Both tattoos and permanent makeup can be removed using lasers. In fact, both treatments use a device called a q-switched Nd:Yg laser. Examples of this laser are the Palomar Q-Yag V and the Medlite C6.
The difference between laser tattoo removal and permanent makeup removal is that the inks used for each are different. Tattoo inks are very hearty and difficult to remove. Tattoos are meant to be absolutely permanent and no tattoo artist wants to see his/her work fade. Artists use good quality ink with deep placement and many passes.
Permanent makeup, on the other hand, is not meant to be permanent. Most permanent makeup artists will tell you that the useful life of the work is about 5 years. The inks used in permanent makeup are not as high quality and they are typically easier to remove than tattoo ink (less treatments are required for permanent makeup removal).
There is one curve-ball when removing permanent makeup. The ink used in permanent makeup removal can transition (oxidize) after laser treatment to a different color. The ink can turn orange, pale blue, black or a dark grey. While this process does not change the plan for the removal of the permanent makeup, it does require additional treatments when it happens, and does pose a challenge for the consumer that has the color change. If the color changes, we advise patients to use lipstick, pencils, foundations or other makeup to cover up the new color. The process of covering over the new color may last up to several months while the permanent makeup removal process continues.