Permanent makeup: solution or nightmare?

Micropigmentation – otherwise known as permanent or semi-permanent makeup – is promoted as a solution to the problem of allergy to topical makeup products, but there are risks, especially for those with allergies.

Permanent makeup is a form of colour implantation similar to tattooing, which dates back to Cleopatra but has been updated by modern technology and used by cosmetic surgeons and makeup specialists for the last two decades.

The micropigmentation process involves the introduction of cosmetics-matched pigments into the dermal layer of the skin with the use of a tattooing device.

After the initial application of colour, a reapplication is usually required a couple of weeks later, followed by a further repeat after two to seven years, when the pigmentation begins to fade.
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Proponents claim that the technique offers not only a solution to allergies to topical makeup products, but also an effective way to hide scars or other defects, or just to make life easier by removing the need for the daily application of eyeliner and mascara.

However, there can be lasting side effects, which may include allergic reactions – even 'serious, long-term disfiguring reactions', according to experts writing in the New England Journal of Medicine (2007; vol 356: p 2753).
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According to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), allergic reactions to tattoo pigments have, in general, been rare, but they acknowledge that problems are possible, especially as a result of the increasing variety of pigments and dilutents being used.

When reactions do occur, they are often particularly troublesome because the pigments are so difficult to remove.

In a four-year period, the FDA received 150 reports of adverse reactions in people who had been given permanent makeup. The most common reactions were tenderness, swelling and bumps in the areas where the treatment had been applied, with symptoms lasting, on average, from five months to more than three years.

Source: FDA

First published in June 2008

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