After an exhausting year of lockdowns and living in loungewear, it’s not surprising that many people now prefer minimal effort makeup: a little mascara here, a slick of brow gel there. Billions of TikTok videos prove that low-maintenance, natural makeup is here to stay – but it isn't just hype-worthy new products we're interested in. Those with a TikTok account have no doubt come across countless cosmetic treatments which promise to take the chore out of putting on your face every day. Just recently we were introduced to the lip flip (using Botox to plump lips) as well as forehead filler (for minimising fine lines and wrinkles and imparting glowing skin). Now, there's a new cosmetic treatment piquing the interest of beauty enthusiasts and it's supposedly the answer to dark under-eye circles and blemishes.
Enter: permanent concealer.
What is permanent concealer and how does it work?
Permanent concealer is otherwise known as micropigmentation: a cosmetic technique which uses tattooing to resemble makeup. It's most common with eyebrows, eyeliner and more recently lips, such as lip blushing. Permanent concealer adopts the same process. The procedure was developed by Rodolpho Torres, a Brazilian tattoo artist specialising in camouflaging imperfections with skin-coloured pigments by using a cosmetic tattoo gun to ink pigment into the epidermis (the outermost layer of skin). This pigment then settles between underlying darkness and the skin’s surface. The cosmetic-grade pigments are customised to match the client’s skin tone and have previously been used to cover scars, redness and stretch marks. On TikTok, @glamboxheidelberg's video of the procedure is the most viewed, with 20.9 million clicks.
What are the benefits of permanent concealer for dark circles and blemishes?
Just like temporary makeup, permanent concealer is said to minimise dark circles, making tired eyes look refreshed and well rested. Judging by the many TikTok clips, it can also be used to lessen the appearance of blemishes, such as skin staining left behind by acne, or other forms of hyperpigmentation. Liana Nunes, a certified makeup tattooist who is pioneering permanent concealer in the UK, says that her clients find their skin looks "more even" and that eyes "don’t look as tired as they were before". Liana champions the Brazilian technique, where shading is less thick and therefore less obvious.
The benefits of permanent concealer aren’t just physical. Christopher Drummond, a cosmetic tattooist working with dermatologist Dr Paul Jarrod Frank, reports that the treatment often boosts self-esteem. Though dark circles are very normal and common (and most often genetic), they can get some people down. Liana seconds this and says that permanent concealer has helped to improve the confidence of many of her clients.
What are the downsides of permanent concealer?
The promise of permanently brighter, fresher and younger-looking skin is highly desirable but some cosmetic experts worry about the long-term implications of permanent concealer, especially as it targets delicate under-eye skin.
As with any skin treatment involving needles, it's important to be careful for very obvious reasons, such as infection and protecting your eyesight. In fact, lots of experts make a strong case against permanent concealer for this reason. El Truchan from Perfect Definition, one of the UK’s permanent makeup experts, is among them. "Due to the nature of the very thin skin and size of the pigment molecules, it can end up ageing terribly," says El, who adds that the large, dense molecules of titanium dioxide in pigments (which create the lightening effect) may eventually contribute to a lumpy, uneven texture under the skin. She likens the effect to "cottage cheese" — not exactly the result anyone is looking for. El is not an advocate of the trend. "Just because it is possible to tattoo something, doesn’t always mean it’s a good idea," she warns.
TikTok doctors and dermatologists are also weighing in on the makeup movement. Dr Christopher Tomassian said in a recent clip: "Should you really do this? You're basically microneedling in pigmented serums that fade over time. If you don't like your shade, you're kinda screwed. You can get chronic skin allergies from this and irritation. Normal foundation works fine."
Permanent makeup and aesthetics expert Tracie Giles does not perform the permanent concealer treatment in her Knightsbridge clinic. She says: "Permanent concealer is a very new procedure and it’s almost impossible to predict the long-term results." Tracie adds that the pigment cannot be removed from the skin — not even with laser treatments — and will not fade over time like semi-permanent makeup. In fact, Tracie warns that the ink used (usually containing titanium dioxide) reacts with laser and can turn black. "Lasering near the eyes is also very dangerous and carries the risk of blindness," she adds. "It’s a definite no from us at Tracie Giles London."
How long does permanent concealer last?
Not long ago, YouTuber SACHEU vlogged the process of getting permanent concealer, where she reacted to finally eliminating her dark under-eye circles. She stated that the treatment created a "brightening effect that lasted about six months". Depending on the procedure, some semi-permanent treatments may last for two or three years depending on your skin type, body temperature and aftercare methods. In other words, it's not a treatment to be taken lightly. For maximum coverage, experts recommend three or so sessions. The procedure usually takes an hour and can cost anywhere between £600 and £2,500.
If you’re interested in trying permanent concealer, how do you stay safe?
Though countless experts warn against permanent concealer, there is no denying that it is growing in popularity. If you are going to look into any form of permanent or semi-permanent makeup, your first port of call is to do as much research as possible. Permanent under-eye concealer is a serious procedure so finding a certified clinician you can trust is necessary. "An in-depth understanding of medical and cosmetic tattooing is crucial," agrees El. Like all cosmetic procedures, it's a must to check your practitioner's credentials beforehand and to book a consultation, where you should be made aware of the many risks. Head to Glowday or Save Face, which may be helpful in finding a nonsurgical cosmetic practitioner.
It's also recommended to read lots of reviews to ensure that you’re visiting a trusted professional and ask for as many before-and-after pictures (including final results months after the treatment) as you can. Establishing aftercare is vital, too. Get a telephone number (including an out-of-hours contact) so that you can get in touch with your chosen practitioner should you have any questions or worries. As with all semi-permanent tattoos, redness is normal; using a protective ointment such as Bepanthen is encouraged to soothe the skin and assist with healing. Just like microblading, clients are also advised to avoid makeup, skincare and excessive sun exposure for a few days after makeup tattoos.
If permanent concealer isn't for you, click through for Refinery29's pick of the best concealers for all skin types and tones.
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