What’s the Difference Between Permanent and Semi-Permanent Makeup?

It’s one of the most common questions cosmetic tattoo artists hear from their clients. At a basic level, permanent and semi-permanent makeup work on the same principle- pigment is inserted into the papillary layer of the dermis, which sits directly under the epidermal surface. However, permanent makeup involves inserting the relatively more pigment into the dermis than semi-permanent makeup. This gives it a much longer lifespan.

On the other hand, semi-permanent makeup is applied more sparingly into the dermis and not beyond the upper most layer in hopes of a shorter lifespan. As such, the pigmentation doesn’t need to be as intense and can also be mixed into a wash which gives a more natural and subtle finish.

How Long Does Permanent and Semi-Permanent Makeup Last?

The general rule of thumb is that permanent makeup can stay in the skin well over 10 years, though some applications may still be highly visible in the skin beyond that. Semi-permanent makeup has a much shorter lifespan and generally starts to fades after anywhere from 6-12 months.

However, there are many elements that affect the longevity of both permanent and semi-permanent makeup. The placement, volume and intensity of the pigment are all important contributing factors, but there are other aspects that impact the lifespan of the cosmetic tattoo.

The top layer of skin is constantly shedding and renewing, and the rate at which this happens will naturally affect how quickly the cosmetic tattoo fades. This is where lifestyle choices come into play- regular exposure to UV light or regular use of strong exfoliants speed up the skin shedding cycle, thus causing the color to fade faster.

Should I Choose Permanent or Semi-Permanent Makeup?

Having a cosmetic tattoo is a big commitment that shouldn’t be taken lightly. It’s important to realize that even semi-permanent makeup has some degree of permanency and cannot just be washed off. Another consideration is how long the cosmetic tattoo will last. Unfortunately, due to the many variables that impact longevity for each individual, it is impossible to give a definitive time frame. It must be accepted that the tattoo might fade faster than expected, or that it might outlive the desired period.

With that in mind, there are a few things to contemplate before choosing between permanent and semi-permanent makeup. Semi-permanent makeup offers the opportunity to achieve a more subtle, natural result. It also involves less of a commitment, which is good news if you are not entirely sure of the results. On the downside, semi-permanent makeup needs to be maintained more regularly, which entails the time and cost for touch ups.

Conversely, permanent makeup often has a more noticeable, dramatic appearance. It needs much less maintenance than semi-permanent makeup. However, choosing a permanent cosmetic tattoo is a much bigger commitment and how it looks will change over the years as the color continues to fade. The removal process for permanent makeup can be more involved especially if there is a lot of pigment that has been sitting in the skin for a years.


Permanent and semi-permanent makeup both have advantages and disadvantages. Settling on one involves examining your own lifestyle and weighing up which type will suit your needs better. Either way, given their permanent nature, it’s vital that you think long and hard before taking the plunge.

Before and after eyebrow correction procedure


Cosmetic Permanent Eyebrow tattoo