Permanent makeup is a great solution to a number of inconvenieces related to regular, temporary makeup such as everyday reapplication and smudging, but also a type of recompensation for certain conditions such as alopecia. It’s also applied in a final phase of breast reconstruction process for nipple and areola tattooing. However, as with every cosmetic procedure, it is not without its risks and repercussions.
Of course, the period right after having permanent makeup done is bound to come with some swelling, scabbing, and sensitivity. These are all normal phases in the healing period. But what can be problematic are some more severe reactions that can signal more serious consequences, such as allergies or infections.
Another possibly problematic scenario would be if you needed to have an MRI. In this article, we try to answer the question of how permanent makeup affects MRI scans.
Does permanent makeup affect MRI scans?
As part of preparation for an MRI scan, your physician (or MRI technician) will ask you if you have any tattoos. As semi-permanent makeup is still relatively new and not that widespread as tattooing, they may fail to ask you if you’ve had any permanent or semi-permanent makeup done, which can have certain consequences.
Permanent makeup for eyes and lips is more or less noticable, but the physician may not notice you’ve had procedures such as scalp micropigmentation or micropigmentation elsewhere on the body, like areola reconstruction or vitiligo cover up. So it’s very important you notify your physician if you’ve had any type of cosmetic tattooing done, even if they don’t ask (which they should).
Although permanent makeup uses pigments instead of ink used in traditional tattooing, the color will show up as a shade on the scan. If your physician is not made aware of where you have permanent makeup, they can misinterpret the scan and not diagnose you properly.
Apart from this inconveniet but not directly dangerous situation, pigments in permanent makeup can actually hurt you during an MRI, although this is very rare.
How can permanent makeup pigments affect MRI?
MRI (or magnetic resonance imaging) is an imaging technique used in radiology to examine different organs in the body by using radio waves and strong magnetic fields. So before any MRI, the technician will ask you to remove any metal you possibly have on your body; all jewelry, and especially piercings – if any piercing remains in the skin once the magnets are activated, serious injuries may occur.
What does this have to do with permanent makeup? Well, the most widely used pigments in permanent makeup are iron oxides, which can potentially react to the magnets. Although rare, cases of burning sensations in the areas where pigments were injected during the scan, or swelling and burnes following the examintaion were recorded.
The same can happen with traditional tattoos. The iron oxide in the pigment may create an electrical current that heats up the formula, which can result in burning sensation, and in more severe cases, burns of various degrees wherever pigment was injected. The areas most prone to burns are skin around the eyes and the lips, as these are the most delicate parts of the face.
Is it safe to have MRI scans if I’ve had permanent makeup done?
If you have permanent makeup and need an MRI, don’t panic just yet. Cases of the type of reaction mentioned are rather rare. The severity of damage to the skin depends on the percentage of iron oxides in the pigment, and since iron oxides are only one type of permanent makeup pigment, chances are your permanent makeup artist might have used a different, iron oxide-free formula. Even they didn’t, there is no certainty the pigment will react at all.
Should you start to feel any burning during the scan, it is crucial to tell your technician and stop the examination immediately. If this happens, a CT scan might be a safer alternative.
In any case, physicians stress that permanent makeup is no reason to avoid an MRI. In fact, avoiding it could turn out to be a bigger risk.
How can I avoid possible issues?
Generally, it is extremely important to be informed about the type of pigment your permanent makeup artist uses. As FDA doesn’t regulate pigments used in cosmetic tattooing, the market is full of low quality formulas that may not even state all the ingredients properly. However, on May 21, 2019, the FDA issued a safety advisory warning for consumers, tattoo artists and retailers to avoid using or selling certain tattoo inks that are contaminated with microorganisms.
With PMU artists being poorly regulated in training and educational competency requirements in many states, the best way to ensure what you’re having injected into your body is safe is to go to a certified and experienced PMU artists, even if it means paying a bit more.
Should the need for an MRI scan arise, the most important thing is to keep your physician informed. Once you tell them you’ve had work done, they may ask you what brand of pigments was used so they can study the ingredients. If you don’t know what brand of pigments was used, contact your permanent makeup artist.