Using the word ‘tattooing’ can be slightly misleading for some people. Essentially pigment is tattooed into the skin via a needle with a machine so, it is fair to say that tattooing is an appropriate description. However I feel that it is important to discuss the differences in order to distinguish permanent makeup from the more familiar understanding of a tattoo i.e. a dragon or a loved ones name on your forearm rather than neat set of eyebrows on your forehead.
I have experienced being tattooed in a tattoo parlour in order to decorate my arm. I have also experienced permanent makeup on my eyeliner, as I’m a male we call it ‘guyliner”. I am also a Nouveau Contour qualified permanent makeup technician. Therefore I feel experienced and I am educated in this subject enough to explain the distinctions between the two.
Tattoos parlours typically have a certain atmosphere. Many people have visited one, have watched reality television focussing on tattooing or know enough from received anecdotal evidence to know what they tend to be like. The environment for permanent makeup really ought to be very different. At my clinic most clients describe the treatment room as having a very clinical feel or describe it as looking rather more like a medical (yet comfortable) environment. Sterility is taken very seriously in both tattoo parlours and permanent makeup clinics. Hygiene is of paramount importance, therefore professional cleaning and sterilising standards are essential. All equipment is sterile and one time use, plastic barrier films are used on all equipment, disposable one-use needles are incinerated following each treatment and technicians wear nitrile gloves, face masks and disposable aprons.
The level of comfort for my clients is very important for a number of reasons: one, a relaxed person is far easier to tattoo. If someone experiences discomfort then they tend to flinch and/or frown which makes tattooing neatly almost impossible. Two, if somebody were to feel uncomfortable for a treatment then it perhaps would not matter how satisfied that they were with the results – they will not recommend me to friends, family and colleagues. Word of mouth in this industry, is just as effective as advertising! Three, I don’t like the thought of somebody not enjoying a treatment with me. The look and feel of the clinic is beautiful and serene so I wish for people to be relaxed.
Topical anaesthetics are used to ensure that the client’s skin is numb and comfortable as we begin their treatment. These are creams such as Emla or LMX which can be purchased over-the-counter in normal pharmacies.
I work on a basis whereby clients book an appointment, then on the day we have the consultation at the start of our session. If a client wishes to visit me in the clinic for consultation before booking in for their treatment, then I welcome that too. It is so important to meet and build a rapport with clients. If somebody is allowing another person to tattoo their face then the two must develop trust. One of the most important parts of the consultation is to listen to a clients requirements. A frequent complaint that I hear from clients who visit me for correctional work is, “I told them I wanted hair strokes but not too dark or big and they did this”. Whilst I never speculate what previous technicians’ work must have involved, it is interesting to me. If somebody says, “not too dark” or “not too big”, then that emphasises how important it is to discuss and experiment with colours! If I am going to tattoo somebody’s eyebrows then I place a tiny example of the pigment just by the brow area and present my client with a mirror and allow them to confirm or discuss. We do this until their preferred pigment colour is chosen. Similarly, I draw with an eyebrow pencil, the shape and size of the eyebrows on the client. Again, the client will assess my eyebrow template before we begin. This way there is no room for ambiguity. The client selects a colour and takes part in the brow design before I even start tattooing their skin.
Insurance and legality
A lot of what I have discussed already, you probably already knew or imagined. However, it seems that the practises of insurance and licensing a permanent makeup technician are far less understood. Virtually all councils insist that a technician has a premises license as well as a personal license. I hold four licenses! Two licenses for my Sandbach clinic and two for Cheadle (a personal and a premises license), through East Cheshire and Stockport county respectively. Technicians have all had to undertake training courses. Some are more thorough than others. Typically, potential clients will look for examples of a technicians work to see if their style would suit them. The majority of my clients explain that they have assessed my work online and will often use an example and request the same eyebrow design for themselves.
Insurance is very important. Technicians should be insured. If somebody is tattooing your face, you must be assured that there is trust and my insurance covers my client as well as myself. When choosing a permanent makeup technician, feel free to ask to see their license and qualification and proof of insurance. If they hold full licenses and insurance – they shouldn’t resist! Some examples of permanent makeup technicians who I would discourage clients from using are: people who perform treatments in their home (without a purpose built clinic), mobile technicians, people who advertise that they will treat pregnant clients! (Yes I have seen examples of all of these on social media) and those who don’t offer to patch test you first.
Once a treatment is complete and before the retouch approximately a month later, clients must take care of their tattoo. I, like any good technician will, provide clients with an aftercare balm to apply to the tattooed area. This is to retain the tattooed pigment, to take the heat out of the area and to soothe any itching that they may experience as the skin heals and tightens initially. Maintaining the tattooed area also involves the client refraining from getting their permanent makeup wet for around 7 days following their treatment. Therefore clients must adapt when it comes to washing their hair, washing their face etc. Upon the retouch appointment most of my clients, I’m pleased to say, profess themselves not to have had any difficulties adjusting. I take aftercare very seriously because I wish for my work to stay good looking so I present clients with aftercare instructions with the balm (which is included in the price of the treatment). I also welcome contact from clients during the interim period. If somebody has a query or experiences anything which they wish to discuss, I encourage them to contact me. This often puts clients’ minds at rest as well as reassuring them. Please come and visit me at our beautiful clinic in Cheadle if you would like a consultation or contact me to discuss your permanent makeup requirements.