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The Truth about Permanent Makeup

Q: What are the risks of permanent makeup, and how can I find a qualified technician?

A: You're right to have reservations about permanent makeup, says Roberta D. Sengelmann, M.D., director of dermatologic and cosmetic surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "It's enticing because it saves time and you can look done-up all the time," says Sengelmann, "but it does have its drawbacks."

To apply permanent makeup, also called micropigmentation or dermagraphics, color pigment is implanted in the upper layer of skin by a traditional tattoo machine (an electric needle punctures the skin at 50 to 3,000 times a minute, depositing particles of ink) or by manual implantation (also done with a needle). There is some discomfort, but the intensity of the pain depends on the location of the tattoo and on the method used. Among other factors to take into account: Permanent makeup can smudge or blur if the pigment leaks into surrounding skin, and makeup styles do change with time, notes Sengelmann.

The most common procedures are filling in eyebrows, lining eyes, and coloring lips. It usually costs between $400 and $800 per area, but the color can fade, so you may need touch-ups every six to 12 months.

If you decide to get permanent makeup, choose a technician certified by the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP). To find one in your area, visit spcp.org.

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