The introduction of new techniques and the continuing quest for flawless brows, defined eyes and plump pouts means that lucrative permanent makeup has taken the beauty industry by storm.
Once upon a time, cosmetic tattooing was a niche beauty service, often relegated to women of a certain age and typically associated with a harsh, unnatural look. But with the introduction of new techniques and the continuing quest for flawless brows, defined eyes and plump pouts, permanent makeup has taken the beauty industry by storm.
Among the most in-demand services is microblading, also called eyebrow embroidery, microstroking or feather touch. “Technically, microblading is a form of eyebrow tattooing, but unlike traditional tattooing—which uses a machine—artists apply each hairstroke with a handheld microblade,” says Lindsey Ta, founder of Microblading LA Studio & Academy in Los Angeles. “This produces very fine lines that resemble real hair.” Shading (also known as filled, powdered or ombré microshading) is big in the brow category as well. “Shading is done with a machine—a single nanoneedle is gently whipped across the skin to achieve a pixelated, powdered effect,” says Ta, who adds that the procedure is increasingly being combined with microblading to yield even more natural-looking arches.
Other popular offerings include eyelash enhancements and permanent makeup for lips. “A lash enhancement is like an eyeliner tattoo, except the pigment is deposited at the base of the lashes, right by the waterline, instead of above the lashline,” says Lynn La Palermo, master trainer and owner of Occhi’ Lash & Brow Studio in Oakbrook Terrace, Illinois. “It makes lashes look denser, because you’re filling in those little gaps of flesh.” Top trends in permanent pouts include lip contouring, where the artist uses a shade similar to the natural lips to even out asymmetry; and lip blush, which gets the pigment up to four shades darker and helps create a fuller look. “The ideal candidate is somebody with lighter skin because those who have darker skin tones are more prone to hyperpigmentation or hypopigmentation,” notes Ta.
Of course, providing these services requires a whole new set of skills. The good news? Eyebrow and eyeliner tattooing are not only the most sought-after offerings but the easiest to master, according to the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP). Lip procedures are more advanced, and therefore require more extensive training. “This is because the skin on the lips is much thinner and more delicate than that on the face,” explains Ta.
The SPCP also reports that cosmetologists, electrologists, estheticians, nail techs and massage therapists all tend to have qualifications that make them well suited to doing permanent makeup. “These professionals are educated about skin and how the body heals itself, as well as beauty industry etiquette and how to improve a client’s look in the most natural way possible,” says Ta, herself a nail tech for 15 years. Better still, because the services command a considerable fee, your spa’s earnings could increase exponentially.
Licensing requirements and regulations for cosmetic tattooing vary by region, according to the SPCP. “Check the government website for your state’s laws on permanent makeup,” advises Genie Schmidt, co-owner of EZ Permanent Makeup in Liberty Lake, Washington. “More and more states now require a license and a specific number of training hours, and you may need to attend classes in the state where you’ll be working.” The SPCP notes that courses typically cover a variety of topics and techniques, including color analysis, color theory, proper handling of equipment and prevention of cross-contamination, as well as practice work and observing procedures prior to performing them under supervision.
As you seek out training programs, be sure to fully vet the curriculum and instructors prior to enrolling, and don’t rely solely on a certification for one specific service. “If you’re entering the industry as a microblading artist, you must know the fundamentals of permanent makeup in general,” explains Ta. “You can’t just learn one technique—it’s a cosmetic tattoo, and you have to understand what happens in the skin with the pigment over time.” Ta suggests looking for instructors who have at least five years of experience with permanent makeup—and can show you photos demonstrating their skills.
Most states also require insurance, and according to La Palermo, coverage over and above your business liability insurance can run between $1,000 and $1,800 a year. “Usually, an inspection from the Department of Public Health is required, and permanent makeup artists must pass a bloodborne pathogens test in most states,” adds Sandra Plasencia, Chicago Permanent Makeup Academy CEO and master trainer.
Even after you’ve gone through the required training, you’ll want to log plenty of practice hours. “The ideal learning process is to shadow and work under somebody who has experience,” says Ta. “That’s where you’re going to get the most guidance after your training—and then it’s your own time on skin that’s most valuable.”
Selling the Services
Pricing for permanent makeup obviously varies by region, with a lash enhancement or eyeliner procedure ranging from $300 to $1,600 (top liner is usually priced at least twice as much as bottom); microblading and microshading commanding $500 to $2,000; and lip liner or full lip enhancements going for $300 to $1,000. “It’s such an investment in time and money to perfect your skills, so if you charge less, you’re really underselling yourself and the craft,” notes Ta. That said, many businesses offer lower pricing for services with less experienced techs, with fees gradually going up as staffers become more seasoned.
Keep in mind that a complimentary touch-up within a month or two of the first service should be included in the price. “That’s generally to balance or fill in spots we may have left open to see how the skin heals,” explains La Palermo. From there, although eyeliner, microshading and lip color can last for two years or more, microblading will typically need to be touched up within 8 to 12 months, with pricing between $150 and $700 (and even more if the client waits longer than a year).
Clearly, permanent makeup services can be seriously profitable; even better, they practically sell themselves, says La Palermo, adding that the best way to market the procedures is to perform services on a few people who work at the spa. “Then, show clients before and after pictures of those staff members,” she suggests. “Odds are they’ll be eager to get the services done themselves.”
If you’re just starting out, it’s a good idea to talk up your new offerings on social media, too—but only include photos or videos demonstrating your most professional, super sanitary practices. “If you’re showing yourself doing the procedure and you’re not wearing a gown, or your client isn’t wearing a gown and something to keep hair off their face, that shows that you don’t know what you’re doing,” explains La Palermo. Ultimately, the proof—and profits—could be in these posts, and odds are you’ll soon be the most sought-out spa in your area.
—Alexa Joy Sherman
This story first appeared in the August issue of DAYSPA Magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.