Microblading vs permanent make up. Who and what they're good for

Dr A Bolin

Microblading and permanent makeup: Dr A Bolin looks at the differences between these two techniques for enhancing beauty, and their uses for people who’ve lost hair due to cancer or pigment due to skin conditions like vitiligo.

How much time does it take you to do your makeup in the morning? Wouldn’t it be nice to save money spent on cosmetics and time in the morning to prepare your face? If you’re thinking exactly that, you’re not alone.  The average person in London spends a staggering £6,300 on beauty products and treatments each year. Not surprisingly many women and men are now considering semi-permanent or permanent makeup as an alternative. The logic is that while it has a higher upfront cost, it could save money in the long run.

But these procedures aren’t just for enhancing beauty in the fit and well. They can also play an extremely useful role in re-establishing normality for people who have lost their hair or skin pigmentation.

People who have had hair loss after chemotherapy, burns or maybe an accident can benefit from semi-or-permanent make up as can those who have the certain immune conditions that cause hair loss or the skin condition known as vitiligo where pigment disappears from the skin leaving white patches. Even people with uneven pigmentation can benefit.


People who have allergies to certain ingredients in cosmetic products may also find this a useful solution that allows them to have the benefit of cosmetic enhancement without the swelling and irritation.

In some cases the NHS may even cover the cost of the procedure. If you have a condition that has caused loss of eyebrows or hair or a surgery such as mastectomy, the NHS may cover permanent makeup solutions to help you achieve a natural look to restore colouring ranging from hair replacement to tattooed nipples.  For more information on NHS coverage for men and women. ( http://www.face-facts.co.uk/nhs/)

What are the choices: microblading or permanent make up explained

What is Microblading?

Microblading is a semi-permanent option.

As the name suggests, it is a hand tool with a blade to make ‘micro’ small scrapes in the upper layer of skin. Basically, small superficial strokes with pigment results in natural definition and coverage of the eyebrows.  It is all the rage at the moment, with many women opting for natural looking eyebrow definition that can stand the test of time, water, sweat and showers.

If you don’t want forever brows, this enhancement normally lasts for up to 3 years. Even if you are considering doing permanent makeup, you might want to consider doing microblading first (in case you don’t like it or want a change of shape in the future).


What is Permanent makeup

Permanent makeup is basically a cosmetic tattoo (pigmentation of the epidermis). It isn’t ‘forever’ in the sense that it still may fade over the years, but will last much longer than semi-permanent ink. The electrical machine uses fine needles to deliver the pigments into the skin (eyeliners, eyebrows, lips, nipples, etc.).

You can work with your permanent makeup artist to decide what works best for your face shape, hair colour, etc.  Some artist do their own measurements and drawings, while others use stencils that are not necessarily suited to every face. Remember that the colour may become less intense with time, like other tattoos, and it is not uncommon for people to have touch ups later.

The cost of permanent makeup in the UK can range from £75 for a beauty spot to £500 for lip liner to thousands of pounds for scalp coverage.(http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/cosmetic-treatments-guide/Pages/permanent-make-up.aspx)  Remember, if it is for a medical condition, you might be eligible for NHS coverage.



Microblading vs. permanent makeup – what’s the difference?

As mentioned before microblading can last up to three years, permanent makeup lasts longer.

Microblading is only done on eyebrows with a hand tool (blade), whereas permanent makeup can be done other places on the face, scalp and body with an electrical machine.

With either procedure you may not be happy with the results, but permanent makeup is harder to change and needs to have proper tattoo removal (laser or chemical). Also, you might not want the same makeup style for the rest of your life.

With both options there is a risk of permanent scarring, infection, bleeding and allergic reactions (make sure that you are patch tested before either procedure).



If you are thinking about permanent makeup, you might want to first try semi-permanent makeup (especially if eyebrows are on the list to get done). As practitioners do not have to be registered with the Care Quality Commission (CQC) – the regulatory organisation of health services in England, be sure to choose a qualified professional artist or aesthetician that does the procedure in a clean and safe setting. Ask about how much experience they have and to see before and after pictures plus any recommendations they may have from previous customers.



If you are undergoing medical treatment, always speak with your doctor first before having a procedure such as microblading or permanent makeup done. If you tend to develop keloid scars, neither procedure is recommended.

Fun fact: where did this all begin?

In Japan, China and Tahiti  permanent makeup and cosmetic tattoos have been refined for centuries. In the 1930s, George Burchett, the “King of Tattooists”, was a Brighton-born renowned English tattooist who was expelled from school at the age of 12 for inking a classmate. Later he offered ‘cosmetic tattoos’ to clients. These days it’s becoming more popular around the world with Europe and North America catching up with the trend.  Masters of eyebrow definition such as David Zhang from Singapore teach artists how to achieve 3D to 6D looks. (https://www.eyebrowfestival.com/masters/david-zhang/ )


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