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Why Cosmetic Tattooing Fades Over Time but Body Tattoos Last Forever

What makes cosmetic tattooing semi-permanent when body tattooing is permanent?


You might be wondering how body tattoos can be permanent while cosmetic tattooing and microblading are only semi-permanent and fade over time. After all they are both a form of tattooing, they both use a pigment & a needle or blade to implant the pigment into the skin. So how come one fades over time and the other doesn’t? It’s not an accident. There are very good reasons why it is preferable that cosmetic tattooing fades over time. If you aren’t familiar with the nature of tattoos it may be a surprise for you to learn that they do not look the same at 10 years old as they do when they are fresh. Colours fade at different rates with exposure to sun, salt, and time. Fine lines and points will blur out and become less defined as a tattoo ages.

I often have clients who ask me if I can make their cosmetic tattooing permanent but the reality is that not only do eyebrow trends and shapes change over time, so will your clients hair colour, lip colour preferences, and the tattoo itself.

It is much better to have the opportunity to redo your cosmetic tattooing than having to live with tattooing that has aged badly or no longer suits your style.

Firstly there is often some confusion over the terminology of semi-permanent makeup. Semi-permanent does not mean that your cosmetic tattooing will fade over time and disappear 100%. The rate and amount that cosmetic tattooing fades over time is dependant on multiple factors that differ from person to person.

Some people may end up with trace amounts of cosmetic tattoo pigments that never fully disappear, while others may have cosmetic tattoos that fade over time and completely disappear.

There is no one single factor that contributes to why cosmetic tattooing fades over time, but rather several different factors combined.

Why Cosmetic Tattooing Fades Over Time

Factor 1 : skin type

Factor 2 : pigment quality and type

Factor 3 : tattoo depth

Factor 4 : lifestyle variables

I’ll briefly explain each factor so you can better understand why and how cosmetic tattoos fade over time.

Why Cosmetic Tattoos Fade over time

Factor 1 : Skin Types

As an artist you should already be aware of how skin types effect the tattooing process. Some skin types are more receptive to the pigment implantation process and some are less. Skin types also play a role in the pigment retention during healing and contribute to the speed at which they fade over time.

The location of the tattoo also plays a role in the way that cosmetic tattoos fade over time. Some areas of the body will be prone to fading faster than others. Its a well known fact that body tattoos on the hands and particularly the fingers are prone to fading much faster than other areas. Skin on the face is no exception to this and its makeup is very different to skin on the rest of the body. Not only is it faster to heal, but the skin cell turnover is higher than other areas of the body. This faster skin cell turnover combines with the natural oil secretions on the face lead to cosmetic tattooing that fades over time at a faster rate than elsewhere.

why cosmetic tattooing fades over time

Factor 2 : Pigment Quality & Type

Body art tattoos are created using a different grade of inks than cosmetic tattoos. Tattoo pigment is made up of a base liquid like distilled water, polyglycol (PG), or an alcohol base. There are thousands of pigment particles that are held in this base liquid which make up the exact shade required by the artist. The main difference between permanent tattoo ink and semi permanent cosmetic tattoo ink is the side of the pigment particles tat make up the ink. Cosmetic tattoo pigments are made using micro particles of pigments that are so small the body is able to easily break them down and carry them away through the lymphatic system, allowing cosmetic tattoos to fade over time. Body tattoo inks are made using larger pigment particles that are not able to be removed by the body, and will not disappear or fade over time.

Why cosmetic tattooing fades over time

Factor 3 : Tattoo Depth

Even though cosmetic tattoo pigments are specially designed to fader over time, if they are implanted into the skin too deeply they will not be able to be removed by the body naturally. Cosmetic tattoos are implanted superficially in the skin, much shallower than body tattoos are. In fact, if cosmetic tattoo pigment is implanted too deep in the skin it will distort the colour, leading to an unwanted grey, ashy appearing colour. Once the pigment is implanted this deep it may never fully fade over time, and may require laser or saline removal by a specialist.

why cosmetic tattoos fade over time

Factor 4 : Lifestyle Variables

Skin cell turnover and the lifespan of your cosmetic tattoo is greatly effected by external factors. Retinol skincare products will speed up the skin cell turnover, leading to faster fading of cosmetic tattoos. Other factors that effect the tattoo include sun exposure, and exposure to salt water, and chlorinated water. For as long as tattoos have existed, salt has been used to remove and fade tattoos. Your clients lifestyle factors will inevitably contribute to the way their cosmetic tattooing fades over time.

All of the above variable factors determine the way in which cosmetic tattooing fades over time. Some skin types will retain the cosmetic tattoo pigment better than others, and it will also depend on the individuals lifestyle habits and skincare products, as well as the cosmetic tattoo artists application methods, depth of working & pigment quality.

The best quality cosmetic tattooing will fade over time and eventually leave very little pigment remaining, so that the next application will be on a blank canvas. As a cosmetic tattoo artist myself I can confirm that it is much much easier to create beautiful work on a clean canvas.

Microblading Online

Cosmetic Tattoo Trainer

About the Author

Tegan Naderi is a long-time team member of SCHB and is mentored by Zara. She is a cosmetic tattoo artist and owner of VIP Brows, specialising in machine hair stroke tattooing. Tegan is also one of the cosmetic tattoo trainers and the SCHB online course creator.

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