With Eyes Wide Open

A permanent solution to having to "put on your face" every day

Alicia Seyhanli uses permanent makeup to enhance bone structure and natural coloring. - KRISTEN BLACK
Kristen Black
Alicia Seyhanli uses permanent makeup to enhance bone structure and natural coloring.

"Because I don't like looking like a hairless Chihuahua!" Tina Nadain exclaims when asked why she decided to have permanent makeup applied to her very pale eyebrows.

"Because I want to look as good as I can, for as long as I can," says 60-year-old Susan MacRae as she towels off after a Zumba class.

No longer a celebrity craze, permanent makeup (sometimes called cosmetic tattooing) has gone mainstream. The Society of Permanent Makeup Professionals reports that the number of trained artists has increased tenfold in the past three years. More than a dozen hair or nail salons, dermatologists and aestheticians offer permanent makeup in the Spokane/Coeur d'Alene area.

Alicia Seyhanli, owner of Alicia Seyhanli Permanent Cosmetics in the Garland District, can attest to the trend and reports that her clientele has grown steadily in the last decade. She sees women of all ages, and even a few men.

Why permanent makeup?

Because it's a boon to people with alopecia or vision issues like macular degeneration, those who cannot wear cosmetics because of allergies, post-chemo patients, and women with dexterity issues such as arthritis, Parkinson's disease, multiple sclerosis and strokes.

Women without physical issues say they arrive at the permanent makeup decision for a variety of reasons. Some want to darken naturally light features or emphasize their eyes or lips; athletes appreciate not sweating off their eyeliner; busy women say it's a big time-saver.

"When a person feels they look good, they have more confidence and a more positive attitude," says Olga Yurkova, a permanent makeup artist who owns Faces & Toes in Spokane. "And isn't that a good thing?"

Prices vary. Brows cost from $300 to $450, eyeliner and lip liner are $440 and full lip color runs $500 and up.

Is it really a tattoo?

Not quite. Tattoo ink goes into the third layer of skin, while permanent makeup reaches the second. Colored pigment is applied to the skin with a traditional tattoo coil machine, pen or rotary machine, or handheld micro blades.

And yes, it hurts. The cosmetic makeup artist will apply a topical anesthetic which dulls the pain, but clients report mild to major discomfort. Eyebrows are the least painful; eyeliner and lip liner color are more uncomfortable.

Is permanent makeup forever?

Not really. Permanent makeup will not wash off but will fade over time, so periodic refreshing is needed. This isn't all bad, though. As your face and hair coloring change with age, you may find that what worked several years ago is too strong a statement today. Styles change as well. Remember the silent movie stars who plucked their brows to pencil-thin lines, or Elizabeth Taylor's dark brows and heavy liner? The bold look is in now, but who knows what the next decade holds.

What can go wrong?

Botched jobs, allergic reactions, buyer's remorse and infections are all possible. Expect to fill out a medical profile so the cosmetic artist can determine if you have issues that would cause problems.

"Make sure you and the artist are communicating about what you want," says Yurkova. "Look at photos of the artist's work. If you are not comfortable with that person, find someone else."

A permanent cosmetic artist learns the trade through seminars or studies under someone with several years of experience. At this time, there are no schools or courses devoted to the practice. Washington state licenses permanent cosmetic artists and requires them to have a blood-borne pathogens certificate. Idaho does not regulate permanent makeup or tattoo artists, so it is important to do your homework and and find a skilled professional who been trained in applying permanent cosmetic makeup.

"A good cosmetic artist knows how to consider the person's bone structure and natural coloring," says Seyhanli. "They will use quality pigments, match the pigments and style to the individual's face and they won't go overboard. It's art, really." ♦

Choosing a Permanent Cosmetic Artist

• Start with friends' recommendations and look at the artist's before and after client photos.

• Make sure the artist has a business license.

• Make an appointment for a free consultation (if this is not a possibility, you can keep looking).

• Ask the artist about their training, number of procedures they've done and years of experience.

• The salon space should be free of contaminants like nail dust, aerosols or other chemicals.

• Look online for recommendations and complaints.

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