Permanent Makeup (Micropigmentation)

Applying some cosmetics can be bothersome, especially if you have a physical condition that makes it difficult (cataracts, severe arthritis, etc.) There's help in a procedure known as micropigmentation.

With this procedure, a trained doctor or specialist can inject iron oxide pigment into the middle layer of your skin (the dermis) for results that last longer than the eyeliner you have in your bathroom drawer. It has many monikers, including "dermagraphics" or "permanent make-up."

Who's A Candidate For Micropigmentation?

We mentioned that anyone with physical limitations may seek out this procedure, but anyone (male or female) can have it done.

Do you want to improve the appearance of thin eyebrows or lips? Do you have an uneven hairline or allergies to make-up that create a problem? Micropigmentation may be a viable solution. It's not going to provide a perfect world, but it can help enhance certain features.

How Do I Find A Specialist Who Performs This Procedure?

Do your homework. This is not school, but it is your appearance. You should make sure to find a doctor or specialist who has experience in this procedure.

Be warned. There are a lot of people out there performing these services who do not have your best interests in mind. When you visit the office, you should examine the area for cleanliness and professionalism.

A dedicated, involved specialist should be able to answer any and all of your questions. Make sure you feel comfortable communicating with your doctor or specialist and that you feel open to ask anything that's on your mind.

You should have a consultation with your chosen doctor before the procedure, during which time you discuss your expectations with the doctor or specialist. At this time, he or she also will determine if you should receive anesthesia (usually local).

During the consultation, he or she may take a medical history. It's important that you are completely honest. Additionally, you should be honest for why you want micropigmentation so your doctor or specialist understands all of your concerns. He or she will evaluate your skin for tone, texture and complexion in order to best match your natural colors with the proper pigment. He or she also may take photos.

How Is Micropigmentation Done?

Typically, micropigmentation can be performed in an office setting. The procedure will be performed with a pen-like instrument or standard tattoo gun. Your doctor or specialist will wear medical gloves when performing the procedure. The procedure itself will take a short amount of time, perhaps 20 minutes to a half hour at most.

If you are receiving anesthesia, you will be required to arrive earlier in order to let the anesthesia take effect. After the procedure, your specialist or doctor will provide you with an antiseptic to cleanse the treated region.


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What Should I Expect After the Procedure?

You will be sent home the same day. You should expect swelling in the treated region. Your doctor or specialist will instruct you on how often you should ice the area and what type of ointment you can apply to the area.

If you are having the procedure performed in your eye region, you should plan to have someone drive you to the office and home again.You may experience tearing, which is normal.

The pigmentation typically will appear darker in the weeks following the procedure, but will fade over time.

Follow your doctor's instructions on what to avoid (such as peroxide) or sunlight. Either of these can damage your new look.

After the Procedure, Contact Your Doctor Immediately If:

  • You experience excessive swelling
  • You develop a fever or rash
  • The area feels excessively hot or burns

Follow Up Care

Your new look requires maintenance. Some people have to undergo two or more treatments. Make sure you understand exactly how many treatments you will need. As the pigment fades over the years, you also may have to undergo additional treatments to maintain the look.

Does Insurance Cover It?

No. This is an elective, cosmetic procedure that you will have to pay for on your own.

Reviewed by the doctors at The Cleveland Clinic, Department of Plastic Surgery.
Edited by Charlotte E. Grayson, MD, Sept. 2003.

Portions of this page © The Cleveland Clinic 2000-2003.

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