What Is The Difference Between Permanent Makeup and Tattoos?

If you are looking into permanent makeup for the first time you might be wondering, "What is the difference between permanent makeup and tattoos?" Well, despite the apparent similarities between permanent makeup and tattooing, they are actually different art forms. Both have been in use for generations; however, cosmetic tattoo  which is used to create natural looking eyebrows, eyeliner, lip blush - among others - has become very popular in the recent decades. One of the most important differences between permanent makeup and tattoos is that permanent makeup will last for years, while traditional body art tattoos will last a lifetime.

What is Permanent Makeup?

Permanent makeup, also known as cosmetic tattooing, is a technique in which pigment is deposited into the skin to resemble makeup. It is commonly used to enhance the appearance of the eyebrows, lips, and eyes. The pigment is inserted into the dermal layer of the skin, where it is expected to last for several years before fading. The procedure is usually done with a handheld machine that deposits the pigment into the skin. It is important to note that permanent makeup is not actually "permanent" and may need to be touched up over time to maintain the best possible look.

What is Tattooing?

Tattooing has been a tradition for centuries across the world, offering an artful way of expressing one's individuality through ornamentation on the body. The skill is still practiced by individuals today and can be seen as an attractive fashion accessory. Traditional body art tattoos are made up of pigment deposited into the dermal layer of the skin and generally lasts a lifetime. The tattooing process usually begins with a design being drawn on the skin with a needle, then the ink is injected into the skin and set with heat. 

What Does Permanent Makeup And Tattoos Have In Common?

Before we talk about the differences in permanent makeup and tattoos, let's talk about the similarities. Both body art forms involve the use of needles to puncture the skin and deposit pigment into a layer of skin. They are both intended to be long-lasting and are not easily removed. Tattoos and permanent makeup can be done in a variety of colors and designs, and should always be done by a trained professional. The healing process does also take time in both situations.

What Is The Difference Between Permanent Makeup and Tattoos?

Permanent makeup and tattoos are both forms of body art, but there are a few key differences between the two when it comes to technique, equipment, color, and the healing process.

The Differences In Techniques

Even though both permanent makeup and tattoos are known to deposit some type of color into the skin, they do it in different ways. Let's take a moment and delve into anatomy for starters - There are three layers of skin: the epidermis on top; dermal layer in the middle containing hair follicles and sweat glands; as well as an underling hypodermic layer comprising of connective tissue combined with fatty tissues. 

While tattoo ink is deposited deep into the skin, into the dermis, pigments used for permanent makeup are deposited in between the epidermis and dermis. This is the reason why:

  1. Tattooing hurts a lot more, PMU is virtually painless with topical anesthetic
  2. Tattoos last a lifetime, while permanent makeup does not

The results of microblading or ombre brows last up to two years, permanent eyeliner needs a touch-up after about a year, while lip blush can last up to five years in some cases.

The Difference Between Permanent Makeup and Tattoo Machines

A big difference between permanent makeup and tattoos lies in the type of machine and pigment used. Permanent makeup is applied using a device which is similar to a tattoo machine but uses a lower voltage and shorter needle bar. The needles used for permanent makeup are also much finer than those used for tattoos, allowing for a more precise application that is less likely to cause damage to the skin. The best machines minimize the noise and vibration, and also allow the control of needle speed and power.

Tattoo guns are mechanical devices with rotary mechanism coils which increase their aggressiveness to the skin. Being heavier and more powerful, they provide greater force when injecting multiple needles into the area being tattooed - it is much rougher when compared to using a permanent makeup machine which is designed for delicate and sensitive skin.

The Difference Between Permanent Makeup and Tattoo Ink

Getting permanent makeup done doesn't necessarily mean you are getting 'inked' because permanent makeup technically uses pigments, not ink. Pigments are specifically designed to be used on your face, therefore they have far less chemicals in them. As they are more natural, their pigments also fade a lot faster over time. 

Tattoo ink tends to use a lot of carbon and other minerals to get that very vibrant color. Although it looks great, it isn't the best for your body.

How Permanent Makeup and Tattoos Heal Differently

The healing process for permanent makeup and tattoos is slightly different. Permanent makeup generally heals more quickly than tattoos, with a typical healing time of 4-6 weeks. It is also less painful than tattoos because the needles used to apply the pigment are much thinner and less abrasive. Tattoos typically take up to 8 weeks to heal, and healing can be quite painful due to the deep penetration of the needles used for the process. The type of pigment used for permanent makeup is also different from that used in tattoos, which can lead to differences in results.


In conclusion, permanent makeup and tattoos are both forms of body art that involve the use of needles to deposit pigment into the skin. However, there are some key differences between the two. Permanent makeup is a cosmetic technique used to enhance the appearance of the eyebrows, lips, and eyes, and is intended to last for several years before fading. Tattoos, on the other hand, are permanent and are made by injecting ink into the dermal layer of the skin. Permanent makeup and tattoos also differ in the techniques and equipment used, the colors and designs available, and the healing process. It is important to carefully consider the risks and benefits of both permanent makeup and tattoos before deciding which one is right for you.

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