Do You Tattoo? Permanent Cosmetics

Posted by Lloyd on April 20, 2010
Beauty, Health

What are permanent cosmetics, and why are women the world over trying it out? Find out more in this article about this special type of tattoo work.

“Want to see my tattoos? asks Clara, a fifty-year-old grandmother from San Antonio, Texas. She’s standing in the supermarket aisle, dressed casually in dark slacks and a plain cotton top. With her is her neighbor, who takes Clara shopping because she has multiple sclerosis and can’t get items off the shelves.

“You’re looking at them,” she says, winking. “My makeup. My eyeliner and lip color are tattoos, permanent makeup.”

Permanent makeup–also known as cosmetic tattooing or micropigmentation—is the process of applying pigments underneath the skin. This cosmetic approach was popular in ancient times and has enjoyed a comeback in recent years, and not, perhaps, for the reason you might think.

Who Gets Permanent Makeup?
In fact, Clara is just one of a growing number of women who get cosmetic tattoos because they have a physical disability or medical challenge. Women who have arthritis, stroke, or Parkinson’s disease, for example, which make it difficult for them to steady or move their hands, are turning to permanent makeup.

Lila, a twenty-six-year-old special education teacher who is legally blind, found that cosmetic tattooing made her feel better about herself. “I don’t have to rely on anyone else to put on my makeup for me,” she said. “No smudges and no worries. It’s great.”

Cosmetic tattooing is also helping women who have other vision problems, such as macular degeneration or cataracts; or who are allergic or hypersensitive to makeup. For women who have lost their hair because of chemotherapy or a medical condition called alopecia (loss of body hair), permanent eyebrows and eyeliner can restore self-esteem.

Charles Zwerling, MD, FACS, director of the American Academy of Micropigmentation, confirms that vanity is not the only reason people undergo cosmetic tattooing. “In the last ten years, some of the biggest growth in permanent cosmetics has been in the area of medical reconstruction,” says Zwerling.

The tattooing of areolas after breast reconstruction is one example. Gina Dwyer, of Tucson, Arizona, has done professional permanent cosmetics for about 15 years, including many areola tattoos. “Getting their areolas back is more exciting for these women than the reconstruction,” she says.

People who have patches where skin pigment is lost–a condition called vitiligo–also benefit from cosmetic tattooing. Dr. Zwerling explains that it is possible to blend skin tones with the surrounding normal-pigmented skin. It is also possible to “relax” scars, blending them into the surrounding skin tone.

Naturally, there are also women who chose permanent makeup for reasons of vanity and convenience. Entertainers, models, athletes, professional women, and other busy women find that the time they save each day is well worth the minimal pain and cost.

What To Expect
If you’re considering permanent makeup, first find a professional to do the procedure (see “Choosing a Professional” below). The procedure itself, regardless of the location of the tattoo, is basically the same. After receiving a topical anesthetic, a very fine needle is used to embed organic pigment, either iron oxide or titanium dioxide, just below the skin. The practitioner may use either a hand or mechanical instrument.

Pamela Netz, owner of a permanent cosmetic salon and a member of the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP), says hand tools seem to cause less pain and swelling. However, either type of instrument in the hands of a qualified professional can yield excellent results.

After the procedure is over, which generally takes one and one-half to two and one-half hours, here’s what you can expect, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons:
* Some swelling, redness, and bruising in the treated area for two to three days and up to a week if you had your lips tattooed. Tattooing around the eyes may cause tearing for several days. Apply antibiotic cream or ice to relieve symptoms

* In rare cases, tattooing around the eyes causes the eyelashes to fall out, or pigment can be carried from the tattooed area to another part of the body.

* The color may be darker than desired for the first few months. Over time, sunlight usually fades the color to a more natural look. If you’re worried about safety, less than one percent of people who Have had micropigmentation in the last decade have reported an allergic reaction to the pigment, says Dr. Zwerling.

If you add up the money you won’t spend on makeup and factor in time saved, micro pigmentation is a bargain. The average cost per procedure is $400 to $600, while specialized work, such as relaxing a lesion, is usually charged by the hour, typically starting at $150 to $250 per hour.

But how permanent is permanent? Both regular light and sunlight can cause the colors to lighten over time. For some women, the color lasts for more than ten years without needing touchup. Touchups, when necessary, are less costly and take less time than the original procedure.

Choosing A Professional
You should shop for a permanent makeup technician as you would for a physician: ask questions.

* Ask candidates about their background and any continuing education they have completed.

* How much experience do they have in the type of procedure you want? Special training is needed for more complex procedures, such as facial blush and areola restoration.

* Are they certified, by whom, and what are the requirements? Do they belong to a professional organization?
* Ask to see a portfolio of their work, showing the procedure you want done.

Both the American Academy of Micropigmentation and the SPCP offer certification programs, which graduate laypeople and doctors who have received careful training. However, even people who are not certified may be skillful in permanent makeup, and not all practitioners are equally skillful in all procedures.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has established standards for people who do cosmetic tattooing. Check the following:

* The working environment should be clean, free of all contaminants, including dust, smoke, and odors.

* New sterile needles and new gloves should be used for each client.

* Technicians should be professional and neat with short, clean nails.

* Ask about the type of anesthetic used.

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