Who’s Getting PMU? Demographics of Permanent Makeup and Microblading Clients

Permanent makeup (PMU) and microblading have been enjoying a wave of popularity. The demand for microblading, especially, has exploded.  This news might lead someone to wonder, Who’s getting permanent eyebrows?  

What makes it challenging to answer this question is that regulation of permanent makeup (including microblading) varies according to local laws.  In many places PMU technicians can be unlicensed or unregulated.  This status can impact reporting about clientele.

Because of the unique niche of PMU services (which share a common history with traditional tattooing), demographics of microblading and permanent makeup clients aren’t collected by medical societies, public health organizations, or insurance companies.  It’s hard to find reliable statistics on microblading and permanent makeup clients.

Still, with some detective work, it’s possible to see trends in the demographics of microblading and permanent makeup clients.  Here’s a look at some of the people behind the phenomenon.

Younger People

These folks can feel pressure to look good at all times, thanks to the prevalence of social media. Who knows when your image will be permanently captured on someone’s phone? And who knows where your face will be seen after that?  Microblading and permanent makeup can help keep people camera-ready.

Another by-product of social media is the desire for selfie-worthy brows. Many people, especially in the younger demographic groups, want to see and share outstanding travel destinations, meals, and yes, even eyebrows.
Young people also tend to set and follow trends. Samantha Rill, RN, a permanent makeup specialist, says, “The younger generation sees the eyebrow and eyeliner trends and decide they want to have it, so I just keep seeing that age group increase.”

Eyebrow styles are constantly shifting and at the time I’m writing, a thicker brow has been popular for a few years. Young people not blessed with naturally full brows have more options than ever, including microblading, to enhance them. 

The increasing popularity of PMU among younger people may partly be the result of improved techniques that avoid the harsh and unnatural permanent eyebrows of the past.
“A few years ago, my demographic was women somewhere between 45 and 70 years old, and now I see a lot of 18- to 20-year-olds,” Samantha says.

Another cause of younger folks’ interest could be the ability of PMU artists and clients to share before and after photos on their websites and on Instagram, thus engaging a technology- and social media-savvy audience.

A further possible reason for the increase in the younger demographic getting PMU is their familiarity and acceptance of traditional tattoos. According to ScienceDaily, “30% of 16-34 year olds in the [European Union] have tattoos. In the US, 40% of the same age population have at least one tattoo.” The idea of getting a cosmetic tattoo may not be as intimidating for someone who’s already gone through the process of getting a traditional tattoo.

Older People

The people who are now “of a certain age” were some of the original pioneers of the permanent makeup movement. These brave individuals made up a large segment of those who got cosmetic tattoos in the 1980s and 1990s. Results were mixed. Dissatisfaction with color distortion during fading was one of the most common complaints.

Now that equipment, techniques, and artistry have evolved, people of a certain age can reconsider permanent makeup and microblading to get help for issues that especially affect this demographic. These include:

Over-plucking. Older people have lived through one or more style cycles that favored thin brows. To get the thin look of the time, many women would pluck their brows repeatedly, sometimes leading to follicle death and eyebrows that now look sparse, patchy, or dated.

Permanent makeup can be tailored to individual clients to restore thinning eyebrows. And, when designed by a talented, experienced technician, PMU eyebrows can even give a visible “lift” to the eyes and face, creating a refreshed look. When compared with surgical and other nonsurgical procedures like fillers, microblading and permanent makeup give a lot of bang for the buck.

Natural Effects of Aging. What happens to the hair on our scalp can also happen to our brows as we grow older. Individual eyebrow hairs tend to be thinner, and some may stop growing altogether, contributing to a sparse look.

Aside from the genetic and hormonal reasons older people find themselves with thin eyebrows, they’re more likely to have certain health histories (like thyroid disorders) and to require certain medications (like blood thinners) that are associated with hair loss.

Like hair loss in general, eyebrow thinning doesn’t happen to every older person, but it happens to enough folks to create a demand for a solution. An increasingly popular one in this demographic is microblading or other permanent makeup for eyebrows.

Permanent makeup and microblading are effective on skin of all ages. “We have older women in our salon all the time and we have great results. The best thing you can do is look at the artist’s portfolio or Instagram to see if the artist has worked on skin similar to yours in age and tone and texture,” says Lindsey Ta, a PMU artist.

Busy People

One of the most often mentioned benefits of permanent makeup is that having it saves time. It seems that juggling multiple roles is the norm these days, and fewer people have time to use makeup. Still, some folks are going to wear makeup regardless of the cost in time or money.

There are advantages to looking our best, whatever that means to each individual. For some people wearing makeup is essential to play their part in their chosen profession. For others, it lifts their mood or boosts their confidence. Still others enjoy the self-expression and artistry of wearing makeup.

Permanent makeup is an option for those who want to wear makeup but don’t have the time to put it on every day. Busy parents, career folks, and students are a few types of people who get microblading and permanent makeup to save valuable time getting ready for their day.

Those With an Active Lifestyle

Athletes, fitness buffs, and outdoor enthusiasts of all kinds are another group of people who benefit from PMU and microblading.

How amazing is it that someone can look and feel great while backpacking in a remote area, competing in a bodybuilding event, or swimming all day? Sweating and getting wet are no problem for those who wear PMU. Unlike conventional makeup, PMU doesn’t run, rub off, or fade during demanding physical activities.

One caveat is that while the skin is healing from a microblading or permanent makeup service, people are advised to temporarily avoid excessive sweating and exposure to water containing salt or chlorine.

People with Health Issues or Disabilities

So many of us are living with medical conditions that cause eyebrow loss. Lots of diseases and disorders can cause complete or partial brow loss, including thyroid disease, cancer (chemotherapy), various types of alopecia, and trichotillomania. Sometimes the brow loss is temporary, and in some cases it’s permanent.

Many others among us have medical issues or physical disabilities that limit our ability to put on makeup. Poor eyesight is a limitation to applying conventional makeup. So is any condition that causes a tremor in the hands, such as Parkinson disease or multiple sclerosis, or any type of paralysis, such as that caused by a stroke or an accident.

Allergies are another health issue that cause people to consider PMU. I asked my PMU technician about the possibility of having an allergic reaction to the pigments used during microblading. She said it was extremely unlikely and, in fact, some of her clients have been referred by dermatologists because the clients had severe allergic reactions to conventional (temporary) makeup.

All Gender Identities

Having great brows isn’t a gender-specific desire. Almost everyone wants to look their best, at least for certain occasions, and it seems that more people–regardless of gender–are coming to realize that eyebrows have a powerful impact on our overall look and identity.

Women have traditionally been the major segment of the permanent makeup client base. But more men have been seeking services. Salon owner Hillary Evans says she’s noticed that men’s microblading and permanent makeup services are becoming more popular and that these services can help minimize the appearance of men’s scalp hair thinning and loss.

Eyebrow grooming, including microblading, is catching on among men. Some are looking for a stronger, more masculine brow, and some are just looking for improved shape or symmetry.  Others want every possible advantage in a competitive environment.

No Typical Client

Our search for a profile of the typical permanent makeup client has led us to discover diversity in age, lifestyle, areas of interest, disability status, and gender.   People have a wide variety of reasons for wanting services.  PMU and microblading clients can no longer be pigeon-holed into one demographic group.

This diversity is noticed by Abby Crystal, a cosmetic tattooist in New Zealand, who says, “I get clients from all walks of life, from those wanting to boost what they already have to those wanting to create a completely new look for themselves. I get people who want a permanent makeup look to no-fuss clients who just want definition where they mightn’t have had it before. When it comes the brow tattoo … there is no ‘typical’ client.”

Abby’s comments jibe with the observations in a training academy in the United Kingdom: “Your typical client base is very wide and can include anything from ladies in their 20s to more mature women who have thinning eyebrows.”
So to answer the question, Who’s getting permanent eyebrows, we can safely say, Just about anyone.

What Do You Think?

Maybe you fall into one or more of the categories we just looked at. Please share your experience as a younger, older, busy, active, differently abled, or male permanent makeup client!

Maybe you’ve had PMU or microblading but you don’t fall into any of these categories. Shame on me for overlooking you (but I want to learn)! Tell your story in the Comments section below.

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