What You Should Know

What You Should Know about Permanent Makeup
©All Rights Reserved/LiZa Sims, CPCP

For years, the permanent cosmetics industry was ‘invisible’, un-regulated and un-licensed. State governments and the Federal government are finally taking an interest in the cosmetic tattoo industry as it gains popularity. Different states have different laws pertaining to permanent cosmetics. The permanent cosmetics industry is fortunate to have a  professional non-profit organization committed to setting standards within this industry; the SPCP (Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals). http://www.spcp.org

There is no substitute for experience in this business. Permanent cosmetics procedures are semi-invasive; in that the skin is broken in order for implanting color to occur. This is not meant to scare you, but rather to inform you. Surely, it is important to you to know that your practitioner is well trained in both artistry and cross-contamination prevention. HIV and Hepatitis are examples of contagious blood-born pathogens. Proper sterilization procedures and personal protection equipment and clothing are necessary for your safety as well as the protection of the practitioner. Practitioners use the word “certified’ very loosely and often give misleading and undeserved credibility to the term. A certificate may be worth nothing more than the piece of paper unless it originates from an official ‘certifying body’ such as local governing bodies. There are limited ways of becoming ‘certified’. Trainers cannot ‘certify’. We must take an exam by a ‘certifying body’ – that being an organization such as the SPCP. For example, someone could take a ride with you in your car and give you a ‘certificate’ that says you are a good driver. But, only the DMV has the authorization to ‘certify’ you as a licensed driver.

If a practitioner’s certificate does not state clearly how many hours of training were attended, be wary. There are varying and few regulations regarding the amount of training required for technicians to perform these procedures. Many technicians have only attended two days to a week of training!  Fast-track training has been and continues to be the scourge of the permanent cosmetic profession.

Original training of, at the very least 100 hours, should be standard. Always look for a SPCP (Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professional) trainer and also make sure she or he have their CPCP (Certified Permanent Cosmetic Professionals) certification. And for every year a technician has been in practice, 20-50 hours of advanced training should be documented. Alaska now requires a license to perform tattooing and permanent makeup. If in AK, ask to see your technician’s license. It should clearly read, “To perform tattooing and cosmetic coloring”. If they do not have a license, move on! Also, check that their D.E.C. inspection certificate is current. These are state requirements as of Jan. 1, 2003. While these requirements do not guarantee that a technician is capable of good work, it does show that they at least passed a test on health and safety and they are current regarding regulation compliance.

Also be wary of ‘dabblers‘; those who perform so many services so as not to be able to truly master something as intricte, delicate and technical as cosmetic tattooing. This profession evolves and changes so quickly that if one does not perform procedures constantly and exclusively they are certain to be not current, rusty and lack necessary skills.

Photos: these are good references of one’s work. However, most permanent cosmetics look good leaving the office. The healed result is what is important. Ask if the photos show the healed result. Also, are the photos you see actually of their own work? Stock photos are purchased from supply distributors and passed off as the work of technicians. This practice is deceptive and unethical, but it happens often.

Following are some ideas on how to check a technician’s credibility:

  1. Ask how long they have been doing permanent cosmetics. Mastering permanent makeup doesn’t come easy and easily requires 4 to 5 year learning curve. If they tell you “years and years”, ask to see documentation in the form of training certificates.
  2. Ask if you may speak to some of their clients. One or two clients per each year’s experience are a reasonable request.
  3. Ask to see evidence of continuing education. Look for 30 to 50 hours of advanced training per year; preferably in 1-3 classes only. Training classes of a few hours here and there are less likely to lend much toward true advancement. Technicians might boast of all the shows and conventions they attend. While industry events are fun, they are primarily for investigating new equipment, products and reunions! Comprehensive internships are where most true learning takes place.
  4. Ask if the technician hold a CPCP certification. CPCP means Certified Permanent Cosmetic Professional and is an exam given by the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals
  5. Look at the facility. The floor, chairs, countertops should be very clean. All surfaces should be of impervious, non-porous material for adequate disinfection. A “sharps disposal unit” should be visible, and preferably an autoclave for steam sterilization. Even if they use an ‘all disposable’ system, the handles may be reused. If they do not have an autoclave, and insist their system is truly ‘all disposable’, ask to see the disposable units. Are the handles disposable as well as the needle groupings? Is there evidence of needles being disposed of in the sharps container?
  6. Ask the technician to design and apply your eyebrows and lip-liner with makeup in your consultation. Artistic ability is important! Do they use stencils for brows? If so, do you want your brows to look like they have been ‘stamped’ on? The face must wear the brows, not vice-versa. It requires experience and talent to design the facial features. Stencils are fun tools, but are frequently used as a crutch for someone with inadequate design experience and knowledge of morphology of the face. Is their design flattering to your face?
  7. They may be wearing a crisp white lab coat during your interview; it looks impressive. Find out what they wear when performing the service. Remember, the surface of the skin is broken during the procedures and contaminated body fluids my pass on to their sleeves etc. If they do not wear a disposable isolation gown, how do you know that the sleeve touching you during your procedure is not the same sleeve that has touched someone else?
  8. Ask what they use to clean the chair or table after the client is finished. Make them show it to you. Don’t settle for Lysol, it is not OSHA approved and is useless against some viruses. They must use an FDA approved virucidal, germicidal on all impervious surfaces in the work area, even if they cover the chair or table with paper during procedures. Consider your safety!
  9. Ask to see proof of recent attendance of a professional class or event. If they haven’t attended one or the other (see #3 continued education) move on – he or she is not current with today’s standards

10. And finally, how do you feel about this person? Have you seen their work? Are they patient with you, and helpful in putting your comfort and ease at the forefront? Do they seem confident, or perhaps over-confident? Any evasiveness to your questions should be considered a RED FLAG! Choose your technician carefully; after all, you want permanent beauty, not permanent mistakes! By following this guideline, you should now be able to make an informed decision.

LiZa Sims CPCP, Wake Up with Makeup, LLC


Member, Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals   

Director Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals 2008-2011
CPCP (Certified Permanent Cosmetic Professional) By SPCP exam.
Yearly 8 hour class & exam: OSHA Infection Control and Blood Borne Pathogen
Diplomat, American Institute of Permanent Color Technology
License #12679, State of Alaska
Permanent Cosmetic Color Instructor 

Business owner since 1983