The goods For those who weren't born natural beauties, permanent cosmetics -- actually, strategically applied tattoos -- can sound appealing. While these can be used to mask scars or color an areola on a reconstructed breast after mastectomy, most women approach them simply as long-lasting makeup. Who wouldn't want to tumble out of bed with rose lips, arched brows and eyeliner already in place?

Someone, perhaps, who's read a recent Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning.

The bad At least 50 people have had reactions -- including "swelling, cracking, peeling, blistering," scarring and chronically inflamed masses of tissue -- to some permanent makeup inks made by Premier Products of Arlington, Tex., a leading manufacturer, according to the FDA.

Castro Valley, Calif., real estate agent Nancy Erfan said she developed so severe an allergic reaction to Premier pigments after having her eyes and lips done in November that she's had to eat from a baby spoon since. So far, she's had three laser treatments on her lips (image at right) and two on her eyelids to try to rid her face of the irritants.

Premier Products president Sandi Hammons said all allergic reactions were tied to a single line of inks that the company recalled in July 2003. (The FDA cites three lines; Hammons said the other two caused problems only when used in conjunction with the recalled line.) Hammons said the industry was getting "a bad rap," and that 50 complaints out of what he estimates are Premier's 5 million American customers is a good record.

The ugly An even bigger source of customer complaints, according to the FDA? Looks. The effect is only as good as the "artist" who applies it, and few states regulate or license practitioners. Maryland prohibits cosmetologists from performing it; Virginia bans the tattooing of minors. Also, "permanent" doesn't mean the color won't fade over time. Removal usually requires laser surgery.

-- Lisa Barrett Mann