Tattoos & permanent makeup: The intradermal application of inks for the purpose of tattooing or permanent makeup (also known as micropigmentation).
The pigments in these inks raise concerns about tattoo removal, adverse reactions to tattoo colors, and infections that result from tattooing. Many pigments used in tattoo inks are not approved for skin contact at all. Some are industrial grade colors that are suitable for printers' ink or automobile paint.
For some, tattoos are an aesthetic choice or an initiation rite. Some choose permanent makeup as a time saver or because they have physical difficulty applying regular, temporary makeup. For others, tattooing is an adjunct to reconstructive surgery, particularly of the face or breast, to simulate natural pigmentation. People who have lost their eyebrows due to alopecia (a form of hair loss) may choose to have "eyebrows" tattooed on, while people with vitiligo (a lack of pigmentation in areas of the skin) may try tattooing to help camouflage the condition.
The primary complications that can result from tattooing include:
The most common problem that develops with tattoos is the desire to remove them. Removing tattoos and permanent makeup can be very difficult. Skill levels vary widely among people who perform tattooing. The main complication with eyelid tattooing is improperly placed pigment. You may want to ask the person performing the procedure for references and ask yourself how willing you are to risk permanently wearing someone else's mistake.
Although tattoos may be satisfactory at first, they sometimes fade. Also, if the tattooist injects the pigments too deeply into the skin, the pigments may migrate beyond the original sites, resulting in a blurred appearance.
Another cause of dissatisfaction is that the human body changes over time, and styles change with the season. The permanent makeup that may have looked flattering when first injected may later clash with changing skin tones and facial or body contours. People who plan to have facial cosmetic surgery are advised that the appearance of their permanent makeup may become distorted. The tattoo that seemed stylish at first may become dated and embarrassing. And changing tattoos or permanent makeup is not as easy as changing your mind.
Methods for removing tattoos include laser treatments, abrasion, scarification, and surgery. Some people attempt to camouflage an objectionable tattoo with a new one. Each approach has drawbacks:
Unfortunately, knowing what pigments are in your tattoo or permanent makeup has always been difficult and has become more so as the variety of tattoo inks has multiplied. Inks are often sold by brand name only, not by chemical composition. Because the pigments are sold to tattoo parlors and salons, not on a retail basis to consumers, manufacturers are not required by law to list the ingredients on the labels. Furthermore, because manufacturers may consider the identity and grade of their pigments "proprietary," neither the tattooist nor the customer may be able to obtain this information.
There also have been reports of individuals suffering allergic reactions after laser treatments to remove tattoos, apparently because the laser caused allergenic substances in the tattoo ink to be released into the body.
Temporary tattoos, such as those applied to the skin with a moistened wad of cotton, fade several days after application. However, some colors are not approved for temporary tattoos. Henna is approved only for use as a hair dye, not for direct application to the skin. Also, henna typically produces a reddish brown tint, raising questions about what ingredients are added to produce the varieties of colors labeled as "henna," such as "black henna" and "blue henna."