Sun Exposure and Permanent Makeup: Myths vs. Reality

A couple standing on a beach on a hot sunny day

Sun Exposure and Permanent Makeup: Myths vs. Reality

The popularity of permanent makeup is undeniable. From eyebrow microblading for perfectly shaped and filled brows to permanent lip blush and lip liner that looks natural, permanent makeup offers results that refine these features and eliminate time spent with your daily morning makeup ritual. Who doesn’t want to look great anytime with no fuss? The bonus: there are numerous studies about permanent makeup safety.

One such study “Complications of permanent makeup procedures for the eyebrow and eyeline” (May 2021) concluded that “The infection rate was quite low (0.2%), and no allergies were observed. Furthermore, clients were highly satisfied with the eyebrow and eyeline makeup. Therefore, we conclude that if the proper environment, equipment, and techniques are used, permanent makeup procedures would be safe and well-received.”

While the benefits of long-lasting, beautiful brows and lips are attractive to adult clients of all ages, one aspect of this common and safe beauty enhancement, sun exposure during the healing period and beyond, is often misunderstood.

Anxious, would-be permanent makeup clients may believe or misunderstand myths about permanent makeup and sun exposure. They may shy away from treatments because they’ve read or been advised that after getting permanent makeup, they should go to great lengths to avoid direct sunlight at all costs. Is this fact or fiction?

Below, we dispel the myths and provide clarity based on science and experience, not speculation.

Sun Avoidance vs. Sun Protection

As mentioned above, the conventional (and often misunderstood advice) is to avoid direct sun exposure after getting permanent makeup, thereby minimizing the risk of hyperpigmentation. The caution is sometimes given because permanent makeup and other forms of tattooing create micro-wounds in the skin. These “wounds” are tiny, though can be susceptible in some cases to changes in skin colouration when exposed to the sun.

Hyperpigmentation – darkening of the skin – can occur if the healing skin is exposed to intense sunlight, though the risk is not universal! Not everyone who undergoes a permanent makeup procedure experiences hyperpigmentation or other complications because of sun exposure, though some people are more susceptible than others.

Post-Permanent Makeup Hyperpigmentation Risk Factors

People with darker skin tones are more susceptible to post-permanent makeup treatment hyperpigmentation when compared to the lower risk of complications that occur in lighter skinned folks, such as Caucasians. The skin, hair and eye colour of different ethnicities is determined by the amount of melanin present in their bodies. Darker-skinned people have skin with more melanin, which can react more severely under some circumstances to the treatment. Complications can include inflammation, hyperpigmentation (darkening), hypopigmentation (lightening) and texture changes, such as skin fibrosis (a thickening of the skin in the treatment area). These possible negative outcomes are not a certainty and can be minimized.

Factors that can increase the risk of skin complications in darker skinned individuals (and some lighter skinned people) include:

  • A history of skin discolouration, fibrosis or keloid scarring (thick, raised scars) after surgery.
  • A history of hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation after skin disorders such as eczema, psoriasis, or after cuts, burns, scrapes, insect bites, and other cosmetic procedures. Hypopigmentation (skin lightening after damage to skin) is more noticeable in dark-skinned people because of the contrast between their natural skin colour and the lighter coloured scar tissue.
  • The knowledge and technique of the aesthetic technician doing the permanent makeup.

Read more about hypopigmentation and hyperpigmentation complications in dark-skinned people:
Understanding How Hyperpigmentation Affects Black Skin” (Healthline, July 6, 2021).
What is Hypopigmentation” (Medical News Today, November 28, 2023).

For all skin types, some areas of the face, such as lips, are more prone to hyperpigmentation. Lips contain more melanin and are therefore more susceptible to pigment changes after permanent makeup, especially when exposed to intense sunlight during the healing period.

Sun Exposure Protection After Permanent Makeup Procedures

Instead of employing a strict “one-size-fits-all” strategy such as avoiding the sun entirely after a permanent makeup procedure, a less drastic approach that still minimizes risk for all skin types makes more sense. It’s easier, minimally disruptive to lifestyle, and makes it more likely that clients will follow the recommendations for skin protection. Halcyon Cosmetic & Skin Clinic uses this kind of measured approach, which includes using broad-spectrum sunscreen with a high SPF, wearing protective clothing (caps/hats, UV blocking sunglasses), and avoiding prolonged exposure to the sun, especially during peak hours.

The reality is that all people, regardless of skin type, should protect their skin from the sun anyway because of its effects on skin aging and increased risk of skin cancer.

Darker-skinned individuals having any permanent makeup treatment, or anyone having permanent lip blush/lip liner should also include additional precautions: have your permanent makeup done when the weather forecasts aren’t predicting extreme heat and sunshine in the few weeks after your treatment; don’t leave for a tropical vacation during that healing period.

Pigment Breakdown

Pigment breakdown and fading is another misunderstood topic and there is a lot of well-intentioned yet misinformed guidance. UV radiation can degrade some pigments, but many modern pigments resist fading. It all depends on the pigments used. Modern pigments have additional ingredients that help prevent fading. Reasonable measures to protect skin from sun damage (and we all should anyway) also plays an important role in making pigment vibrancy long-lasting.

Protect Yourself with Knowledge!

The issue of sun exposure and permanent makeup is less complicated and more subtle than people often assume. To minimize risk of complications:

  • Understand personal risk factors for your skin type.
  • Proactively protect your skin from sun exposure at all times as described, but especially after a permanent makeup treatment.
  • Research permanent makeup clinics before you get a procedure.
  • Book a consultation with a clinic and ask questions.
  • Follow the clinic’s recommendations.
  • Take web articles with a grain of salt if an experienced clinician hasn’t written them.
  • Don’t take advice from YouTubers and Instagram influencers if they don’t have the credentials to back what they advise.

Book a Permanent Makeup Consultation at Halcyon Cosmetic & Skin Clinic

If you have concerns or questions about permanent makeup or permanent makeup aftercare, we offer a free consultation. We love questions and give easy-to-understand answers! Our clinic is located in Port Moody and convenient to people living in Coquitlam and Port Coquitlam.

Book a Free Permanent Makeup Consultation


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