If a genie were standing in front of you and said it would grant you one wish, you'd probs ask for something, like, the ability to time-travel or teleport. Me? I'm asking to wake up in the morning with a full face beat that takes absolutely zero effort. I know, it sounds like a joke, but I'm actually soooo serious. Can you imagine waking up, not having to do your makeup, and rolling out the door? Welp, thankfully for me, this wish is a low-key reality now—all it takes is some permanent makeup.
For the ~uninformed~, permanent makeup is a tattoo technique (yup, tattoo!) that can leave you with full brows, tinted lips, and a sharp cat eye for years—no products needed. And unlike the tattooed makeup of the '80s and '90s, permanent makeup of 2020 actually looks like makeup, not a line of tattooed ink along your lids or mouth.
But how exactly does it work? And is it super painful? Don't worry, I gotchu: I reached out to the experts to find out everything there is to know about permanent makeup—from microblading, to eyeliner, to lip blushing—ahead. Good luck getting through this guide without booking an appointment.
First: Is permanent makeup safe?
Permanent makeup can be totally safe, but there are a lot of factors you need to consider beforehand to avoid any complications or infections (because, yes, it can happen). First, research the studio like crazy. Like, full-on stalk their Instagram to see before and after pics, DM former clients, and make sure the artist is licensed to perform the procedure. If they don't check off all of the boxes...run (or, you know, go elsewhere). And before you book an appointment, go see your derm and make sure you don't have any allergies or sensitivities to ink (it's rare, but it can def happen).
And last, but not least, make sure you're taking excellent care of your permanent makeup during the healing process. Your aftercare depends on your specific permanent makeup (more on that, later), but typically, you'll want to cover the area with an ointment for a week or so and keep it from getting wet. The healing process is a lot shorter than a normal tattoo—which takes up to three weeks—because the needle doesn't go as deep into the layers of your skin. That said, you can still expect a lot of the same things as normal tattoos: scabbing, flaking, and dryness.
How long does permanent makeup last?
Well, that totally depends on what treatment you get, but generally it will last you anywhere from one to three years. So, not really permanent, but, hey, more permanent than the eyeliner that smudges off your face by the end of the day, right? And the reason it doesn't last forever, like a regular tattoo, is because permanent makeup doesn't reach the deeper layer of your skin—it's more of a superficial tattoo. Cool? Cool. Now let's get to the specifics of the three biggest types of permanent makeup:
Permanent Makeup #1: Microblading
What is microblading?
Microblading is a semi-permanent tattooing technique where a blade is used to create super thin, hair-like strokes that give off the appearance of Insta-worthy, filled-in brows. The needles scratch your skin and deposit pigment into the teeny-tiny wounds, which, yes, sounds painful AF, but surprisingly isn't. I've had my eyebrows microbladed by Piret Aava, aka The Eyebrow Doctor, a microblading specialist in New York City, and it barely hurt. That's because most specialists, including Aava, apply a numbing cream beforehand, which takes the pain down several notches. TBH, it kind of feels like getting your brows threaded while on your period. Not super comfortable, but totally manageable.
How long does microblading last?
Here's the thing: Microblading definitely doesn't last forever (hence the semi-permanent thing). Because the cuts aren't as deeply ingrained as a real tattoo, your body ends up metabolizing it (meaning, it'll start to fade naturally). That means you can either let your permanent makeup fade, or if you want to keep your brows looking amazing long-term, you can go back every 12 months for a touch-up.
On average, microblading lasts anywhere from one to two years, according to Aava. When I got mine done, I came back a month later for a check-in to see how everything was healing, and for a quick touch-up. To keep them in tip-top shape, you'll also want to avoid getting your brows wet for one week post-application.
How much does microblading cost?
Microblading doesn't come cheap—it can cost you anywhere from $500 to $2,000, depending on your specialist. But if you're spending tons of money on brow products and stylers anyway, it might be worth it. If I still haven't sold you, though, or if sharp objects freak you out, here are some brow products you should try out while you build up the courage to try permanent makeup:
Permanent Makeup #2: Lip Blushing
What is lip blushing?
Believe it or not, there's no blush involved when it comes to lip blushing. The term refers to a semi-permanent tattoo process that defines and fills in your lips. It's kind of similar to lip fillers, except lip blushing not only leaves you with fullness, but it also levels up your lip color. The look is a lot more natural, too (think: more Angelina Jolie, less Real Housewives). You pick the shade you want, and then the specialist uses needles to deposit the pigments on your lips.
Who is a candidate for lip blushing?
If you're obsessively over-lining your lips, aren't down with fillers, and spend way too much time and money trying to find just the right lip color, lip blushing might be a good permanent-makeup option to explore.
Does lip blushing hurt?
Numbing cream should be applied before everything goes down, so you shouldn't feel anything other than a few sharp pinches here and there, according to Christopher Drummond, a cosmetic tattoo specialist at PFRANKMD Skin Salon in New York. Your lips might feel dry, flaky, or a little bit tender while they're healing, but after a week, it's smooth sailing.
How much does lip blushing cost?
Lip blushing will set you back anywhere from $500 to $1500, depending on where you live. And if you choose to come back for a touch up to re-fill anything that the pigment didn't catch on the first appointment, it'll be an extra $350 or so. Don't have the cash to spend on lip blushing (yet)? Here are some nude lipsticks to test out while you save up for permanent makeup:
Permanent Makeup #3: Eyeliner
What is permanent eyeliner?
Permanent eyeliner involves placing pigment on your lash line to recreate the look of that eyeliner you painstakingly apply every morning. It's similar to lip blushing and microblading because it deposits color onto the skin, but it doesn't last forever, says Daly, the founder of Arch Angels NYC, a semi-permanent makeup studio in New York. If you're someone who can't find an eyeliner that doesn't smudge, doesn't want to deal with your liner running, or you're sensitive to regular makeup, it could be a good option for you.
How long does permanent eyeliner last?
Permanent eyeliner can last you anywhere from one to three years—it just depends on how fast your skin absorbs the pigment, and that differs from person to person. When you're in the healing stage, according to Daly, you don't want to expose the area to water for about a week, and eye makeup should be kept to a minimum to make sure the pigment lasts.
Is permanent eyeliner painful?
Your specialist will usually apply a numbing cream beforehand, keeping the pain at a minimum. According to Daly, you shouldn't feel anything more than a pinch here and there. Don't be afraid to speak up if it does start to hurt, though—your specialist can always add on more numbing cream.
How much does permanent eyeliner cost?
On average, permanent eyeliner costs about $600 to $1000. I know it sounds like a lot, but if you're getting something tattooed on your face, permanent or semi-permanent, you don't want to cut corners by cutting costs. If you go to a cheap shop to get it done, you could end up with an infection—which is never the move.
TBH, the idea of a needle near my eye lowkey freaks me out. If you're in the same boat, these long-lasting eyeliners are worth testing out instead.
So, should you try out permanent makeup or not?
If you're tired of spending half your paycheck on products that you feel meh about and you want a legit "I woke up like this" look, permanent makeup is definitely the move. But before you book an appointment, be sure to do your research and select a specialist that has training, experience, and licensing in whatever area you choose. After all, it is your face.
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