Many people these days have one, or sometimes many body tattoos. However, because cosmetic tattoo is, in most circumstances facial (designed to be worn as permanent makeup) there is still quite a lot of fear and mystery surrounding it. I am constantly asked by those considering, “is cosmetic tattoo painful?”, if the needles are large, what happens if you move whilst I’m tattooing, etcetera. So here, whilst it’s very fresh on my mind (and skin – as I had my brows tattooed one week ago!) is exactly what you can expect to happen in your appointment.

Firstly, when you come in, you have either

a) drawn your brows on as you would like them – this is if you are experienced and competent and eyebrow makeup, and have a definite shape that you are wanting tattooed,


b) if you are not sure, you will apply EMLA numbing cream for about 1 hour prior to the appointment

Then, you will be given a consultation form to fill out – it is quite thorough, to make sure that you are aware of all aspects of the procedure, what to expect, after care, and so that I know what you are wanting from your procedure in as much detail as possible. At this point, we will discuss any images you have brought in (of eyebrows that you like) or photographs from my cosmetic tattoo portfolio.

After this, if you have drawn your brows on prior, I will take some measurements and photographs, and if I think any improvements (I.e. symmetry, shape) could be made, I will make suggestions and may make corrections to what you have drawn. If you aren’t sure of the shape, this is when I will design the brows for you – taking into account your face shape, existing brows, complexion and overall features. I will take some measurements to ensure they are as symmetrical as possible, and once we have agreed on a final shape (ultimately it is your decision – but I will always voice my opinion on what I think suits you aesthetically), I will take some photos of the ‘drawn brows’

We would have already discussed colour during your consultation, so whilst you are relaxing on the therapy table, I will mix up a customised pigment blend and select pre-packaged, pre-sterilised new needles for the procedure. Health and safety are of paramount important to me, so I will be washing hands, and donning myself with gloves, apron, mask and head magnifier/shield at this point (that’s me, not Darth Vader coming at you with a tattoo machine!) I will tell you when I am about to begin tattooing, so you are prepared.

Most people are quite nervous of the pain but pleasantly surprised that it is more of an irritation/annoying tickle for the first minutes. The tattoo machine itself is tiny – not much larger than a pen! And the needles are smaller and finer than those used in traditional body tattooing, and do not penetrate as deeply.

The first 5 minutes are the most uncomfortable; as I have to firmly outline the shape I have drawn before any more numbing cream is used. Once this is applied, the area goes almost completely numb, and the rest of the procedure will be a lot more comfortable.

For the next 20-45 minutes, depending on how dark/wide the tattooed area is, and whether I am using the block/powder fill method of cosmetic tattoo or hair stroke/feathering method, you will feel a firm pressure over your skin, and a gentle scratching feeling. Some people feel nothing at all; some tend to feel more on the first few strokes near the nose, and some more on the outer corners over the brow bone. I will check with you regularly that you are not feeling much discomfort, and will stop and manage it if you are. If you have a tendency to startle or to move, I will notice this early on, and be prepared for it. The gripping techniques that I use will ensure there is no slippage and that the pigment is put only where I want it to go – into the pre-designed shape. You won’t be able to wriggle away that easily!

Usually at least twice during the procedure, I will show you the effect so far in the mirror – so that you are assured that things are going as planned, and that any discomfort you are feeling is for a great result!

The actual tattooing can sometimes take a little longer if I am doing hair strokes, as I will have to add one hair at a time to build a complete and nicely filled shape, but to keep the hair like texture.

At the end, I will clean the brow area of excess pigment, and sometimes place a cool compress over the area if you have experienced any swelling.

I will photograph the results, and explain to you that the colour you see now is much brighter, and much darker than the healed result. Generally the colour fades/calms down by up to 50% – more for lighter colours.

I will apply a soothing cream to the area, which for you will probably feel a little bit tender for the next hour of so. Most people are fine to continue about their daily activities directly afterwards – immediately after my appointment, I had to return to work for several hours, which was totally fine. The brows themselves are really just tender to touch, and this feeling is gone by the next day.

At this point I will spend some time explaining the after care to you (which basically involves diligently wiping the brows for the next couple of hours and applying a cream) and I will also schedule your retouch appointment I myself have a fairly low pain tolerance, and have had my eyebrows tattooed twice in the past 7 years. Whilst I did not find the experience thoroughly enjoyable, it was entirely bearable (much better than a trip to the dentist or laser hair removal!) and so worth it. Not having to draw my brows on every single day saves me an incredible amount of time and frustration each day – and they are better and more precise than I could ever draw on myself!

Would you like to see a cosmetic tattooing session in action? Here’s a complete video, incorporating consultation, drawing/designing the brows, as well as the actual tattoo procedure. In it, I demonstrate the hair stroke/feathering technique, as well as the powder fill technique.  If you are considering this procedure, viewing the video will show you exactly what happens in a cosmetic tattoo procedure, and will probably put you much more at ease.