Permanent Makeup Has Risks

By: Dr. Mark Becker - Vivacare

Permanent makeup, also called “cosmetic tattooing, or “make-up tattoos” has risks according to  “Tattoos as Makeup?” article published in Skin Deep published in the New York Times.

Adverse reactions include swelling, burning sensations, allergic reactions, and serious infections. Some patients develop granulomas, keloids, scars and blisters, and they report burning sensations when they undergo an MRI.

In addition, the term the “permanent” is misleading because the color fades with time and the tattoo will appear differently after a few years.

If the tattoo leads to side effects, or is no longer desired, it has to be removed. But this is no easy matter. Tattoo removal is extremely costly and is not covered by insurance.

The story covered one woman’s problems with unexpected side effects and her attempts at finding effective relief. She turned to San Diego dermatologist Dr. Mitchel Goldman who specializes in laser removal of tattoos.

Dr. Goldman performed six laser tattoo removal treatments over a year which cost the patient about $10,000 and which she had to pay out of pocket.

Dr. Goldman and other dermatologists have expressed a desire to have the F.D.A. apply greater supervision of permanent makeup. At present the inks and pigments injected under the skin for tattoos and permanent makeup are presently subject to the scrutiny of the FDA, but regulations for practitioners (electrologists, cosmetologists, doctors, nurses and tattoo artists) vary by state.

“I’ve had patients who have infections on their lips and eyebrows because these tattoo artists are totally not regulated,” said Dr. Goldman. “They use equipment that’s not sterile. A lot of infections also come from the tap water. They dip their needles in and transfer infections. The pigment goes to lymph nodes.”

The story quotes the patient who is still angry years later. It took her more than a year and a half to recover, she said, and she still has scars on her lips. She must wear makeup to cover the scars and white lines above her mouth, and the facial pain persists. “Applying makeup is one thing, but injecting it into your body? I feel stupid,” she said. “But everything I read about permanent makeup was positive, how even Cleopatra was tattooing her eye liner and lip liner. I thought it was safe.”