Pakistani women are getting their faces tattooed with permanent make-up. Here's why

Pakistani women are getting their faces tattooed with permanent make-up. Here's why

“It’s convenient for working girls — you wake up and you’re ready,” says a certified permanent make-up professional
21 Oct, 2018

Five years ago, when Zehra Kachelo was visiting her daughter in Hanoi, Vietnam, she noticed that a lot of women looked effortlessly dolled up: their eyebrows were the perfect shape and colour; their lips were just the right tint.

The secret to their put-together looks turned out to be permanent make-up: the tattooing of pigments into the skin to enhance the lips, eyebrows, eyelids or cheeks. “I said ‘Wow your eyebrows look so nice’ and they said ‘We wake up like this’. I thought this is so great! I want to wake up like this,” she says.

Eventually, Kachelo decided to have her eyebrows, lips and eyelids tattooed (the inked eyelids give the appearance of having put on eyeliner). For Kachelo, as for many busy Pakistani women, permanent make-up (which is also known by the names micropigmentation and cosmetic tattooing) is all about convenience.

As she points out: “Basically my laziness got the better of me. I got hair bonding done so my hair could be nice and straight all the time. So why not the same with make-up? I got my face done and I was ready all the time. I loved it!”

Kachelo is not alone; many Pakistani women are turning to the technique because it saves them time. According to Samina Bilgrami, a certified permanent make-up professional based in Islamabad and Karachi and the founder of Brow Factor, women are increasingly opting for the technique because it’s so convenient.

“It’s becoming more and more popular and people of all ages are using this procedure. Most of them have a busy lifestyle and you don’t have to make an effort,” she says. “It’s convenient for a lot of working girls — you wake up and you’re ready. It makes you look very nice and fresh. You don’t look washed out.”

Eyebrow microblading. Photo:
Eyebrow microblading. Photo:

Roohi Sayeed, a certified permanent make-up professional and the owner of Amethyst Spa, agrees, pointing out that she has seen cosmetic tattooing become more popular in the last two years. “We see a lot of clientele in their 40s and 50s. We also see a lot of women from the northern areas of Pakistan who come to Karachi to get permanent make-up done,” adds Sayeed.

Permanent make-up may conjure up images of artificial-looking brows veering on the cartoonish — a legacy of the cosmetic tattoo fad that emerged in the ’90s and 2000s. The most recent iteration of the technique which is becoming popular, however, is far more sophisticated. Carbon-based pigments are no longer used; instead cosmetic professionals now use temporary pigments that are made especially for the face.

These pigments also come in a broader range of shades so permanent make-up artists can easily make the tint of colour the client is looking for. “You have a lot more shades now. When I got my training done 20 years ago, there weren’t many companies that made such pigments but now there are far more options,” says Sayeed.

Permanent eye-liner. Photo: Nadia Afanaseva
Permanent eye-liner. Photo: Nadia Afanaseva

The pigment is tattooed in using a needle and tattoo machine; for eyebrows there’s an additional option called microblading — where a hand-held tool is used to make small strokes. Unlike the ink used for traditional tattoos, the newer pigments simply fade in a few years. In fact, the term ‘permanent’ is misleading; semi-permanent would be more accurate.

“Permanent make up — doesn’t mean permanent, it lasts three to four years. There’s another technique [aside from tattooing] called microblading. They have it a lot in Europe — that lasts about a maximum of two to three years,” emphasises Kachelo.

The technique is also ideal for those whose eyebrows or lips have faded due to old age, alopecia or illness (such as cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy) and are looking for something more realistic looking and longer lasting. “The most popular is the eyebrows and the lips. It’s very anti-aging,” Bilgrami points out. “For example, for some people who have experienced hair loss, the inking defines their eyebrows and improves their looks. You wake up and you’re ready.” Sayeed adds that the technique can also help hide scars or skin damage: “We get very few clients who need help with that but we have filled in some scars, etc.”

While it may seems like a new technique, permanent make-up has been around at least since the 1920s. Inking in colour to enhance the cheeks or the lips emerged as the new fashion rage at the same time tattoo parlours became popular in the US and London. These salons offered services that gave women ‘permanent’ rosy cheeks and pink lips alongside the regular fare of inking in tattoo designs on the arms, shoulders or the back.

A Washington Post article from January 25, 1920, for example gushes about “a new method of beautifying by electricity. By an electric tattooing machine vari-coloured pigments are pricked into the skin and, behold! you have pink cheeks which will not rub off, nor wash out, nor fade.”

Lip colour tattoo. Photo: The Ink Room Cosmetic Tattooing/ permanent makeup/Facebook
Lip colour tattoo. Photo: The Ink Room Cosmetic Tattooing/ permanent makeup/Facebook

Almost a century later, permanent make-up is once again popular. Not surprising — given the new techniques are far more sophisticated and the demand on women to look pretty and presentable at all times on both the professional and personal front. Inking your lips so that they are a rosier tint or so that your eyebrows are darker, however, isn’t cheap.

According to Bilgrami the tattooing of eyebrows can cost between Rs45,000 to 65,000, while inking your lips will set you back around Rs60,000 to 65,000. The make-up also has to be ‘retouched’ every three to four years. For many women, however, it’s worth it: the proof is in the colour.

What you need to know before opting for permanent make-up

The process itself is simple enough. In consultation with you, the permanent make-up artist chooses a colour that would be suitable — the colour of the eyebrows, for example, should closely match that of your hair. The skin is anesthetised and the pigment is then inked in using a needle.

There are two sittings. Once you’re done with the first sitting, you’ll be asked to come again after four to six weeks. The permanent make-up artist will fill in any areas that have healed unevenly and touch up the colour where needed. So if you’re not completely happy about what you see in the mirror after the first sitting, don’t worry.

The pigment is tattooed in using a needle and tattoo machine; for eyebrows there’s an additional option called microblading — where a hand-held tool is used to make small strokes.

While numbing cream or anaesthesia is applied to the skin before the procedure is carried out, it’s bound to hurt; after all it is a needle or blade pricking your skin.

Do your homework before you opt for the procedure: is the cosmetic professional certified? Is the clinic/work station sterile and clean? “I don’t recommend it done at a salon unless it’s a sterile environment. That’s why I prefer working in a clinic,” says Bilgrami.

No matter how low, there is always a risk of an infection or an allergic reaction. Make sure there are no ingredients in the dye that you’re allergic to. And keep the tattooed area clean.

Make sure you and the permanent make-up artist are on the same page. Are you happy with the shape of the brows? Is the colour of the lips the tint you want? Yes, it’s semi-permanent but that’s the look you’ll have for the next couple of years so make sure it’s the one you want.

After the procedure, whatever you chose to get tattooed will be sore for a few days. The top layer of the skin flakes off. For two to three days, you can’t let water touch your face or get sweaty. It takes about a week for everything to be normal so don’t plan any big outings or parties for the day after the procedure!

Originally published in Dawn, EOS, October 21st, 2018


Man Oct 21, 2018 11:16am
Not bad. Good going but keep in mind that natural beauty is most attractive.
Recommend (0)
Atif Oct 21, 2018 12:26pm
Makeup is getting more and more expensive in Pakistan. Soon it may not be affordable. This is a good idea.
Recommend (0)
Amer Rao Oct 21, 2018 03:29pm
Hello Ladies, please dont go far from the natural beauty. Cosmetic surgeons are making money, nothing else. And many times these surgical process went wrong.
Recommend (0)
M. Amir Oct 21, 2018 04:14pm
Bad idea. Don’t do it.
Recommend (0)
Syed Shah Oct 21, 2018 04:23pm
Shameless promotion without detailing the side effects and risks appropriately.
Recommend (0)
Rizwan Khan Oct 21, 2018 05:42pm
What about the risk of acquiring blood borne viruses including hepatitis B/ C with use of contaminated equipment. Another source of infection
Recommend (0)
Seap Oct 21, 2018 07:13pm
I m suffering from alopecia nd have no eyebrows. Plz someone suggest me best cosmetic surgeon in islmabad
Recommend (0)
Lea Oct 21, 2018 07:15pm
You have to re-do it in a year. Initially it looks very dark (still good if you are watching from a distance) but with time it looks natural. It's usually for women with light, damaged or no eyebrows. So many men hating it in comments but would fall for women who do makeup. Please let us be. Eyebrows, hairstyles and lips speak their own unique language. And it's good to be in control of the image it gives.
Recommend (0)
Amjad Wyne Oct 21, 2018 07:15pm
Make up, hair, clothes, fashion...anyone for education and learning?
Recommend (0)
Ahmed Oct 21, 2018 08:18pm
Please don't go for this! As tomorrow's fashion will change and you will have no choice but to stick to this permanent mark which will be expired in the future!
Recommend (0)
D Oct 21, 2018 09:10pm
@Amer Rao No dear doctors dont do it,these are beauticians,tattoing not done by doctors.
Recommend (0)
Rami Oct 21, 2018 11:55pm
Why trends change, plus, it’s hurt!
Recommend (0)
Dawn Oct 22, 2018 08:50am
Sisters you are pretty why do you need this at all?
Recommend (0)