When Permanent Makeup Goes Wrong

Please Note: Above image is NOT a client of Dermelite Beauty

When applied correctly, Permanent Makeup (PMU) has the power to enhance a client’s natural features and boost their self-confidence. However, as with any procedure there are risks involved and sometimes things can go wrong. 

In this blog, we will explore the most commonly experienced mistakes in PMU, the steps you can take to avoid an unsatisfactory result and what can be done to correct PMU mishaps.

Microblading has long been the most sought after PMU procedure for quite some time, which is no wonder since when performed correctly, it can give fabulous results. Although this procedure is generally considered relatively safe, there’s always a chance of microblading going wrong when in the hands of an inexperienced PMU Artist.

Now let’s just rewind, PMU is a form of skin tattooing but it is not the same as a traditional tattoo in terms of the method of application or the pigments used. PMU Artists use semi permanent pigments (as opposed to traditional tattoo ink) which are medically tested to be non-allergenic. The PMU pigment is inserted much higher up in the skins layers called the epidermis. This creates a much more natural looking result which fades gradually over time, rather than discolouring as regular tattoos inks are apt to do.

So what are the most common problems with PMU?

Scarring, Allergic Reaction or Infection
If a PMU Artist is not adequately trained, through incorrect pigment application or going too deep into the skin in microblading and PMU can lead to scarring.

Allergic reactions are very rare but can arise if no patch test has been carried out a minimum of 24 hours prior to the procedure and maximum of 3 months prior to the procedure.

Infection is also rare but is a very real risk if your chosen clinic does not meet Health & Hygiene Standards set by the UK Health & Safety Executive (HSE) and their Local Council or if they fail to provide their clients with detailed verbal and written aftercare instructions on how to care for their treated area.

Undesirable Shape or Design

Sadly this is quite a common issue that occurs when PMU artists have not received adequate training in face mapping and pre-draw, particularly when it comes to brows.  A client can be left with uneven, asymmetrical or badly placed arches, brows which are too thick for their faces or which “drag” the corners of their eyes down.
Likewise, with Lip PMU procedures, if an Artist over-lines the lips too much, the colour of the pigment in the skin may differ dramatically from the colour implanted in the lip tissue giving a very unnatural outcome.

Unwanted Tones

An experienced Artist should have a good understanding of the natural undertones of the client’s skin and of the colour composition of the PMU pigments they are using. Healed PMU results will always be a combination of the pigment colour and the client’s undertones meaning it is not uncommon for unwanted blue, grey, orange or pink tones to develop through the wrong choice of pigment selection for Brows. A Lip PMU client with blue undertones to the lips may want to achieve a warmer healed colour but may end up in error, with a cooler blue or purple healed result which is in contrast to their desired outcome.

Quick Fading

Whilst this is not necessarily the fault of either the client or the PMU Artist, some pigment applications can fade extremely fast for several reasons which can leave the client feeling unsatisfied. It is important that prior to your decision to have PMU, it is understood that the majority of clients will need at least two sessions of PMU before having an annual colour boost, however some clients may need to have more subsequent sessions at an additional cost to themselves which may leave the, feeling disgruntled if this is not explained to them from the outset.

What Can You Do To Avoid An Unsatisfactory Result?

  1. Research your Artist/Clinic!
    Friend Referrals and Recommendations are great, as is word of mouth, but make sure you always check out the Artist’s website and social media platforms for Before & After Photos and Reviews. Ask to see an Artists Credentials, Certificates, Council License and Insurance. Most reputable PMU Artists will have these either on display or readily available and they should never withhold this information. Another important reason for doing your own research might be the style which the Artist specialises in. Your niece for example may have gone to a clinic and had some beautiful Powder Brows, however, that Artist may prefer that technique and try to sell an older person Powder Brows when they may have preferred and almost definitely suited a more natural hair stroke brow. If you see Before & After pictures of different shapes and styles of brows and you see some which would suit YOU then you can confidentially take the next step in booking a consultation.
  2. Take Photographs of PMU which you Like/Admire
    Whilst it is the responsibility of the PMU Artist to guide you towards a suitable PMU Treatment by taking into consideration things like your face shape, skin and eye colour, complexion, lifestyle and even personality. Ensure you have taken all necessary steps towards helping them by showing them examples of PMU which you do and don’t like, show them a photo of yourself when you were younger and your brows/lips were fuller. Take along to the consultation your favourite lip colour or brow pencil so they can try to match it.

What Should You Expect From The Consultation/Appointment

  1. A patch test. This can be performed in the Clinic or posted to you and should be done at least 24 hours prior to the appointment.
  2. A Consultation Form asking you to questions about your health, any medications you may be taking or conditions which may effect or inhibit the treatment.
  3. A lengthy discussion about your expectations, your lifestyle, your preferences in terms of shape, colour and size.
  4. A discussion about the colour selection, often accompanied by the PMU Artist applying a thin amount of pigment to your forehead to give you an idea of the colour. They should also explain that the healed colour will be around 40% lighter than the brows or lips will appear immediately after the treatment.
  5. Face Mapping! This is extremely important and you should be offered as much input as possible into this! The Artist will take measurements of your face and draw a template on your eyebrows, lips and even your eyelid (if you are requiring a flick). You will be able to ask your Artist to adjust the thickness, arch, length and the shape of the front of your brows/cupids bow. Not only is this essential for the Artist to use this template as their guide, but it is to give you as much input and idea of the outcome as possible – therefore no surprises!
  6. The Artist should explain what is going to happen throughout the procedure and constantly check that you are comfortable.
  7. All equipment should be pre packaged, sterile, single use only. The Artist should be wearing gloves at all times, a disposable apron and a face mask during the treatment. You should be offered a mask during the treatment if you would like to wear one.

Methods of Removing Unwanted PMU

If you do find yourself in the position where it is necessary to have your PMU removed, you do have options!

Saline Removal is quite successful in removing unwanted PMU pigments. Using a similar technique to the initial PMU procedure this method involves having a saline solution “injected” into the treated area over the unwanted PMU.
Saline removal can also effectively be used as an emergency removal method, which in that case will have to be done within the first 48 hours after the treatment. It is perfect for botched microblading.
After 48 hours however, you will need to wait at least 6 weeks for the brows to completely heal and then start with the removal sessions. 

Glycolic Acid Removal is similar to saline removal, but the solution inserted is different and can often be more aggressive to the skin. Do ask your Removal Technician which product they are using and do your research as some acids can leave the skin healing and pink for up to 3 months.

Laser Tattoo Removal must be done by a laser removal expert. The costs of these sessions will vary and a patch test must be performed to see how your skin and the pigment reacts to the laser. The number of sessions will also depend on your skins reaction and the amount of pigment is needing to be removed.

A final note from Danielle:

Please remember to do as much research as possible to prevent being in the position of needing to correct or remove your PMU. I personally believe that all PMU Artists should be trained to perform removals or correct minor mistakes from the start of the PMU career, sadly this is not always the case. Remember to always avoid unlicensed, self-taught and underqualified “artists”, regardless of how cheap their services may be and ask questions. You should never feel pressured into having a treatment if you are not 100% sure about going ahead.

I initially trained in PMU, including Corrections & Removals, back in 2017 with Naomi O’Hara at The Clinical Academy, Portsmouth and it is with great pleasure that I have now accepted a position as a Trainer myself working alongside my role model, Naomi.

Danielle x

If you are interested in a career yourself in PMU or you want to expand your knowledge by adding Corrections & Removals or advanced Eyeliner, Lip or Brow Treatments to your repertoire, then you can browse their large selection of courses below.


Shop PMU Beauty (formerly The Clinical Academy) is based at 1000 Lakeside North Harbour, Western Road, Cosham, Portsmouth, Hampshire, PO6 3EN

Email: info@shoppmubeauty.com
Phone: +44 (0333) 777 7689

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