Is Microshading a Tattoo? Similarities and Differences Explained

By Katarina V.| Last updated on May 26, 2022
Is Microshading a Tattoo?
⏱️ 4 min read

Besides the now well-known microblading, microshading has been one of the most requested treatments clients adore. It is known as permanent makeup for eyebrows, but those who are interested in the treatment are usually curious about whether it’s really permanent and if it’s a tattoo.

Let’s find out more about microshading and answer the question Is microshading a tattoo.

What Is Microshading?

Microshading is a cosmetic tattoo treatment, usually done with a machine, but it can also be done with a manual tool. It gives the effect of soft powdery brows, as if they are filled with brow makeup.

It’s perfect for people with oily skin, who are not great candidates for microblading, because there are no hair strokes that will blur with time. However, microshading is very often combined with microblading, to give the brows volume and definition.

what is microshadingImage source: Instagram @arquitectodecejas

Is Microshading a Tattoo?

Yes, microshading is a tattoo, but it’s not the same as traditional body tattoos.

There are some key differences between microshading and traditional tattoos.

The Ink/Pigments Used

Traditional tattoos use ink that is formulated differently from permanent makeup pigments used for microshading and other brow permanent makeup treatments. The body will break the pigment down faster, which means that microshading fades much faster than the traditional tattoo.

The Longevity

That said, traditional tattoos are meant to last forever, even though they also fade, but they rarely become completely invisible. Microshading lasts 18-24 months on average, or up to 3 years for some people.

After that, the pigment is usually completely invisible. If a person wants to prolong the effects of microshading, they need to book a touch up, or color refreshment treatment when their microshading starts fading and when they notice they need to fill in their brows with makeup.

This usually happens after 12-18 months.

Is Microshading a Tattoo?Image source: Freepik

Different Machine

Tattoo and permanent makeup artists use slightly different machines. While permanent makeup artists use rotary machines, which are gentler on the skin and produce softer effects, tattoo machines or coil machines are stronger and it’s hard to be so precise.

However, a portion of permanent makeup artists use traditional tattoo machines, claiming they give the same effect. This is especially true for artists who do both permanent makeup and traditional body art tattooing.

The Effect

In the past, brow tattoos used to be done just like a regular tattoo anywhere on the body. However, we’re way past that. Traditional tattoos done on the eyebrows look unnatural, like a block of color. As they fade, the ink tends to change color into an unattractive blueish or greenish shade, and they never really become invisible.

Microshading gives a much softer and more natural effect. It looks like the brows are filled with a pencil, but with soft, pixel dots that don’t look artificial or obvious.

microshading effectImage source: Instagram @maureen.browsstudio

What Makes Microshading a Tattoo?

Just like with traditional tattoos, the skin is opened and the pigment is inserted.

The depth of the implementation is one of the main reasons why microshading is considered a tattoo. Both permanent makeup treatments and traditional tattoos are done in the second layer of the skin, the dermis.

The proper implementation of a brow tattoo means finding the so-called sweet spot in the dermis. If the pigment is implemented too shallowly, into the epidermis, the results will disappear very quickly, since the cells of the outermost layer of the skin shed fast.

But it’s perhaps more problematic if a tattoo is done too deep and the pigments reach the hypodermis – the third layer of the skin. This layer of the skin is looser, it contains fat cells, and depositing pigment into it causes a pigment blowout – blurring and spreading of the marks made. This happens with tattoo ink, too.

Another thing microshading and traditional tattooing have in common are similarities between the compositions of tattoo ink and pigments – that’s why some artists use traditional tattoo inks for permanent makeup as well.

PMU Implementation Depth in the Skin

Why Is Microshading Called Permanent Makeup?

PMU artists used to call treatments for eyebrows, like microblading, microshading or powder brows semi-permanent, but recently, more and more of them are switching to the other term – permanent makeup.

They say it’s permanent because the pigment stays in the body forever, even though it becomes invisible on the surface after some time. For some people, microshading lasts much longer and there are some visible residues even after 5 years. This depends on different factors such as:

  • skin type,
  • lifestyle,
  • the formulation of the pigment used,
  • and the artists’ technique.

To Sum Up

So, the answer to the question Is microshading a tattoo, is yes. It is done in the same way and with a similar machine and pigments. The biggest difference is that a traditional tattoo lasts forever, or at least fades more slowly, while microshading tends to fade completely within 2-3 years.

Contemporary eyebrow tattoos, now called permanent makeup, are much more sophisticated than they used to be. They give more natural results.

Cover image source: Freepik



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