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Are Semi-Permanent BB Cream Tattoos the Next Microblading?

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Photo: Dasha_Romanova / Getty Images

The words "makeup tattoo" used to call to mind images of heavily drawn-on brows and liner. But ever since microblading hit the scene, there's a lot more nuance. Nowadays, people are using tattoos for a more "natural" beauty look—to line their lips, create freckles, or hide their under-eye circles. One of the latest options, BB Glo, is meant to leave your skin with a permanent layer of, you guessed it, BB cream. (Related: The Best Brow Products to Buy Because Microblading Is Expensive)

Glo Skin and Laser in New York City offers the treatment, which involves microblading and implanting a BB cream into the skin. “We typically implant the BB Cream just above the dermal layer, and as your skin exfoliates over time it will just diminish and eventually remove itself,” says Aishe Balic, cofounder of Glo Skin and Laser. Refresher: The outer layer of your skin is the epidermis, with the dermis underneath that. The epidermis regenerates every 30 days or so, but the dermis doesn't, so when the pigment is applied deep enough, it lasts. According to the spa's website, the effect lasts six months to a year. (Here are other new non-surgical beauty treatments you should read up on.)

Sounds like a dream for anyone with discoloration, but there are risks to consider. First of all, BB Glo is very new—Glo Skin and Laser is the first to offer it in NYC, and they've only been doing it for six months. (Balic says she learned the treatment from an esthetician in Russia, where the trend started.) And since the FDA never signs off on inks used in makeup tattoos, the treatment doesn't have their stamp of approval. (That applies to microblading as well, FWIW.) And the BB cream's ingredient list, translated from Russian, includes 4-methylbenzylidene camphor, which gets a high hazard rating from the Environmental Working Group. Even if you haven't jumped on the clean beauty bandwagon, you might want to think twice before embedding it into your skin. 

Other ingredients include silicones, which can make your body revolt when inserted deep into the skin, says Sandy Skotnicki, M.D., dermatologist and author of Beyond Soap. "Your body sees it as foreign and you mount an inflammatory reaction," she says. "That could lead to bumps and nodules and potential scarring." Plus, if you end up with the wrong shade, a forgiving return policy won't save you. "What if you don't like it? What if they do an uneven job? They can't reverse it—it would have to wear off," warns Dr. Skotnicki. Bottom line: "It's not something I would recommend to my patients at this stage."

As an alternative, Dr. Skotnicki suggests in-office treatments to actually improve your skin that have been around longer and that have been studied. She recommends microneedling, which creates microscopic holes in the skin to boost collagen production, improve pore size, the appearance of acne scars, and even discoloration. Or, ya know, you can always apply BB creams the old-fashioned, topical way. 

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