PMU vs Traditional Tattoo: How is the Implementation Process Different?

PMU vs Traditional Tattoo: How is the Implementation Process Different?


While there are some similarities between permanent makeup and traditional tattoos, let's take a look at the main differences between permanent makeup and traditional tattoos.

PMU vs Traditional Tattoo: How is the Implementation Process Different?
When you are just entering the PMU industry, the difference between permanent makeup and tattoos can be confusing. Both are meant to break up the surface of the skin and apply color to it. Both are designed to have a lasting effect on the skin.

So why isn't permanent makeup just called a face tattoo?

Well, while permanent makeup and traditional tattoos have some similarities, they are different in many ways, and clients often ask to know what those differences are, to make sure they don't get stuck with eyebrow or eyeliner tattoos, which they might get tired of for the rest of their lives.

So let's take a look at the main differences between permanent makeup and traditional tattoos.


Traditional tattoos are done with a tattoo gun. Permanent makeup is done using a permanent makeup machine (or a manual blade in the case of micro blades).

Tattoo machines are mainly used to tattoo the skin on the body, which varies in thickness but is always thicker than the skin on the face. Therefore, tattoo machines require more power than PMU machines. They have stronger engines and higher torque and saturate the skin with ink more intensely than PMU machines.

To put it bluntly, if you put both machines on the skin at the same time, the tattoo machine will pierce more.

PMU machines are used for facial skin: eyebrows, eyelids, and lips. All three areas are very thin and delicate, so the PMU machine has to be gentler. Compared to a tattoo machine, it works slower and has fewer piercings per second. This allows for less intense saturation - such thin skin requires a smaller amount of color to bring out the desired shade.

For these reasons, some tattoo machines cannot be used with PMUs, but always check the specifications. Likewise, a PMU machine cannot be used for body art tattoos as it will not pierce enough to increase the color saturation to the density required for body art tattoos.


Traditional tattoos use permanent ink. Permanent makeup uses PMU pigments.

Here's the thing: Pigment is the base of both recipes. Pigments are colorants in powder form that can be mixed with different carriers to form a liquid that can be applied to the skin. So tattoo ink is technically a pigment too, but they have different names to differentiate pmu from traditional tattoo recipes.

Concentration difference

Tattoo inks contain very high doses of pigments, and they are blended with many ingredients that ensure color stability and prevent fading. In addition to pigments (water-insoluble colorants), they may also contain dyes (water-soluble colorants). They can contain many different colors mixed together to get the desired shade.

For tattoo inks, want to get as opaque, bright, and vivid colors as possible. You want the results to stand out on the skin, not blend in. With a PMU, you want the opposite. The color should blend into the skin and take on a more blended look.

This is why the PMU pigment concentration is lower. The colors used in the PMU are mostly browns and reds and rose tones (for the lips), so the palette is mostly created by mixing fewer colors. These formulas are simpler than tattoo inks because no ingredients that prevent color fading are required.

Granularity difference

However, the biggest difference between the formulas is the size of the particles. The molecules of tattoo ink are larger than those of PMU pigments. This is the main reason why PMUs can disappear faster than traditional tattoos. The body can break down and absorb the PMU pigment molecules (though not all of the ingredients), while the tattoo ink stays put.

Precautions on permanent makeup

Due to differences in the implementation of traditional tattoos and permanent makeup, there was a significant difference in the longevity of the results.

Body art tattoos last for decades. While they do fade to some extent and require a refresh to keep the colors bright and vivid, they will likely last a lifetime. That's the point - if you have a body tattoo, you want it to last as long as possible, and it's cool to have it for the rest of your life.

But with a PMU, you don't want the results to last forever. Cosmetic tattoos generally fade within 1-3 years, although it will vary depending on your body chemistry and other factors. While some residue will stay in the skin longer, the effect will not be noticeable after a few years.

This is a huge advantage as it allows customers to change the look from time to time according to changing trends and personal preferences.

The above briefly introduces the difference between permanent makeup and tattoos. If you want to buy permanent makeup tools or pigments, please contact us.

Charming Tattoo is a leading custom PMU and tattoo tools and ink manufacturer. Our R&D engineers have 20 years of experience in the development of permanent makeup inks and micro-scratch pigments. We have professional production equipment and a 100,000-level dust-free workshop in line with ISO9001 standards. We provide a professional product, packaging, post-design, and professional pigment knowledge support.
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