Latest trends in semi-permanent make-up: faux freckles, lip blush and whip shading

Semi-permanent make-up has come a long way from the blocky brows, harsh eyeliner and frosted lips that it was known for in the past. The sector is now home to highly skilled and creative technicians who are turning the procedures into real artistry. 

“Brow treatments have improved beyond all measure, with new needles that can design perfect ombré, realistic hair strokes and combination pixel procedures, creating everything from the most natural to dramatic ‘fashion’ brows,” says Dawn Forshaw, chief executive of Finishing Touches Group, which offers SPMU and micropigmentation training.

One of the most game-changing developments in the industry is needles that carry a pigment cartridge, meaning techs no longer have to dip into pigment for every hair stroke. “We can now offer ‘no dip’ brows and we have new flexible needles to create superfine simulated hair strokes, while new pigments mean brows don’t alter in colour over time; they simply fade,” adds Forshaw. 

But it’s not just semi-permanent brow treatments that have improved dramatically in recent years – “We have new eyeliner techniques that allow us to really enhance the lashes, and lips can now look very subtle with colours that last,” adds Forshaw.

With so many exciting developments to give clients better results than ever before, Forshaw wants more focus to be placed on the safety of semi-permanent make-up (SPMU) treatments. “What clients need to be educated about are safe procedures. 2019 has seen many good SPMU schools globally link together in support of our Safety in Micropigmentation campaign, devised to raise awareness of the importance of safe devices, needles and pigments,” she says. Read on for the latest treatment developments.

How to create faux freckles

“When I look back at how the industry was five years ago, all there was were treatments for eyebrows, eyes and lips, and it was always quite a blocky effect,” says permanent make-up specialist Sian Dellar. 

Dellar has recently seen an influx of clients requesting faux freckles, sometimes dubbed “the Markle sparkle” thanks to the Duchess of Sussex Meghan Markle’s freckled skin. “Five years ago, there was no such treatment. Today, there’s a whole host of other procedures such as freckles and foundation, which are becoming increasingly popular. The industry has evolved a lot,” says Dellar. 

Semi-permanent freckles only take around 15-20 minutes because the aim is a very subtle effect, really more of a “lunchtime tweakment”. It’s done with a machine by implanting pigment just under the second layer of the skin for a soft-focus finish, explains Dellar: “It can be done in any colour of the client’s choice and the good thing is that if they already have freckles and they’re not so prominent, we can just go over them in the same shade to make them darker.” 

Rather than the “colouring in” procedures of days gone by, Dellar says SPMU artists are now able to create far more natural-looking results, thanks to advanced apparatus and creative innovation around the world. While she credits the US with the creation of the SPMU freckle trend, other experts look to Asia for the latest techniques that are taking off. 

Kim Hunjan, creative director of LV College, an academy that specialises in semi-permanent make-up, teaches a new SPMU foundation treatment from South Korea called BB Glow. 

“Over the past two years, the SPMU industry has blown up, and Korean techniques are always strides ahead,” says Hunjan. “We now have the knowledge to make the skin glow and look smoother, and to create natural-looking beauty spots and freckles,” she says. 

How to create the perfect glow

It’s a huge increase in the quality of pigments, coupled with a far better understanding about the intricacies of placing pigment in the skin, that is making treatments like BB Glow possible. 

“We can now fully transform the face from start to finish, including a dewy foundation look,” says Hunjan. “BB Glow uses a light foundation-like pigment combined with mesotherapy to create beautiful, flawless and glowing skin for months.” 

In LV College’s BB Glow treatment, the skin is cleansed and exfoliated before a serum containing pigment, epidermal growth factor and vitamins is implanted into it. A soothing mask and healing balm are applied to finish the treatment. “Thanks to Instagram influencers, people want skin that looks Photoshopped in real life, and our course teaches students how to achieve this with ease,” says Hunjan. 

Advances in SPMU technology have led to much more business in recent years, and more interest from clients in new procedures, says Hunjan. “Most of the treatments now are super-fast, painless and have soothing elements. This means that clients are coming back for more top-ups.

How to create the lip blush effect

Gone are the days of ice pink lips with harsh brown liner. “When I first started in the ’90s, it was all about lip liner, that Pamela Anderson look with a different colour on the border to the one in the middle,” says Karen Betts, chief executive of K.B Pro, which delivers SMPU training programmes and has a range of pigments. 

“Things have become a lot softer now with colour diffusion; those harsh lines look really old fashioned.” Diffusion and blending are the keywords when it comes to modern lip tattooing, with artists now able to create a blushed, 3D effect that enhances a client’s natural lips rather than painting over them. 

Betts explains that rather than an obvious lip liner look, technicians can now reconstruct or touch up a client’s natural lip border, with the colour practically invisible and blending through to the lips. “If someone does want a darker colour now, it’s blended in to create more of a 3D effect, with a slightly more vibrant tone of the same shade on the outer edges where you can blend in to make areas look lighter or darker and create contour,” she says. 

Some technicians – although not Betts herself – are also promoting their lip treatments as an alternative to filler because of the fairly recent ability to create dimension, shape and the illusion of plumper lips. Betts does, however, market her expertise in placing colour and definition back into the natural boundaries of the lips to her 40-plus-aged clientele. “Permanent make-up complements lip filler perfectly, because there’s no point having it if there’s no lip boundary – the practitioner needs to know where to place the filler,” she says. 

The expanding market of SPMU for lips

Betts says SPMU lip treatments are now much more accessible to men for the same reasons; technicians can work with the lips’ natural tones to add very subtle colour and shape back into ageing lips – with no danger of it looking as though the client is wearing lipstick. 

“We can now add a really soft hue of their natural tone. We want them to look like they’ve got natural lip tone, which has a lot of hues of purple, blue and grey. We can use a very translucent pigment and dilute it down,” explains Betts. 

SPMU lip treatments have evolved so much, yet many prospective clients are still in the dark about what can be achieved using the advanced techniques and superior pigments now available. “Not many people actually know that these lip treatments are being done, but I’m aiming to get more awareness out,” says Betts. 

“Artists who already have a strong brow business and are specialist trained in lip techniques should talk to every existing client about what can be done with their lips. That’s really the simplest and most effective way to start building up lip clients.” 

How to create whip shading in brows

When most people think of semi-permanent make-up, they think of brows. SPMU innovators are hard at work refining and perfecting the latest techniques to keep up with fast-moving brow trends, developing ways to create every client’s dream brows. Semi-permanent make-up expert Tracie Giles is heralding whip shading as the hottest new trend, a technique that aims to create the softest and most natural-looking hair-stroke brows. 

“Microblading is everywhere now but whip shading came about because when you make hair strokes on someone who doesn’t have hair in the background it can often look flat,” says Giles. “Whip shading allows you to add dimension and texture”. 

Whip shading is a technique that’s long been popular with tattoo artists to get a faded, gradient finish. In SPMU, the artist stacks lots of lines on top of each other, flicking upwards and moving the needle round in a loop to build up colour, all while barely touching the skin. “You’re not working in the skin but skimming across the top; it’s like trying to skim a pebble across a lake. We use a nano-needle and the hand works at the same speed as the needle; it’s like a continual brushing to build strokes upwards,” explains Giles. 

The effect is as if the artist has scattered dust over the skin – soft, pretty and as if the brows have had a little colour applied and then been simply brushed into shape. “The artist can decide to whip shade more in some areas than others,” says Giles, “In the spine of the brow where the hairs grow to meet, for example, we could whip shade more as it’s slightly darker and you’d then get that graduation of colour that gives much more realism to the brow.” 

The evolving skills it takes to be a SPMU artist

Giles’s most advanced technicians have got whip shading down to a fine art, extending its application to semi-permanent liner and applying tiny pixellations of colour throughout the lash line. “We go through the lash line and take it out into a flick, following the placement of the last lashes, whip shading slightly more towards the lashes and less into the lid to give a soft graduation of colour,” says Giles, adding “It’s really advanced and not all of my artists to do it. They practise on an inflated balloon and if it pops they know they’re applying too much pressure.” 

Giles is excited by the innovation in the SPMU industry, and notes that the skillset required to stay at the top of the game is becoming increasingly diverse: “The technology, pigments, devices and trends are always changing. The kinds of effects that we are able to deliver are going to take the industry into such high degrees of skill and artistry.”