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Cosmetic tattoo vs traditional tattoo

Cosmetic tattoo vs traditional tattoo

cosmetic tattoo vs traditional tattoo , what is the difference?

I get asked this question a lot, although cosmetic tattoo also implants colour into the skin like a traditional tattoo it is also very different.


cosmetic tattoo machine and procedure


Traditional tattoo machine and procedure (sourced from google)

The tattoo machine / gun
As you can see from the pictures above the machine used to do the procedures looks completely different and they are.

The top picture is of a cosmetic tattoo machine, yes we call it a machine and not a “gun”. I learnt this on my first day of basic training and my lovely teacher was not impressed when ever someone slipped up and called it a gun so we learnt early on “IT”S A MACHINE”.

Not all cosmetic tattoo machines look like the one in the first pic. Some use a pen tool like the one pictured, others use a rotary and some even use a coil (like traditional tattoo artists).
But you would never use such a powerful machine for cosmetic tattoo. The skin on the face (especially the eyes and lips) is very delicate and thinner than the rest of the body, imagine using a powerful, traditional gun for eyeliner. It would vibrate a lot making it hard to perfect a beautiful winged liner.
The power behind a traditional coil tattoo gun could easily do damage to the delicate eye area.
Some technicians will even use a hand tool without any power like this one below.


Traditional tattoo artists are not trained in cosmetic tattoo and most will not perform these procedures (thank god).
The techniques and tools used are different and the delicate skin around eyes , lips etc is different too so separate training is needed.

The needles
Tattoo needles come many different sizes, lengths , diameters and configurations. Generally the needles used in cosmetic tattoo are smaller and thinner so we can can create the fine lines needed and to cause the least amount of trauma to the face possible.
I personally use cartridges like in the 2nd picture below, they are single use, sterile cartridges. Which means you don’t have to worry about sterilising them yourself you simply dispose of them after each client. Some technicians or traditional artists do still use needles that you autoclave .


Traditional tattoo needles used with a coil machine, can be re used when autoclaved (sterilised)


Disposable (one use) cartridges used for cosmetic tattoo.

Often Cosmetic tattoo technicians will use anaesthetic gels and creams to make the procedure as painless as possible. Traditional tattoo artists don’t.
I always tell my clients they will definitely feel something but I don’t think it is as painful as a traditional tattoo because of the anaesthetics we use. In saying that, every person is different and one person might find a procedure absolutely painless while the next person could think the same procedure was painful.

Inks vs pigments
Cosmetic tattoo pigments are different to tattoo inks.
They do not last as long, cosmetic tattoo treatments fade over time and although traditional tattoos can fade too cosmetic tattoo does fade faster.
Traditional tattoo inks contain carbon which generally doesn’t fade. Some cosmetic tattoo technicians have been known to use carbon for eye liner to get the blackest black possible. But this is always a risk! Carbon can migrate under the skin which can leave you looking like your eye liner has smudged and IT”S PERMANENT!
Although the thought of using permeant ink for cosmetic tattoo sounds good in theory (never having to retouch), keep in mind as we age the skin on our face changes (c’mon ladies everything sags right?) So what might look like a beautiful winged liner today might look like a droopy black mark sagging next to our eye in 10 years. And that gorgeous arched eyebrow won’t be sitting so high, and that beautiful pink lip is not very fashion forward 5 years from now.
So it’s definitely a good thing that our pigments fade over time and we re touch them and even change them slightly over the years.
The colours used in traditional tattoo are usually primary and secondary colours while in cosmetic tattoo we generally use tertiary colours that aren’t as bright and are more suitable for the face.

blogtertiary colours

So Cosmetic tattoo is the same as traditional tattoo BUT Also DIFFERENT!

Author Info

Meredith Shepherd

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