While there is no such thing as a “temporary tattoo” if a needle is used to insert pigment under the skin at any depth (unless it is the fun stick-on variety), when it comes to permanent makeup, cosmetic tattoo procedures, micropigmentation and semi permanent eyebrow make up, eyeliner and lip color, there are some variations that need to be understood before undergoing a cosmetic procedure of this kind.
Some of the confusion between treatments and terminology is due more to country and language differences than with the procedures themselves or the end results.
If you are in the UK, it will be very common to hear the term semi-permanent make-up, while in the United States you will likely see the terms permanent makeup, cosmetic tattooing, even dermagraphics or derma graphics. However, in both the UK and the US, you’ll find the term micropigmentation. The discrepancies are primarily linguistic, and the procedures are essentially the same, but aside from the perceptual connotations (where in the UK the emphasis is placed on the fading nature of the pigment versus their potential permanent nature stressed in the US), there are slight technical differences:
depth of pigmentation deposited under the skin
when and if touch-ups of pigment are applied
In both cases, when micropigmentation is involved, the state-of-the-art machines are identical, equipped with a single-use needle which breaks the skin and deposits pigment. In some cases where the term SEMI permanent make up is used, the pigment is deposited into the epidermis, and may be very light, therefore subject to fading much faster than a tattoo procedure that deposits the pigment deeper, and may be a darker or stronger color, therefore less susceptible to the natural fading process.
In both cases the skin is broken, pigment is deposited and the effects are “permanent” although subject to eventual fading, yet leaving traces of pigment under the skin, more or less visible, for X period of time or even forever.
Due to the fading, in both cases (from sun, wind, chlorinated water, sea salt, air and even facial cleansers), and the way in which each body reacts to the pigment, touch-ups are required either to maintain, enhance or make the makeup more permanent.
When it comes to those seeking PERMANENT cosmetics, a second or third micropigmentation procedure can be performed very soon after the initial one, almost immediately after the area has healed. A second or third procedure can set the pigment into the skin in such a way that fading will take 5 or more years (in some cases women have eyeliner that remains visible for 7 to 10 years), and therefore the procedure is considered permanent. Why? Because the pigment, although not so bright as when initially done, will remain in the skin indefinitely.
In the UK, it’s common to have a semi permanent procedure that’s done only ONCE (without immediate touch-ups) and therefore it seems less permanent. It is common for women in the UK to get eyeliner, lip liner or eyebrow tattoo touch-ups about a year and a half after the initial procedure, because by that time the light epidermal pigmentation has faded substantially, and to maintain the rich color, a second application is necessary. A year or two after that, another application may be done, which is why the industry in the UK has chosen to emphasized it’s less than permanent nature, since it requires touch-ups to make it permanently visible. But that is also true of the cosmetic tattooing procedures in the US, just that the second procedures are usually done within a month or two of the initial application and therefore fading takes a longer period of time and the permanent nature of the makeup is stressed.
Let’s be clear. If the skin is broken and pigment is injected with a needle it’s a form of tattoo, be it light or dark, deeply penetrated or lightly planted in the epidermis, retouched or not retouched.
The only true semi permanent makeup will be treatments that tint the skin. These types of makeup will wear off in the natural course of the skin’s renewal process, which takes about a month. These may be eyeliner tinting procedures that last a few weeks or a month, henna eyebrow shading, lash tinting and even lip blushes that are done superficially and do not, at any point, break the skin of the patient. They may be offered at beauty salons in conjunction with facials, eyebrow waxing or shaping procedures or even where professional artists do bridal makeup and offer photographic sessions. These services, although necessitating artistic skill, do not require the expertise of a technician who is qualified to use high-tech equipment with needles, offer anesthetic to numb discomfort, take into account a patient’s medical history, or implant pigment under the skin in the sensitive areas like the eyes, the lips and the brow.