Permanent cosmetics are called “permanent” for several reasons. One is that it cannot be washed off; another is because the pigment molecules will live forever in the skin they are implanted to. Yet another is because if the pigment was put into the skin correctly at the initial procedure, even though it will become lighter over time, the illusion will always reflect some imprint on the skin it was put into.
All color fades, it’s just a fact. The industrial paint on your house and cars, although intended to last a respectable amount of time, will fade from the effects of the sun and environmental exposure. The paint on the side of your house that gets more high noon sun will fade sooner than the side of your house that gets only morning or late afternoon sun. A car that is garaged will hold its paint job far longer than a car that is continually left outside. All types of color degrade over time from repeated use of chemicals for cleaning. If you wash a red blouse and hang it outside to dry time and time again, eventually you will have a pink blouse instead of the vivid red one you initially purchased. Our skin, the body’s largest organ, changes color frequently and not evenly, as the color change is more evident on the parts that are exposed to sunlight.
In the arena of other color, more frequently associated with the beauty industry, for those of you that color your hair, just think about the frequency that this is necessary to maintain the originally desired color. Typically, depending if your hair is dyed one color, or if your hair is foiled or highlighted, color refreshers are required anywhere from monthly to every three months. The rate your hair grows, and just as with permanent cosmetics, your exposure to the sun in your lifestyle, and use of chemicals on the hair will have a bearing on how often you feel it is necessary to ask your hair stylist for color refreshers. Tinting your eyebrows or eyelashes is an ongoing process due to the fading properties of the products used after subject to repeated washings.
Pigments, all pigments, regardless of the source (paint, colored clothes, pigments for permanent cosmetics, etc.) have a life span; they do not remain stable forever. Many people ask, “Well, why can’t permanent cosmetics last as long as body art tattoos?” They can if you will allow your technician to use black carbon ink (different from a pigment) or the brighter primary colors such as blue or red on your eyebrows, eyeliner and lips. “No,” you say? Well, I can’t blame you for that. No one wants blue, bright red or canary yellow eyebrows. These are primary colors and will outlast a soft blonde or brown color for a good reason. No one wants to use them for an eyebrow procedure color.
So, it comes down to being tasteful in our choices for colors that we use when applying permanent cosmetics and recognizing that color is not forever, at least not in the same intensity that it was the day it was applied.
First, as a consumer, I want to educate you about color, at least to the extent that you have general knowledge about cosmetic tattooing.
Brown is a very complex color. There are few browns that are available just as nature provides them to us. The majority of browns are a “combination” of primary color mixtures, or other colors that are processed under high heat conditions to create a brown.
As a result, browns are what we term as being rather unstable in comparison to the stand-alone primary colors of blue, yellow and red. Eyebrows, depending on the color of brown used, will require refreshing as the effects of the sun and chemical exposure degrade the original color to a lighter version and sometimes to a residual shade of the strongest primary color used in the combination of colors used to make the brown. This is why working with a reputable technician, one who knows color theory and is expertly knowledgeable about the pigments they use and their formulation composition is very important to you as a consumer. There are pigment lines that have better balance of brown formulations, ones that also have a reputation for lasting longer and maintaining their fresh appearance longer and ones that are less likely to leave a residual undesirable color when they fade. All pigments are not created alike.
It is also important to note that typically, the darker the eyebrow color, the longer it will be able to be seen. The lighter colors, for instance, a blonde, will require color refreshers sooner than a person whose skin type and coloring dictate the use of a darker brown.
Eyeliners can be applied with black ink, which is not pigment. Ink is compressed carbon, whereas pigments are iron oxide. Ink is a very small molecule which will normally last longer than pigment; however, it has a tendency, depending on the brand used, to shift over time to a gray or blue. The advantage to a black ink is its suggested longevity but the downside is that it is also well-known for its tendency to migrate and the technician tattooing with ink must be very experienced to use it successfully.
As a technician, I personally prefer pigment eyeliners. Not everyone wants jet-black eyeliner. Some want a black/brown or a lighter brown for the bottom eyeliner. Either product, in or pigment, used for eyeliner procedures will ultimately fade to a softer version of its initial appearance and require refreshing.
I have found lip pigments to have a longer life than eyebrow and eyeliner pigments. Possibly because our lips already have a natural color that is influential, and possibly because the most popular choice of lip pigment colors (at least in my practice) are those with a blue base, such as the mauves or plum colors, or red bases, which are used in a variety of ranges of pinks. Blue and red are the strongest primary colors. The lips are typically some shade of blue or pink already and many lip pigments contain a small amount of white, which is a larger molecule than all other colors and sits closer to the surface of the skin reflecting all light away from itself. All these factors, I believe, lend to the fact that my lip clients return less often for color refresher procedures than do the eyebrow and eyeliner clients. In fact, it is typically many many years before a lip color requires refreshing.
A more personal consideration when discussing the need for color refreshers for your permanent cosmetics is how you feel you look. Some clients will book appointments with me for a color refresher and when they arrive, I question why they have come. They say, they think the color may be fading (this is characteristically a year or more after their initial procedure was applied). I tell them they are fine and to check back with me in 3 to 6 months for another checkup. Others arrive many years after their initial procedures with faded procedures and I ask them where they have been. Why would you allow your investment to fade so much before returning for a color refresher? They say they felt they looked fine. So much depends on how you personally see yourself and what is acceptable and unacceptable as to how your permanent cosmetics appear.
That is why no one can really tell you how long your initial procedure will last before needing to come in to have the color refreshed. Your initial choice of color, the pigment brand your technician uses, your lifestyle and exposure to the sun and chemicals, and how you personally like to see your makeup all play an important part to the answer. In other words, the answer is all about you. The best I can offer is good, safe procedures with pigments and inks that have an excellent reputation for longevity and good after care and maintenance advice to help you keep your investment pristine as long as possible.