Permanent makeup can be convenient—or a disaster. Do your homework.
These days, anyone with an Ebay or Amazon account can order a permanent makeup kit. That begs the question, how do you know if going under the needle for fuller eyebrows or a more pigmented pout is safe and won’t leave you disfigured or diseased? In the same spirit as with traditional tattooing, be smart and do your research.
The State of North Carolina requires cosmeticians doing permanent makeup and paramedical or artistic tattooists to be permitted. The permits certify that practitioners have completed health-related training and the permit’s guidelines mandate proper sterilization and waste disposal techniques and ban the reuse of needles. Tattoo and permanent makeup artists undergo annual OSHA health and safety training to make sure they’re fully in compliance with standard practices to avoid spreading blood-borne pathogens.
So, while the permit covers your health and safety bases, it doesn’t account for experience. The needle may be clean, but is it going in the right place? Is it even the right kind of needle? And what about ink coloration?
The permits cover a lot but they can’t cover everything.
Marnie Settle, unfortunately, learned this the hard way. When Settle wanted her eyebrows filled out, the most common permanent makeup application, she did what most people do—she Googled it. It wasn’t until after the fact that she realized she should have done more research.
“I went to a Raleigh provider, who is now out of business, and she didn’t measure my brows for shape and accuracy of length,” says Settle. “They turned out crooked and one was longer than the other and had a higher arch. In essence, I had two brows that didn’t match.”
Settle’s artist used a rotary machine, which caused scarring on both brows, and the pigment she used not only faded but migrated past the actual tattoo area.
“Some pigments can migrate, or leak, past the area of the procedure, making it look streaky or blurry,” said Stacey Heffner, a licensed cosmetician and the owner of Raleigh salon Fabulously Flawless. “The types of pigments used can make a huge difference in the end result and longevity of your permanent makeup.”
Heffner admits that, unfortunately, she has to do a lot of correction work for clients of people who aren’t properly trained or certified.
“The state does not require permanent cosmetic providers to hold any specific certifications to perform permanent cosmetics,” says Heffner. “Anyone can do it anywhere, without passing a test to prove they possess the abilities to perform these procedures and have artistic capabilities. So there are a lot of people doing it with no real training.”
In other words, you don’t have to prove that you’re skilled to acquire a permit. You also don’t need a permit to tattoo yourself, a loophole the lucrative online tattoo kit sales industry has embraced. Anyone can buy a machine online and give their face a permanent makeover.
“Many people wanting to do an at-home procedure are most likely not trained and may cause serious damage or incur infections,” says Heffner. “The tools may not be high-quality and they can penetrate the skin too deeply, causing scarring. Without people knowing about the types of pigments in these kits, they can also cause skin damage, depending on the ingredients. They can cause allergies, swelling, color migration, and infections. Knowing how to choose the correct color pigment is a whole other issue.”
According to Heffner, you can’t just pick a color that matches your hair. You also have to take your skin tone and skin type into consideration. Additionally, measuring the area to be tattooed isn’t as simple as looking in the mirror and drawing a line—think of all of those old-school hair highlighting kits with the skull cap. It always looks easier on the box.
In the end, Settle went to see Heffner at Fabulously Flawless to get her botched brow job fixed and now she is very happy with the end result. Settle says she would recommend the procedure to to others on one condition: Do your homework beforehand.
Here, we share Heffner’s advice for anyone who may be in the market for permanent makeup.
Know Before You Go
Certifications, Training, and Experience
Make sure technicians have a current, state-issued tattooing permit. Make sure they’ve received extensive training from a certifying institution that includes hands-on training with an instructor and that they’re not just a practitioner who has undergone an “apprenticeship.” Never let a “student” work on you.
All Permanent Cosmetic Professionals must have certification that they’ve completed their annual training for the OSHA Blood-borne Pathogens Standard Practices.
Precision and Artistry
A good permanent cosmetic artist should take measurements for particular procedures. They should show you the measurements and draw on the proposed shape before they begin, so the two of you can agree on the look and shape. They should offer you their artistic guidance.
The Best Tools
Make sure they use the highest quality color pigments for all of their procedures. Confirm they have a clean, sterile, well-maintained pigment delivery system. You do NOT want an artist who is using a rotary system. These are typically used in tattoo parlors, not for permanent cosmetics.
Before and After Photos
Ask to see photos of past clients so you can get an idea of their style, technique and overall ability. A good artist should have lots of pictures of each type of procedure on offer.
It is also a good idea to read online reviews and check ratings for various permanent cosmetic providers; ask for client references too.
You should never let price be the determining factor when it comes to permanent cosmetics. Low prices or promotions that seem too good to be true often speak to a technician’s lack of experience. The end result may not be what you wanted, or worse, you may need to find a qualified professional to fix mistakes that are made by a novice, which in the end will cost you more money.
Ask what their correction policies are. If you receive a service and you’re unhappy with the results, you will want to know what their commitment to you is to correct it.
Set Up a Consultation
Schedule a consultation! Good communication between you and the artist is important, so you need to feel comfortable with the person you choose.