Cutting Through the Confusion: The Many Names for Permanent Makeup

Getting permanent makeup (PMU) can be exciting and fun, but it’s also a serious move involving commitment and a degree of risk. Doing your research before getting any type of PMU is a must.

Lots of people realize this and start looking for information, only to find assorted articles, blog posts, and photos describing different procedures.

Micropigmentation, dermal implantation, microblading, brow embroidery: Are they really different? And if so, how?

All the various names can make your research more challenging, so here’s some help to cut through the confusion.

How Did PMU Get So Many Names?

It’s not clear exactly how permanent makeup wound up with so many labels, but my take is that the reasons have a lot to do with the history of PMU and with branding.

Permanent makeup evolved from traditional tattooing. Of course, tattooing can look amazing, but there are some common perceptions about this art form, such as the facts that it lasts a lifetime and that it’s possible for inks to change color and edges to blur over time.

In the 1980s, the early days of permanent makeup, results often weren’t as natural and flattering as the work being done today. Eyebrows, especially, have come a long way. In the ’80s and ’90s cosmetically tattooed brows were often a uniform band of color created from a stencil. The results could look flat and unnatural.

As time went on and technology and artistry developed, smart industry professionals and entrepreneurs probably responded to the negative associations with early examples of cosmetic tattooing and repositioned their services.

Rebranding permanent makeup services helped dispel old stereotypes and increase awareness of the new techniques available.

Rebranding also allowed professionals to create their own name for a service they pioneered or perfected. Branding a technique of applying PMU could differentiate a unique method and establish someone as a leader or expert in using it.

The only problem with branding is that confusion arises when the names aren’t used as intended.

Because of branding and the constant evolution of permanent makeup, you’ll hear a lot of terms used to describe the PMU process.

Do All These Different Names Really Describe the Same Procedure?

The terms might have subtle or even important distinctions, depending on your technician’s usage, training, and professional background.

Permanent makeup is largely an unregulated industry. There are currently no standard industry-wide definition of terms like 6-D brows or eyebrow feathering.

The caption on the photo of those beautiful brows you see online may mean something entirely different to your PMU artist. So, if you’re considering getting PMU, clear communication before your procedure, including the use of photos, is key.

The Many Names for Permanent Makeup

Other names for the overall process of permanent makeup include

  • permanent cosmetics
  • micro-pigmentation
  • semi-permanent cosmetics
  • semi-permanent makeup
  • cosmetic tattooing
  • dermatography
  • paramedical tattooing
  • permanent contouring
  • dermal implantation
  • intradermal pigmentantion

But wait, there are even more names….

Terms for Permanent Eyebrows Only

The terms used specifically to describe eyebrows created with hair-like strokes include:

  • microstroke
  • microblading
  • hair stroke
  • 3D hair stroke (also 3D, 4D, or 6D brows)
  • brow embroidery
  • eyebrow featherig
  • feather touch
  • nano-needling
  • epibrows
  • phibrows
  • HD brows

Techniques that don’t produce individual hair strokes but instead create a more uniform, filled-in, powdery finish for eyebrows are called:

  • microshading
  • ombre
  • filled
  • soft fill

Eyebrows that combine the individual hair strokes of microblading with the uniform finish of microshading can be referred to as

  • half and half
  • combination
  • combo brows

A lot of people ask, “Is microblading the same as permanent makeup?” The short answer is yes. Microblading is essentially a type of permanent makeup that uses hand-held tools with needles or blades to create natural-looking, individual hair-like strokes. Although these hair strokes look different from the band or line of solid color typical of other types of PMU such as eyeliner, microblading uses the same pigments and is usually performed by artists trained in a variety of PMU techniques. Both microblading and other PMU techniques deposit pigment into uppermost layers of the skin to allow for gradual fading over time.

Permanent vs. Semi Permanent

It would be a mistake to leave the subject of confusing names without touching on the use of both permanent and semi-permanent makeup to describe cosmetic tattooing. Which is accurate?

This topic can be debated endlessly, but I think the takeaway is this: A modern cosmetic tattoo should be considered permanent because it makes lifelong changes to the skin. But, in most cases, any pigment in the skin gradually fades away completely to the naked eye over a period of months or years, making it essentially semi-permanent.

To Sum Up…

Keep the excitement and ditch the fear by doing your research and taking charge of clear communication with your technician. Don’t forget to take those photos to your appointment and explain what about them you like.

Whatever you decide to do, I wish you great success in getting the eyebrows of your dreams!

What Do You Think?

What’s your take on all the assorted names for permanent makeup? Do you think they’re confusing, or do they convey subtle distinctions that are helpful in communicating what you want?

Is there another aspect to this issue you’d like to mention?

Please share in the Comments section below! I’ll be sure to respond.

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    • Thanks so much for your comment, Indu Suthar. I’m glad you found the article helpful.
      All the best,

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