Permanent Makeup

Many women wouldn't want to wear the same shade of lipstick every day, but for some, having makeup permanently applied, or tattooed onto the skin, is a lifesaver.
Shahla Whitmore is a makeup artist, esthetician and an advanced cosmetic makeup technician. She also teaches permanent makeup tattooing and has her own practice called Angelbare Permanent Cosmetics. Here, she answers your frequently asked questions:

Why would someone get makeup tattooed onto their face?

"Permanent makeup is ideal for many people, including cancer patients, burn patients or others who have lost eyebrows. Some women have conditions, like Parkinson's disease, that make their hands shake so they are not able to apply makeup. Women who have had plastic surgery use permanent makeup to cover scars, and some women who have had breast reconstruction use it to enhance the appearance of their nipples. Finally, some women simply want to have on their makeup 24 hours a day. This makeup won't come off."

How do I find a permanent makeup technician?

"Look at her certification. Ideally you want to find an experienced advanced permanent cosmetic technician. The license for an advanced technician indicates she has had extra training and more experience than the basic technician. Even better -- find an instructor. This person will have many more hours of training and experience. Look for a technician who also has a background in skin and makeup, so she can match colors to your skin tone properly and create makeup looks that don't seem artificial.

What happens at the first meeting?

"Ask to see the technician's portfolio. Everyone has different ideas about what looks good. Do you like the eyebrow shapes she has done? Do her makeup looks appear natural? Does she seem to have a steady hand? At your first meeting she should discuss with you the color of your skin, eyes and hair. It's important to match colors properly. For eyebrows I use eight different shades of brown. The technician needs to take your skin, eye and hair colors into account when choosing makeup shades."

How does it work?

"The technician applies a numbing cream to the area being tattooed and then uses a tool that injects ink under the first layer of skin. The needle only goes under the first layer of skin, similar to how far down a mosquito bite would go."

Is it painful?

"In general, after I apply a numbing cream, most of my clients don't feel any pain. But remember, pain threshold varies. I've found younger women seem to feel more pain than older women. Lips tend to be more sensitive than other parts of the face because there are nerve endings in that area."

How long does it take?

"If you include the consultation, plan on being there at least an hour and a half. I put the numbing cream on first, which needs to be absorbed by the skin, then I add color. It takes about 10-15 minutes to do one eyebrow. You may need two sessions. You won't pay extra for the second session, but it gives the technician a chance to see her work after you've healed."

How much does it cost?

"Prices vary based on where you live in the country. To fill in both eyebrows costs about $300. If you are creating the brow where there is no hair, it costs around $450."

Are there "dos and don'ts" of permanent makeup?

  • "Never go around corners of the eye with black. If you go around the inner or outer corners of the eye, the ink will migrate and spread to other parts of the skin. It can only be removed through a surgical procedure.
  • "Remember, when choosing permanent cosmetics, opt for "daytime" makeup colors. "Evening" makeup shades are too dramatic. Select soft colors. You can always add color, but once it's permanently applied, you can't take it off.
  • "You can add color to the lower lash line but never add eyeliner underneath the lower lash line because it makes your eye look droopy. If you want the lower lash line enhanced, make sure the technician adds the ink only to the lower lash line. Also, it must be softer on the bottom than the top; for example, if you use dark brown at night, use light brown on the bottom.
  • "Start with less; you can always add more. For example, you may want to start with lash enhancement. It looks very natural when you add color between ? it's very quick too.
  • "Make sure you go to a licensed permanent cosmetic technician. Find someone who doesn't reuse needles. If someone reuses needles without properly sanitizing, diseases can be spread. Make sure the technician abides by proper sanitation practices. They should wear gloves and use new needles for each client."

(Mention iVillage when making an appointment with Shahla Whitmore and avail of a $20 discount on your permanent cosmetics application.)

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