Although eyebrow tattoos and permanent makeup are exciting new ways to build your confidence, free up your time, save you money, and enhance your appearance, the procedure, like any invasive cosmetic decision, is not totally free of potential problems. To be fair, many of these complications occur with regular tattoos in general, and for the most part, are a very rare occurrence. As it is with anything though, the more information you have as a consumer, the more you know how to protect yourself and avoid any issues. The purpose of this post is to provide an awareness of potential permanent makeup problems to help you make informed decisions that suit your personal needs.
The following are the primary complications that can result from tattooing:
- Aesthetic Problems – The most common and fixable problem is dissatisfaction with the overall appearance and results of your permanent eyebrows. This could include basic issues such as uneven color, eventual discoloration, fading over time, wrong width, and bad design or arch shape. Cosmetic disfigurements are also possible due to improper placement of the eyebrow or pigment that spreads out beyond the border of the brows (also called fanning). Changes in physical conditions, skin tones, scarring , and aging may also eventually be a concern as features become more elastic and sag. This could include your perfect eyebrows. Stylistically speaking, societal changes and dipping trends might also pose an eventual problem. Although permanent makeup may seem like an appropriate enhancement today, the fickle world we live in may decide tomorrow that its not. Removal can be complicated and expensive, so its best to make sure that this semi-permanent choice is something you can stick with. Solution: Without question, most of these problems can be resolved simply by hiring a competent and well regarded certified permanent cosmetic professional (CPCP) that will make you feel confident about your decision. Nothing puts you at risk more than a flawed and incompetent tattoo artist, so choose wisely. For help finding the right specialist, be sure to check out: Finding Your Perfect CPCP.
- Fading – Although termed permanent, all cosmetic tattoos should more accurately be labeled semi-permanent. This is because the inks used over several years (1-3), in conjunction with the natural elements ( water, sun exposure, aging, etc), and activities of daily life, will fade naturally overtime. Some might not consider this a problem as much as a nuisance, because it will require a scheduled follow up after a few years to repeatedly darken, shape, and fill the eyebrows to their originally treated state. Solution: Here are a few solutions to help slow down the fading process.
- Apply sunscreen whenever you venture outside during the day (SPF 45 or more).
- Wear sunglasses that are large enough (and don’t embarrass you) to cover your tattooed eyebrows.
- Apply lotion after you wash your face, either before bed, or in the morning to keep your perfect eyebrows moisturized.
- Never use exfoliates or scrub over the permanent makeup areas.
- Before submerging in any water (pool, spa, lake), rub petroleum jelly over your brows.
- Infections And Equipment – A more serious consideration when deciding to tattoo eyebrows is the possibility (although highly unlikely) of infection. There are a number of documented medical complications that result from tattoos generally. Some, like inflammation and simple irritation, are common and somewhat expected. Granulomas, Keratoacanthomas, keloids, mycoses, allergic reactions, and immune-mediated diseases such as Psoriasis, Lupus, and even “Staph” have also been documented. The more serious (and scary) types of infection and infectious diseases such as Tetanus, Chancroid, Hepatitis, Syphilis, and HIV, have also been spread as a result of unhygienic tattooing conditions. Solution: Cleanliness is essential regarding any invasive procedure, so be especially certain that the tattooing equipment and needles used are sterile and “single use,” and that whichever facility you choose is state regulated.
- Infections And Ink -Transmition of infection is not only caused by unhygienic equipment, but can also be caused by the ink itself. This can be difficult to detect at times, because even if tattoo artists follow proper hygienic procedures and it arrives sealed from the factory, a bacteria could still be present in the ink. These types of Mycobacterium infections are rare, but can require extensive antibiotic treatments to recover. Another consideration is how the pigment is diluted. One well documented outbreak of infection occurred in Switzerland when it was found that a specialist had used tap water infected with Mycobacterium haemophilum. Several of her clients developed complications, and some even required serious surgery to remove the eyebrow and parotid gland. The pigments themselves are color additives (to the ink), which should be approved by the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act. In most cases though, because complications are so rare, the FDA does not regulate them, and leaves local jurisdictions in charge of standards and oversight.
- Allergic Reactions To Inks And Dyes – Unlike most materials or substances we are allergic to that can simply be avoided, tattoo inks and dyes become permanently injected into the skin, so any adverse effects such as itchiness, swelling, or pain, will be a constant source of discomfort and could be a constant problem. This reaction stems from the ingredient Titanium dioxide (TiO2), used to create certain common colors like blacks and reds, which are particularly responsible for adverse skin reactions when exposed to certain light and UV rays. The FDA has begun to do more research in recent years over the safety of the more than fifty different pigments and shades in use because of the increased popularity of permanent cosmetics. The good news is again, the instances of allergic reactions to pigments and dyes overall, is extremely rare.
- Cancer Related Concerns – Another extremely rare condition regarding the practice of tattooing in general, are the appearance of malignant lesions. Medical documentation and literature have recorded various types of cancer related growths including malignant melanomas, basal cell carcinomas, squamous cell carcinomas and Reticulohistiocytoma associated with the tattooed area. These cases could be due to several possible factors like genetics, adverse physiological reactions to the pigments, etc. Some also claim that the darker color of tattoo pigment can make it difficult visually to detect lesions, tumors, and anomalies. Solution: These concerns can be remedied with attention to aftercare and protection (SPF of 45 or more) outdoors when subjected to direct sunlight.
- MRI Complications– One “problem” some might find more interesting than anything else, are reports of tattoo pigments burning and swelling during magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) procedures that diminish image quality. This has mostly been found with permanent eyeliner, and symptoms last for only a short time. Experts suggest the reason for this is because the metallic elements in the pigment that have a tendency to oxidize or “rust” when exposed to the magnetic fields during the imaging process. This by no means suggests that those who have permanent makeup should opt out of getting MRI’s, but they should acknowledge to the doctor that they have had a permanent cosmetic procedure. In fact, all tattoos should be mentioned for the same reason.
- Removal Problems – There are several reasons why people choose to have their eyebrow tattoos removed. Some are dissatisfied with the outcome, for others its a health issue, while others may feel they simply don’t work with ones lifestyle anymore. Whatever the reason, tattoo removal is a difficult process that is not free of it’s own problems. There are several removal techniques to choose from such as laser resurfacing, chemical exfoliation, dermabrasion, and invasive surgery. Aside from the fact that removal can be extremely painful, take several sessions to complete, and be considerably more expensive than permanent makeup application, it can also cause scarring, deformation, and infection. The good news is that of all features requiring tattoo removal, tattooed eyebrows are the least complicated. For more information be sure to check out: Tattoo Eyebrows Removal.
- Henna Tattoo Problems – For those not wanting to commit to permanent cosmetics, there is a temporary option available with the use of the traditional Indian pigment known as Henna or Mehndi. Used for centuries as a decorative beauty enhancer during religious ceremonies and rituals, Henna has more recently found its way into the popular world of cosmetic eyebrows as the alternative solution to the permanent choice. Yet, even as a temporary option, Henna has its own set of problems. Recently, for example, the FDA issued a warning about the use of Henna application directly to the skin. Although it has been approved as a hair dye specifically, it is not approved for direct application to the skin after several documented cases of allergic reactions and even scarring. This brought to question the safety of the specific contents of the Henna powder/paste which “stains” the skin reddish brown then darkens over time.
As it is with anything, increased popularity brings increased possibility of risks and problems. The danger comes when people try to find cheaper ways to make themselves beautiful by cutting corners, or getting work done by uncertified and unqualified “professionals,” in unsanitized facilities. Before you make a choice to commit to (and/or remove) any tattoos, cosmetic or otherwise, it is advisable that you discuss any problems or concerns you may have with your health care provider and your CPCP. Consumers and healthcare providers can report problems to MedWatch (the FDA’s problem-reporting program), on the Web or at 1-800-332-1088; or by contacting the nearest FDA consumer complaint coordinator. Although problems associated with a choice to tattoo eyebrows are low, more information is always beneficial, and will save you from any regret later. It will also give you a better understanding of how to maintain your perfect eyebrows for years to come.