Permanent eyeliner

These are examples of typical eyeliner styles

What micropigmentation is

‘Micropigmentation’ is the name for 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 it needs to be said that the micropigmentation may produce a permanent result, even if it fades, 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 micropigmentation is carried out

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 for choosing micropigmentation


Micropigmentation may appeal to someone who wants a permanent natural-looking enhancement to a feature, such as their eyelids – 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. Or perhaps you are a highflying executive, for whom every minute counts, and you need to look your best at all times.

It’s non-allergic

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. 

Avoid smearing

If you are fed up with correcting eyeliner which smudges because of your eyelid shape, it won’t be an issue any more with nicely defined semi-permanent make-up.

Eyesight problem

If you have trouble applying make-up accurately and symmetrically, perhaps because of eyesight problems

 Disguising signs of ageing

Micropigmentation can put right some problems arising from the normal ageing process, and changes in face shape and eyebrow quality.

Active lifestyle

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. 

The look you should aim for

The idea is to look like yourself, but better.

The most satisfactory plan is to have enough eyeliner pigment to look as if you have put on eyeliner make up, but just enough. For special occasions, like parties or wedding, you may want to add additional eyeliner . You probably won’t want that ‘party’ look all the time, so the minimal look is best to serve your needs most of the time.

Eyeliner pigment can be applied in continuous line, or you can have a smoky smudged line. You can have it on just your top eyelid or the bottom eyelid as well.

What your treatment will be like

The technician will probably want to take ‘before’ and ‘after’ shots for the salon’s records.

The position of the eyeliner should be drawn in first with a cosmetic pencil to show the shape, size, and colour. Make sure you are satisfied before proceeding. The therapist can apply some anaesthetic cream, if you are concerned about discomfort.

The therapist will blend the pigments. The machine for inserting the pigments into the skin is a small electric, handheld, device with a very fine needle. The technician will use a magnifier to very accurately place pigment along the line of your lashes. You choose beforehand how wide a line you want and its exact shape and colour.

The procedure may take anything up to 2 hours.

There may be some swelling and bruising if your skin is delicate, but usually you can go straight back to work

Two treatment sessions

There will probably be two sessions. After the first session, you should allow 4 to 6 weeks to see how the colour settles down, and then you should go back for a touch-up visit. During the touch-up session you can ask the technician to make whatever detailed changes you want.

It’s best to have the eyeliner created in two stages like this so that you can actually see the results in practice before making definite decisions on shape and colour. The colour you see after your first session is not the colour you will eventually have. The colour will settle down as excess pigment disappears and as the top layer of skin is replaced naturally. That normally takes 4 to 6 weeks. So, you need to wait for that before deciding what changes, if any, you want.

You should always go for an understated look initially, not a heavily made up look, because it’s easier to add pigment than it is to remove it if too much has been added on the first session. Build up to what you want. Don’t try to get there in one-go.

Things you should do before the treatment

  • Take out your contact not dye or colour your lashes for two days beforehand.
  • Do not use eyelash curlers on the day of treatment
  • If you have recently had eye surgery, check with your surgeon when you can have micro pigmentation 

Does it hurt?

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 everyone has different levels of pain they can bear. 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.


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.

You may need to reapply pigment between 1-2 years later. You would be well advised to go further a soft natural look – that is, nothing too dramatic which you might grow to hate in time. But since South subtle and natural is not too strong a colour to start with, the fading will be more noticeable, you may need to have the subtle effect recreated more regularly than if you go for a very dramatic dark-coloured effective.

Isn’t micropigmentation extreme?

It may sound like an extreme action which, once undertaken, can’t be regretted. But 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 about it in the mornings 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.

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.

It is possible to have allergic reactions. You can read about this on 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 website lists the possible risks of micro pigmentation. Use the search facility on the site to look up ‘permanent makeup’.

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