out partying in the evening.
If you are allergic to traditional standard eyebrow make-up, you’re much less likely to be allergic to the pigments used in micro pigmentation procedures, which are usually based on iron oxides.
Convenience of application
Some people with physical problems arising from arthritis or Parkinson’s disease, for example, may have trouble putting makeup. This problem can be avoided by having semi-permanent make-up.
If you are accustomed to your makeup smearing, it won’t be an issue any more with nicely defined semi-permanent make-up.
Disguising signs of ageing
Micropigmentation can put right some problems arising from the normal ageing process, and changes in face shape and eyebrow quality.
If you are continually having to reapply make-up because of your energetic activities – swimming, aerobics, gym workouts, yoga – semi-permanent makeup provides an obvious solution.
Micro pigmentation can be a useful procedure for people who have lost eyebrows, or whose eyebrows have become sparce, as a result of alopecia, chemotherapy, or just the natural process of ageing. It can provide the appearance of a fully made-up eyebrow, particularly if existing eyebrow hairs remain, which can enhance the 3-D look.
How long does the procedure take?
The procedure is bound to take two or more hours. It’s not just the procedure itself. In addition:
- there will have to be a discussion about what shape and colour you want for your eyebrows
- the technician will have to take you through health issues to check out that there are no contraindications which might stop you having the procedure
- it will probably be necessary to set up before and after photographs
- the technician will also have to explain aftercare requirements to you.
You may need a follow-up treatment 4 to 6 weeks after the first treatment to get the desired result.
In fact, it is a good idea to start conservatively with the first application, to see how you like it. Do it in stages to allow you scope for change. It can take a month or more before your eyebrows settle down to their permanent colour and you can actually see what you are getting. Immediately after treatment your eyebrows will look darker than they will eventually be. This is because some pigment will be in the epidermis – the top layer of your skin – but this will fall off as your skin replaces itself naturally, leaving the pigment in the lower level of your dermis as the permanent colouring.
Once you’ve recovered from the first procedure, and your skin has healed properly, you might want to have the colour altered or even have the shape of your new eyebrows altered. Adding a darker colour is usually fine. It’s not so easy to make it lighter again. If you want to make lines thicker – expand your eyebrows – that is also possible. It’s not possible to move back in the other direction to thin eyebrows.
The best solution is to go for a lighter colour, and then go back for additional treatment if you want to darken it. Have a natural look – not like you are just about to go to a party.
‘End of the universe’ problem
There is a psychological problem called ‘end of the universe’ which we are all at risk of succumbing to without thinking about it. It involves assuming that the style of today will always be the style until the end of the universe. You only have to watch compilation programmes about music and dance in the 1980, 1990s and 2000s to see that this is not necessarily a good approach!
It is not a big risk if it is just a matter of buying clothes. It is a much bigger issue when it comes to having tattoos done. Not just the ones celebrating the current boyfriend by name, but even just the choice and style of image.
The same applies to eyebrows. If you go for something which is all the rage at the moment, because of one particular actress or model, it could soon be out of fashion, but you have had the look created permanently. The best approach is to adopt a natural or classic style, and steer clear of dramatically high arches.
Does it hurt?
Everyone has different levels of pain they can bear. Traditional tattoo artists don’t use anaesthetics when they do tattoos, and they use more high-frequency machines, so you probably don’t need anaesthetics.
The micropigmentation process is probably best described as discomfort rather than pain. One comparison which is often made is that it feels like having an electric toothbrush rubbed over the skin.
But anaesthetic cream can be applied if you do not feel you are as tough as a Hell’s Angel biker. There are some creams, such as epinephrine, which not only reduce pain, but also swelling.
After the procedure
It takes about four weeks for the colour to settle into its permanent shade, so don’t judge the results by the immediate appearance after treatment.
There may be some swelling to the treated area immediately after the procedure. This is not usually much of a problem with eyebrows (more of an issue with lips).
Usually, there’s very little swelling after micropigmentation, so you don’t need to hide away for days before being able to show off your new eyebrows. You should be able to get straight back to your normal working life.
You should use a barrier cream at least twice a day (or more if the skin appears to be drying out) and you need to use this until the brow area has healed completely (usually about 14 days).
You don’t have to avoid water altogether during the initial healing period, but you should avoid direct jets of water from the shower, or going to swimming pools (because the chlorinated water can affect the pigmentation in the healing period). You should also avoid too much sunshine.
After about two weeks, you should be back to your normal lifestyle and using all your normal beauty products.
How does your existing eyebrow hair fit in to this?
Any of your own hair within the shape you have chosen for your new eyebrows will remain, and, in fact, it will contribute to the necessary 3-D effect to make the tattooed background appear all the more natural and realistic.
Micropigmentation takes away the need for daily makeup for your eyebrows, but doesn’t remove all care issues. You still have to wax or tweeze your eyebrows to prevent hairs from showing outside the area you have chosen for your eyebrow shape.
The lighter the pigment colour you choose, the more frequently it will need a touch-up to retain its looks. There is a tendency for all tattoo colours to eventually become grey to blue-grey. It’s all very dependent on your personal skin type, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
How does micropigmentation compare with microblading for eyebrows
Essentially, micropigmentation is a block effect, like the application of eyebrow pencil. It’s not so useful for infilling gaps in your eyebrows, which is better handled by microblading.
Micropigmentation lasts longer than microblading. It may only need to be retouched every few years.
Micropigmentation is meant to look like makeup. Microblading is meant to look like eyebrow hairs.
Micropigmentation is the right treatment if you have two perfectly good, thick eyebrows and your aim is to avoid the need to set aside valuable minutes every day applying makeup.
Microblading, on the other hand, is designed for filling in gaps, extending the eyebrows, or making them appear fuller, by adding the appearance of eyebrow hairs. The two methods aren’t in competition; they fulfill different needs.
Isn’t micropigmentation extreme?
It may sound like an extreme action which, once undertaken, can’t be regretted. But if your eyebrows stop short without a nice final tail, you know that’s something you are going to want to put right forever. If you always add eyeliner in exactly the same way, then having a semi-permanent version which avoids the need for you to do anything in the morning about it may be an easy decision for you to make. It doesn’t stop you enhancing it further when you want to, for a party, for example.
Problems with shape
If the shape created for your new eyebrows turns out to be wrong or you just don’t like it, that is a problem, because it’s hard to remove the pigmentation, although there are solutions (relatively expensive ones).
One risk is for the pigment to migrate or bleed into surrounding tissue, so that you end up with a larger tattooed shape than you wanted, and a lack of definition at the edges. This is usually the result of over use of pigment ink or overworking of the area by the technicial.
Problems with colour
Immediately after treatment, the result will look darker than it will do after your skin has healed fully. This is because the colour pigment is still within the epidermis as well as the dermis. The epidermis is the outer layer of skin and it’s that part that sheds regularly. So as the epidermis is replaced, leaving the pigment only in the dermis, the appearance of the pigment will become softer and lighter. This takes a few weeks.
But if the colour is then judged to be wrong it can be adjusted by the use of balancing pigment.
It’s impossible to foretell exactly how long the pigment will remain at its optimal colour. It should last for many years, but it will eventually begin to fade. This is the result of many factors, such as sun exposure, lifestyle, and environmental factors – e.g. a lot of gardening, swimming or spending a lot of time outdoors. So colours may require touch-ups occasionally. If you have micropigmentation to achieve a subtle, almost unnoticeable effect, then that may need touch-ups more regularly.
Since your new eyebrows are effectively the result of tattooing, the same procedures apply as for standard tattoos. Procedures for removal include dermabrasion, laser treatment, and even surgical removal. But there is no guarantee that the pigments can be removed.
Another technique is called camouflaging, which involves attempting to cancel out the colour by using new pigment to reproduce normal skin colour. But this is not regarded as a very successful solution.
Possible bad reactions
As with many other cosmetic procedures, there are potential risks with micropigmentation.
For what comfort this may provide, the inks and pigments are regulated by the Food and Drug Administration in the United States, which is required to approve cosmetic and colour additives.
If you know that you have tendency to form keloid scars (lumpy scars) you should probably avoid micro pigmentation, because such scars can occur. It is also possible for small lumps (granulomas) to form as a reaction to the tattooing ink.
It is possible to have allergic reactions. You can read about this on WebMD.com which says that the risk is worst with pigments using natural vegetable products, and that allergic reactions to iron oxide pigments are very rare.
The NHS.uk website gives the following as possible risks of micro pigmentation:
- disappointing results (mistakes can be hard to fix)
- skin reaction, such as swelling cracking peeling or blistering
- granulomas – tiny lumps that form under the skin around the pigment
- scarring, or over growths of scar tissue
- allergic reaction to the pigment
- MRI complications – rarely, some people have experienced swelling or burning in the tattooed area after having an MRI scan.