Can You Use Regular Tattoo Ink for Permanent Makeup?

By Emily M.| Last updated on December 19, 2022
can you use regular tattoo ink for permanent makeup
⏱️ 4 min read

Permanent makeup can give extremely natural-looking and realistic results. A skilled artist can give you such a great eyebrow tattoo or permanent eyeliner you fall head over heels in love with it and you never want to live without it.

But the fact is, permanent makeup tattoos fade within a couple of years. Cosmetic tattoos are done in such a way that allows them to fade into invisibility. They use PMU pigments that the body can break down over time.

So some artists contemplate and ponder and come up with the question – can you use regular tattoo ink for permanent makeup?

PMUHub investigates.

Can You Use Regular Tattoo Ink for Permanent Makeup?


There’s a reason special pigment blends have been developed for permanent makeup. Several reasons, for that matter.

Regular tattoo inks are not suitable for permanent makeup. This piece of information is widely available, but what isn’t as easy to find is the reason. Let’s take a look at all the issues behind using regular tattoo ink for permanent makeup, and hopefully convince you it does more harm than good.

1. It’s a Liability Issue

Body tattoo inks are not intended for performing permanent makeup. As such, they do not have product liability insurance for use on the face.

In simple terms, if you use regular tattoo ink for permanent makeup and something goes wrong, you are 100% to blame and you do not have any sort of protection or coverage from the ink manufacturer.

No insurance will cover this, and you are solely responsible for any complications that may occur.

So if you decide to use regular tattoo ink for permanent makeup, you are not only risking your clients’ health and satisfaction, you are also putting yourself and your business in danger. Should anything go wrong, you can get sued.

Body tattoo inks are not intended for performing permanent makeup.Image source: Pexels

2. Tattoo Inks Are Not as Strictly Regulated

The tattooing industry has been struggling for years to weed out the bad formulas and the dangerous ingredients found in them. It’s a notoriously shady market, with all sorts of subpar formulas available. Although the situation has improved, tattoo ink production and distribution are still not regulated as strictly as they should be.

With PMU pigments, the situation is much better and it’s constantly improving. The upcoming pigment ingredient regulations are meant to make the industry even safer.

Since they are categorized as cosmetics, permanent makeup pigments are formulated exclusively with safe and approved, non-toxic ingredients. Their formulas are quite simple. The colors mostly come from iron oxides, while the carriers are distilled water, Alcohol, or Glycerin. The formulas are therefore very straightforward and transparent.

Tattoo inks usually have a long list of ingredients, and they often don’t disclose all of them. In order to be made as long-lasting as possible, they can contain all sorts of potentially harmful ingredients that shouldn’t be injected into the delicate, thin skin of the face, especially not close to the eyes and mouth.

The long ingredient list also means higher chances of allergic reactions, which are very rare with PMU pigments.

3. Tattoo Ink Doesn’t Look Natural on the Face

Tattoo inks are formulated so as to look as bright and as vivid as possible, but the face requires a more subtle approach. They’re much more concentrated, so they look totally opaque.

The skin of the face has special properties. It’s much thinner than skin on the rest of the body.

PMU pigments are designed specifically for the face. They blend colors that look like regular makeup, and they look smoother and more natural once implanted, so that they can recreate topical makeup. They work with the skin’s natural tone and undertone, not against them, so they don’t stand out too much, but rather blend into the skin.

That’s why clients with brow tattoos done in ink often seek cover up with pigments.

Tattoo Ink Doesn't Look Natural on the FaceImage source: Instagram @sasenka_phiremoval

4. The Color of Tattoo Ink Turns

Okay, yes, sometimes PMU pigments can change color too.

But tattoo inks turn into cool ashy tones more often than not, so if you use regular tattoo ink for permanent makeup, your clients will end up with strikingly blue or green brows or eyeliner within a couple of years.

PMU pigments are formulated in such a way that prevents healing into cool tones. If they do turn grayish in time, it’s due to the client’s undertone, or the depth of the application.

And even if that does happen, color correction of PMU pigments is very simple. Regular tattoo inks are more concentrated and look more opaque, so correcting their color can be challenging.

The Color of Tattoo Ink TurnsImage source: Instagram @brows_by_jill

5. Tattoo Ink Doesn’t Fade

You might be thinking, but that’s a good thing, right?

Well, not when it comes to permanent makeup.

Beauty trends change very quickly, and something that’s in now may be so out in 10 years you feel embarrassed you ever wore it. Just think of all the 90s and 00s trends we’d sooner forget and imagine you had them tattooed on your face in permanent ink.

The fact that permanent makeup fades within 2-3 years is actually a blessing. It allows you to adjust the look to current trends, your new preferences, and the changes to your skin – wrinkles and fine lines will start appearing eventually no matter how much marine collagen you drink.

With tattoo ink, you’re stuck with what you have. Removal is an option, of course, but removing regular inks can be much harder than PMU removal.

Tattoo Ink Doesn’t FadeImage source: Instagram @serpilcanikpmu

Final Word

We know that the idea of permanent makeup that’s actually permanent and lasts a lifetime may sound tempting to some, but the possible complications definitely outweigh the benefits, for both artists and clients. So don’t risk it and refrain from trying to use regular tattoo ink for permanent makeup.

Cover image source: Freepik



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