How long does a permanent makeup tattoo last?
November 9, 2013 4:11 AM   Subscribe

I got a permanent makeup tattoo not as makeup, but as a tattoo. I was told it would last 3-5 years, but eight years later, it's still there...

When I was 17 the mom of a friend in high school owned a beauty salon and did permanent makeup tattoos. She also did them as "regular" tattoos – ie., designs on skin not on the face. These supposedly lasted 3-5 years, and so it was a way to sort of try having a tattoo without a commitment. Also, 17 year-olds could get them without permission, since they were not permanent (the age limit for getting tattoos in my country is 18). I was told that the technique was different from a regular tattoo in that the ink was not put as deep into the skin.

I had never wanted a tattoo, since I didn't (and still don't) think I could stay committed to a design all of my life. But, since this seemed like a fun way to "fake it", I got a small one (black, size of a stamp, but only outlined). Now it's eight years later, and it's still there. It hasn't faded and all and looks pretty much like when I first got it. It is pretty inconspicuous and in my pubic area, so not visible in public, ever. I'm not unhappy about it, but I am a little pissed that a professional would let kids do this and lie to them about the permanence of what they were doing.

My question is – how long does a tattoo made in a permanent makeup way last? Can I expect this to go away on its own, ever, considering the placement? I am not thinking about getting it removed right now, but if I wanted to, would it be easier than removing a "real" tattoo? How many treatments would be required?

Also, is it even true that this was done in a different way than regular tattoos, or was this lady just completely lying to me?
posted by schatzi to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (8 answers total)
Permanent makeup Tatoo is permanent. It will be there 20 years later.

When they say that it will last 3-5 years they mean that it fades and that you'll have to get it redone.

It's kind of like how they say breast implants have a lifespan of 10 years... Actually, no... assuming nothing out of the ordinary happens breast implants are for life. But due to sagging and other changes over time you will likely want to get them redone after 10 years.

Permanent makeup is usually used on the face which is not only washed more often than the pubic area (assuming you wash your face twice a day), it is exfoliated more and exposed to more different types of products. It is also more exposed to the elements of sun and pollution. For this reason permanent make up tends to fade quite a bit over the years.
posted by manderin at 4:16 AM on November 9, 2013 [3 favorites]

Yes, these/those temporary 3-5 year tattoos are a fiction. Absolute fiction. The lady who did it possibly/probably did not realize she was lying to you and selling you a permanent one as temporary. I know some people in the tattoo business who briefly did that sort of thing (3-5 year tattoos) until they realized they'd been lead astray (plunked down a handful of money for a class and some special supplies) and they were doing people a disservice. The person who did yours probably got a wake-up-call at some point and quietly stopped what she was doing. At first glance, using different ink a little shallow makes sense. There are people all over the world selling junk (horoscopes, healing crystals, nutritional supplements, reflexology, Amway, etc) who genuinely believe they're selling something worthwhile that works as described. Don't worry too much about it, just think about the present and the future.

You have a tattoo. It will probably fade a little and go soft-focus over time. You can either be cool with it, have it touched up to look fresh and new, have it covered with something you like better, or have it lasered off. If you want to go that route, the good news is that black ink usually comes out of the skin better than lighter colours. You seem to sound ok with it. Instead of focussing on being lied to, you can look at it like this: it's very, very rare that you buy something you like that lasts a hell of a lot longer than advertised. If you like the tattoo and want it forever, and got it at the temporary-price, you accidentally got a bargain.
posted by K.P. at 5:24 AM on November 9, 2013 [4 favorites]

For sure permanent. She either lied about it or just didn't know. There are plenty of artists who do great coverups, if you ever decide that you don't want it there anymore.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 5:46 AM on November 9, 2013

Yes, she lied to you about it, and likely lied about the legality. If you were tattooed with a needle, then it's permanent.

But on the positive side, small outline tattoos are easily lasered off. It is likely going to be expensive, and more painful than getting the tattoo in the first place, but getting rid of it should not be hard.

Whatever you do, don't try those tattoo removal creams you sometimes see advertised on the internet. Like "temporary make-up tattoos" those are always scams, and contain caustic chemicals, to boot.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 6:28 AM on November 9, 2013

Like many women apparently did at the time, my grandmother had makeup tattoos done in her eyebrows. She had them done when she was pretty young, and they are still visible in her 80s.
posted by jquinby at 8:13 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

This is not the first story I've heard about a permanent makeup tattoo person (I refuse to say "artist") lying about the nature of what the tattoo they administered was going to be like. Especially the extent to which what they do is transferrable to the world of decorative/art tattoos.

Maybe lying isn't the right word; I have a suspicion that these people don't understand the nature of what they're doing very well, aren't highly trained, and probably mean well.

So, yeah, you have a tattoo.
posted by Sara C. at 8:21 AM on November 9, 2013 [1 favorite]

Tattoos in some places fade faster than others' but a tattoo is a tattoo.
posted by showbiz_liz at 11:13 AM on November 9, 2013

Those old ladies with freaky-looking eyes? They didn't get their permanent eyeliner 3-5 years ago. It's on for a good looooong while.
posted by amicamentis at 10:24 AM on November 11, 2013

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