is the process of placing pigment into the skin with a needle or group of needles. As with other forms of tattoo, the end result depends on the knowledge, skill, and ability of the artist. Unfortunately for the consumer, permanent makeup technicians are largely unregulated and often have minimal training or talent. Therefore, you should consult with several artists, look at before/after pictures, and ask a lot of questions before committing to a procedure.
At the time of this writing, no uniform national standard or testing exists.
Many states have adopted their own methods of oversight and regulation. For instance, in California, the State Department of Environmental Health inspects and issues licenses to body art facilities. This ensures that the facility is maintained according to safety and sanitation regulations. However, the ability of the technician or the quality of the work is not regulated.
How Does Permanent Makeup Work?
A technician needs to have a thorough understanding of skin anatomy and the healing process. The skin is the largest organ of the body and is comprised of three layers: the epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous layers.
- The epidermis is the outermost layer and contains no blood vessels or nerves. Its basic function is to provide a tough exterior to protect the body against environmental or physical injury, bacterial or viral invasion, and to prevent moisture loss and dehydration.
- The epidermis is further divided into five sub layers, which are characterized by the stages of hardening of keratinocytes, the primary cell type found in the epidermis. Keratinocytes begin their migration in the basal layer of the epidermis and grow progressively flatter and harder until they reach the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the epidermis, where they die and are eventually sloughed off.
- In order for the permanent makeup procedure to be effective, the pigment must be implanted below the epidermis into the dermis. If the pigment is not placed deeply enough, it wears off quickly because it is sloughed off with the epidermal cells.
- However, needles inserted too deeply will cause unnecessary pain and bleeding and may even produce scarring.
- The thickness of the epidermis varies from one area of the body to another. It is thinnest on the eyelids, and thickest on the palms of the hands and soles of the feet. An experienced permanent makeup artist will be able to adjust the needle insertion depth in order to place the pigment properly into the dermis to get the best possible results.
What Happens During the Healing Process?
- The healing process begins as soon as the integrity or wholeness of the skin is damaged. Within a short time, the first phase of healing, the inflammatory phase, begins. The body tries to minimize the damage being inflicted. Various chemical signals or factors are released that attract phagocytes, the “clean-up” cells, to the damaged tissue. Phagocytes consume bacteria, debris, and damaged tissue and also release the chemical signals that initiate the proliferation phase of tissue healing.
- The migration and division of cells, collagen deposition, granulation tissue formation and epithelialization characterize the proliferation phase.
- Because a properly executed permanent makeup procedure only damages the first two layers of the skin, these first two phases of healing are the most important. Deeper, more extensive tissue damage involves additional phases of healing, which are beyond the scope of this subject and are not part of the healing process in a properly performed procedure.
What Qualifications Should a Technician Have?
In addition to understanding the science behind the procedure, a cosmetic tattoo artist must have an artistic flare and an eye for detail and symmetry. The technician must have the ability to draw even and symmetrical eyebrows, create eyeliner of equal thickness and intensity on both eyes, and compensate for any natural irregularities in lip shape in order to produce a matching, balanced look. Artistic ability is difficult to learn, and without it, a technician will likely not be able to produce quality results.
Body art tattoo artists use transfer paper to transfer outlines of a tattoo design onto the body. Then, they are able to trace the pattern. Permanent makeup artists generally draw patterns by hand or use stencils. Hand drawn patterns tend to look more natural and compensate for facial asymmetry better than one-size-fits-all templates or stencils. However, drawing patterns by hand that are even and symmetrical is not easy. To learn this skill takes a significant amount of practice, patience, and experience.
Excellent communication skills are also required, so that the client is engaged and actively participating in the pattern drawing process. Client input is critical, and your personal preferences must be taken into consideration. However, a competent artist will also be able to point out factors that the client may be unaware of such as facial structure, eye shape, and color choice.
Skill and Talent
Artistic ability and scientific knowledge are both important qualities of a permanent makeup artist. However, without skill and talent, the end result may be less than desirable. Just as all artists are not proficient with all artistic media, the level of talent varies widely among cosmetic tattoo artists. There are a variety of methods of implanting pigment into the skin. And each one requires a specific degree of aptitude in order to produce a quality result.
What Methods Are Used to Apply the Pigment?
The oldest method of pigment implantation is the “tap” method. With this form of tattooing, needles are attached to a wooden, plastic or metal handle and dipped into pigment. The client’s skin is pricked repeatedly in order to build color up to the desired intensity. These are non-motorized machines, so procedures done by this method tend to take a long time.
Coil machines have been around for over 100 years. They are made of a metal frame with either a single or double coil operated by an AC power supply. The needles are attached to a metal bar that reciprocates and causes the needles to strike the skin approximately 75 – 100 times per second. These machines are durable, versatile, and reliable. They are also easily disinfected, so the potential for cross-contamination is reduced. They are the preferred method for performing reconstructive procedures because thicker, scarred skin requires better needle penetration and more power. Additionally, the largest variety of needle configurations is available for coil devices. In skilled hands, a coil machine can produce exceptional results.
The newest type of cosmetic tattoo machine is the digital “pen” type of machine. It is digitally controlled and connected to an AC power supply. Some technicians prefer these because they are lightweight and quiet. Another benefit is that the side-to-side needle movement seen in rotary machines has been virtually eliminated, which reduces tissue trauma. A disadvantage with this type of machine is that much fewer needle configurations are available, and the design of the stylus can allow potentially infectious material to get from the end of the needle into the machine housing or motor, thereby increasing the potential for cross-contamination. They are also quite a bit more expensive than other types of devices.
So, What Is the Bottom Line?
Women must do thorough research prior to having permanent makeup applied. The bottom line is client safety and satisfaction. In order to achieve the best possible results, the technician must have a comprehensive understanding of skin anatomy, the healing process, and sanitation and sterilization. He or she must also be gifted with an artistic eye and the technical ability, talent, and manual dexterity necessary to master the chosen method of pigment application.
In addition, for more information, see our frequently asked questions page: FAQ’s
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