OC Register


By COLIN STEWART | Orange County Register

October 11, 2008 at 3:00 am

The good and the ugly of permanent makeup

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

TATTOOING TOOL. Digital rotary pen with a sterile needle is one instrument that’s used to apply permanent makeup.

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

TOUCHED UP. Linda Kent shows the results of her second permanent eyeliner procedure at Artistic Cosmetic Solutions in Garden Grove.

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

BEFORE SECOND PROCEDURE. Linda Kent shows the results of Dr. Laura Reed’s earlier work before she goes in for her touch-up of her permanent eyeliner.

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

PHOTOGRAPHIC RECORD. Dr. Laura Reed photographs her finished work on Linda Kent’s permanent eyeliner.

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

ANTIBIOTIC. Linda Kent gets an application of antibiotic ointment after Dr. Laura Reed finishes tattooing her permanent eyeliner.

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

DEMONSTRATING. Although photography was not permitted during the actual application, Dr. Laura Reed demonstrates the procedure for tattooing the lower eyelid.

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

ANESTHESIA. Dr. Laura Reed applies topical anesthesia to patient Linda Kent before the permanent eyeliner tattoo procedure.

OC-Register Permanent Makeup article

MAKING PLANS. Client Linda Kent, in mirror, and Dr. Laura Reed discuss the permanent eyeliner tattoo procedure Kent is about to have at Reed’s businsss, Artistic Cosmetic Solutions in Garden Grove.

By COLIN STEWART | Orange County Register

October 11, 2008 at 3:00 am

“Oh, no! I look like a hooker,” Mardel Hervey thought when she first glimpsed the permanent eyeliner that was tattooed around her eyes.

And that wasn’t the end of her worries, because she had also signed up for tattooed lip makeup.

“Oh, no! I look like the Joker,” was Hervey’s reaction last month, when she saw her new permanent lip coloring. “It was scary,” she said.

That’s a gut response many women have right after getting permanent makeup, aestheticians say, so the professionals tell their patients in advance not to worry.

Tattooed makeup looks bright only until the skin recovers from the shock of the tattoo needles. Then it fades into a subdued color, they say.

Trusting the assurances and skills of a permanent-makeup artist is an unavoidable part of the process of getting tattoos to replace traditional makeup for eyebrows, eyelids and lips. That’s especially true in California, where the procedures are subject to minimal regulation.

Permanent makeup, usually applied at doctors’ offices, medspas and some hair salons, is applied much like the body art in tattoo parlors, but it creates a different image and appeals to a much different clientele. Women who decide to have permanent makeup typically do so because they lack the time or ability to apply traditional makeup well.

For middle-aged women, it’s also used to improve the appearance of lips and eyebrows, said permanent makeup technician Svetlana Kondenkova in Laguna Niguel. For older people, it helps restore youthful color that has faded with age, she said.

“It’s pretty much good for anybody,” said aesthetician Stacey Craven, who applies permanent makeup at the Irvine Plastic Surgery Center. “For older women, it’s even better, especially for those who are having trouble seeing well enough to apply their makeup.”

Sometimes tattooed makeup goes embarrassingly wrong at the hands of careless or ill-trained technicians who apply grotesque colors or wobbly lines. But the outcome is pleasing often enough that permanent makeup is a popular offering at many medical spas.

Statistics aren’t available, but studies suggest that permanent-makeup tattoo operations are more numerous than art-tattoo parlors, which count an estimated 15 percent of American adults among their patrons. Another sign of the procedures’ popularity: Political blogs speculated last month that Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has lip liner that’s permanent makeup.


For Hervey, 58, of San Juan Capistrano, initial worries about her tattooed makeup proved unfounded. She praises the work of Kondenkova, who works at the Euro Day Spa of dermatologist Dr. Lorrie Klein, where Hervey went because she is allergic to traditional makeup.

“It’s the best thing I ever did,” she said. Getting up in the morning with makeup already in place is a plus, as is swimming without worry that water will mess up her makeup, Hervey said.

Dr. Christopher Zachary, chairman of the UCI Department of Dermatology, sees both sides of permanent makeup.

“Permanent makeup is permanent — just like any tattoo, it’s there for life. That’s the good and bad of it,” he said. “Whether one is accentuating a lip, an eyelid or a brow, if the color, shape and location are right, then one is likely to be a happy customer — for life. However, I am constantly seeing patients who are unhappy with their permanent makeup because, when they look in the mirror, they see a ghoulish representation of themselves. Permanent makeup can migrate, cause allergies and just look plain stupid.”

In that case, the remedy is laser treatments costing thousands of dollars, which can neutralize or soften the pigments that the tattoo needles implanted under the skin.


Dr. Laura Reed of Artistic Cosmetic Solutions in Garden Grove said prospective patients can improve their chances of success by checking out a makeup technician and the permanent-makeup business. She urges people to:

  • Check to see whether the facility appears to be sanitary. Is it separate from hair styling, manicure and pedicure procedures?
  • Ask to see the business’s health permit. Inspections by county health officials are required in about half the cities in Orange County.
  • Ask about the technician’s training, preferably confirmed by a certificate stating the number of hours of training undergone. Kondenkova, for example, completed 120 hours of training at John Hashey’s Advanced School of Permanent Cosmetics in Oldsmar, Fla., plus additional advanced training.
  • Review the technician’s portfolio of before-and-after photos.
  • Ask whether the technician belongs to a professional association such as the American Academy of Micropigmentation or the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals. Each group sets ethical standards and provides educational opportunities for its members.
  • Ask to see the aesthetician’s registration with the health department, which is required of all permanent-cosmetic technicians. Reed advocates tighter regulation of such technicians, as in Oregon. California only requires technicians to notify the health department that they’re in business and to agree that they will comply with health standards, Reed said. Under new rules that took effect in Oregon this month, tattoo artists and permanent-makeup technicians are licensed by the state and must complete 360 hours of training.
    •Think about price last. “A cheap price may result in bad-looking makeup or getting a disease,” said Reed, who is a licensed optometrist with extensive training in permanent cosmetics.

Dermatologist Klein recommends:

  • Get a referral from your dermatologist or a friend who has had a great job done.

Tattooed makeup is called permanent, but in fact the color gradually fades. To maintain its original appearance, patients need to return for touch-up sessions.

“In Orange County, with our amount of sun exposure, it tends to fade more quickly,” Craven said. Depending on the patient, touch-ups are needed after one to seven years, she said.


Typical patients for permanent makeup are middle-aged or older women, whether they’re at home or work.

Klein, 49, isn’t just Kondenkova’s employer. She’s also her customer.

Klein said she’s pleased with the effect that her permanent makeup creates, along with her other treatments — injected Botox and Juvederm filler, skin-rejuvenating laser sessions and eyelash-enhancing Lumigan drops.

“I am so busy with my children and my practice that I need to be in and out of the bathroom in 15 minutes in the morning, max. But I also want to look good, especially at work. After all, I have to be a role model for my patients,” she said.

“The permanent makeup gives my lips color and the permanent eyeliner enhances my eyes, with no effort from me, plus I have no wrinkles to cover up. All I do is put on sunscreen and anti-aging moisturizers plus a little mascara (less since I enhanced my lashes with Lumigan) and I’m out the door!”

Patty Olvera, 57, a stay-at-home grandmother in Santa Ana, decided to get permanent makeup because she has always had difficulty applying eyeliner neatly.

The experience of having her eyebrows and eyelids tattooed was “not horrible, but unpleasant,” she said, despite anesthetic cream to dull the pain. During the process, she kept her mind elsewhere to distract herself from the combined pain and tickling sensation, she said.

But the result was worth it, Olvera added.

“It makes me look 10 years younger,” she said.

For news and comment about celebrities and cosmetic medicine, visit the “In Your Face” blog by columnist Colin Stewart.