Microblading vs. Permanent Makeup — What’s the Difference?

Altered Aesthetics
Sep 27, 2017 · 4 min read

This seems to be a question that almost always gets asked during consultations, so much in fact, that we have a whole section on it in our Client Information Packet.

So what exactly is the difference between microblading and permanent makeup? For anyone interested in microblading it’s an understandable and expected question to be asked. Even though cosmetic tattooing and permanent makeup have been around for years (the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals celebrated 25 years in 2015), microblading is a relatively new form of semi-permanent makeup that has only started to take off in the last 3–4 years. Even though microblading and permanent makeup seem like the same thing (they both are considered cosmetic tattooing), they are different.

Permanent Makeup

Permanent makeup, a form of cosmetic tattooing is also known as micro-pigmentation, derma-pigmentation, and permanent cosmetics. Permanent makeup artists use tattooing techniques to apply designs that resemble makeup. Eyeliner, color enhancement of skin on the face, eyelids, lips, and eyebrows are all areas that permanent makeup is traditionally applied to. The results of permanent makeup is enhanced facial features that would typically be done with our everyday makeup.

A permanent makeup artist will use tattoo machines to implant ink into the dermis (similar to our traditional tattooing), just getting shy of how deep a regular tattoo will penetrate and awell informed and experienced permanent makeup artist will always use safe inks and techniques.

With permanent makeup that involves the brows, usually a powder fill like technique is used to make the brows look denser and fuller.

A worst case scenario, unknowing clients will go to a traditional tattoo artist that will outline brows and fill them with color, making a solid eyebrow look that is very unnatural and usually regrettable. These tattoos are usually much more permanent lasting decades.

Example of Traditional Permanent Eyebrows (Not My Work)


We recently wrote a blog post titled “What is Microblading and Why Is Everyone Talking About It?” and if you haven’t read it yet, you can check it out here. Microblading is basically a tattoo for your eyebrows. While it falls under the permanent makeup category it’s much less invasive than getting an actual tattoo since the pigment is not deeply inserted into the skin. It will fade over time simply because a much smaller amount of pigment is inserted into the skin as compared to fully/solidly filled eyebrow tattoos. Your finished brows can last anywhere from 1–3 years depending on various factors.

During the microblading process we use a manual method of implanting pigment in hair-like strokes in the epidermis to create the look of fuller brows. By utilizing the manual method and hand-held blade, we are able to achieve natural-looking results. Instead of outlining and completely filling in the outline of your brows with color (like permanent makeup brows), microblading actually allows for the placement of hair like strokes into the skin. Traditional tattooing uses needles on a rotary/coil machine to push ink 7 layers deep into the skin, microblading uses a manual blade and only targets 3 layers of skin. Because the pigment sits so superficially in the skin the strokes are sharp, crisp, and they mimic the look of real hair.

Although microbladed brows won’t require daily maintenance, because the results are semi-permanent, they typically last somewhere between one to three years depending on skin type lifestyle, sun exposure, regeneration of skin cells, speed at which the skin absorbs the pigment, choice of color, etc. At Altered Aesthetics, we recommend a touch up 12–18 months later to keep the color looking vibrant and the microblade strokes looking crisp.

Altered Aesthetics Client — Before and After Microblading/Manual Shading

Microblading can be beneficial to people from all walks of life regardless of age and sex. We find it is especially beneficial to those who are affected by alopecia, cancer (chemotherapy), vitiligo and scars. It really is perfect for anyone that cannot produce eyebrow hair, lack full eyebrow hairs or someone who is just over buying every brow product on the market. If you are looking for something that will give you the look of real eyebrows, then microblading is for you. A good quote to remember if you are contemplating microblading is, “Microblading doesn’t replace makeup, it replaces hair”.

Are you interested in learning more about microblading? Set up a consultation with Altered Aesthetics here.

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Altered Aesthetics

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Altered Aesthetics is a Cosmetic Tattoo Studio located in Raleigh, North Carolina.