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Choosing a Permanent Makeup Artist

When choosing a permanent makeup artist.....

Reputation is All

Permanent makeup artists fall into two different categories: those who have had formal training or an apprenticeship and "scratchers.'

The scratcher is an untrained permanent makeup person who may be artistically gifted but rarely bothers sterilizing his instruments. The scratcher may work out of a studio, but often works from his home, a bedroom or the back room of a bar. They may describe themselves as freelancer. A scratcher often purchases equipment through the Internet or email. The worst thing about a scratcher is their tendency to reuse needles which of course can lead to fatal diseases such as hepatitis or AIDS.

In a category somewhere between the shady practices of the scratcher and the brightly lit sanitary studio of professional PMU (permanent makeup) tattoo artists are the artists that just don't have any artistic talent. Their PMU tattoos are badly executed, the lines uneven, the look unattractive and their drawing look unnatural or is out of proportion. If a PMU artist's works seems ill thought out or lacks a pleasant composition then trust your instincts and stay away.

Unfortunately we live in a day and age where tattooing could literally be the death of a customer if proper procedures are not strictly carried out. Needles and equipment must be properly sterilized, cross-contamination and strict sterilization techniques must be adhered to, or disease can spread as quickly. Blood-borne pathogens do kill tattoo clients. If you think all that you need to get a PMU tattoo is a needle and some ink...think again! Before you choose the PMU tattoo artist, you need to make an inner decision that you are not going to settle for banal, boring or sloppy work. There is too much talent on the market for you to walk away with a badly drawn or splotchy looking brow tattoo.

It is your ultimate responsibility to choose an artist who has the cleanliness of a surgeon and the talent of a drawing master. Sometimes this means investing some money and sometimes it means travelling to another city to get the PMU that you want. You need to tell yourself that this expense of time and energy is worth it, as it is an investment in what is ultimately a permanent work of art.

The only way to properly assess a PMU artist is to see examples of his or her work. They should have a portfolio that is signed or watermarked in some way. The portfolio should consist of photographs of work that they have done before and after pictures, You can also visit the shop or studio and ask if you can see actual work the artist has done. One good reason to do this is to establish the variety of the artist's portfolio. Unfortunately anyone can put up examples of PMU on their walls and then claim authorship of the work.

Another way to find a good PMU artist is to walk up to someone, whose eyebrows, eyeliner or  other permanent cosmetic procedure you admire, and ask him or her who did their work. They will be the first to recommend the artist if the pmu artist is good. Make sure you question these individuals to find out the cost of the PMU as well as the hygienic conditions of the shop. In this case, strangers are likely to give you better advice than your friends. The problem with a friend is that they may be a "friend of a friend" of the tattooist and not be familiar with the tattooist's artistic or business reputation at all.

Industry and cultural websites ( are also a good source of information about PMU. The intent of most of these web sites is to weed out the scratchers from the fine artists and showcase the best of tattoo artists.

Don't Expect the Moon and the Stars

Like most artists, PMU artists have their own specific styles that they excel at and styles that they are not so good at. For example, if you want a realistic natural eyebrows, don't seek out an artist that specializes in machine permanent makeup look for a natural microblading artist

Ultimately when it comes to PMU, you are the art director and you are selecting the talent to realize your dream. Some PMU artists are better micropigmentation than others, others have a knack for microblading natural looking eyebrows.  Usually you can tell by looking at the artist's online portfolio great artist love to show their work, also look for reviews online.

Most PMU artist have a great deal of enthusiasm for their work and are willing to "get into the spirit" with you when it comes to arriving at the style, look and size of tattoo that is best for you. If the artist has suggestions about size, shape and color, listen to the voice of experience. They may simply know what looks best or they may be trying to subtly tell you something about the limitations of their own talent.

Once you are in the chair, treat your PMU artist with respect. Don't try to be a "back seat" artist and annoy him or her with impulsive creative suggestions. Of course, this is not going to happen if you and the artist have mutually agreed on an appropriate design in the first place.

Cost is a Factor

If you can't afford permanent cosmetics, than accept your circumstances. Although a tattoo is priceless, it can also be considered to be a form of "beauty treatment." You wouldn't allow a bad hairdresser to butcher your hair, so don't let an affordable PMU artist brand you for life with a marking that you might dislike.

As with any product, the cost of PMU varies from artist to artist. Popular or award winning artists will always charge more than inexperienced artists.

The cheapest PMU is usually done by newer artist or non natural looking tattoo artist using a machine creating the so called sharpie look. In general you can expect to pay between $650 and $1000 U.S. for a PMU For custom work, most artists usually charge by the hour. It is highly recommended that you bring a picture of a look you like and always have it drawn in before hand. Rates for custom PMU like multi color hair strokes for 6D eyebrows, go anywhere from $700 and $1500 USD. Although price doesn't always dictate the excellence of the artist, you are probably best ensured to receive permanent makeup that you are satisfied with by choosing an artist that charges $400 an hour or more.

Professional Considerations

Applying permanent makeup involves a lot more than just creating a pretty picture. A professional PMU artist is an artist, a technician and a craftsperson. Selecting the artist who is going to apply your PMU is the most important decision that you will have to make, so make sure the artist is part-Nurse, part artist.

Make sure you take the time to scrutinize the artist's work? Do the lines of the tattoos look shaky or feathery? Do the hair strokes look like hairs and lip liner like lip liner ? What about the coloring? Are the colors natural looking well to create even forms of shading, dimension, and depth? Do any of the Pmu look swollen, faded, bleary or out of proportion. Trust your own artistic eye when it comes to this, as despite all of the promises or excuses that explain inferior work, your PMU will probably resemble what is in the artist's portfolio in the end.

Permanent cosmetics can be considered to be a form of invasive surgery because it involves bonding color through to base layer of your skin. The more translucent outer layer of the skin grows over this layer, once the PMU has healed.

When a PMU "fails" it is usually because the ink was placed too deeply into the skin where bodily fluids can cause the Pigment to spread and lose definition. If the PMU is not impressed deeply enough into the skin, the PMU may fade or completely disappear. You also might want to find out if the artist is abiding by city or state laws and what certifications and licenses are required to legally tattoo in your city and state. If the artist cannot produce this certification than don't risk it.

Assessing the Artist's Practice

If the permanent makeup studio does not look as clean as your doctor or dentist's office than walk right out of the door. Bad places to get PMU are in someone's kitchen, a local bar, in the bleachers at a racetrack or at a county fair. This is because sterile conditions cannot be met in certain environments.

Watching the artist in action (video)  is also highly recommended, as everything that is used to apply the tattoo should be sterilized or disposable. For instance, the artist should not be dipping his needle into a large plastic jug of ink. The ink should be poured into a sterile and disposable container that is intended for use with just one customer. You might also want to observe how the tattooist is applying numbing ointments and Aquaphor. The PMU artist should always use steel or disposable wooden sterile spreader and not a finger to apply these substances to your skin. The tattooist should also use disposable sterile non-latex gloves. If he or she is using bare fingers then you are vulnerable to infection and disease. New sterile needles should also be used for every PMU.

All non-disposable equipment should be sterilized after each use with an autoclave. Ultra-sonic cleaning does not sterilize equipment. It should only be used as a method of cleaning the equipment before it's placed into the autoclave. Make sure you question the artist to make sure that he or she is in possession of an FDA regulating auto-clave. Dunking equipment in a tub of rubbing alcohol is not enough to sterilize PMU equipment.

You also might want to ask the artist if he or she has a body art card and is vaccinated for Hepatitis B. Never just take anyone's word for it. Do they have proof? Can they show you a doctor's record proving they were vaccinated? The hepatitis vaccination is a series of three shots given over a four-month period of time. It's not something that's going to just slip someone's mind. Getting a hepatitis shot is "an affair to remember."

Unfortunately, mandatory testing for hepatitis B is not required before an artist can pick up a needle. For ultimate safety, make sure that you are vaccinated before you receive a new tattoo.

Ten Signs You Are in the Right Studio

1. The PMU Artist Has Online Samples of Previous Work

Never select an artist who can not produce some kind of online portfolio. A photo album of PMU done on living skin should be provided for you to look at in the studio or online make sure it shows before and after

2. The PMU Artist Lives in a Disposable Universe

Nothing  that the PMU artist uses should ever be placed back into a container. This includes ointment, ink and water. Usually these substances have been in contact with your blood plasma. Such thriftiness increases the risk of the spread of infection to you and others.

Ink should always be placed in ink caps, which are tiny cups used to hold just enough color that is needed to tattoo you. This ink should never be returned to a bottle or a jar.

3. The PMU Artist Possesses an Autoclave Certificate

An autoclave is an electric sterilization unit that resembles a steel pressure cooker. It is used by doctors to sterilize medical equipment. In order for equipment to be sterilized it must sit in the autoclave at a temperature of 246 degrees for at least thirty minutes. Just being in possession of an autoclave does not guarantee that it is in use. Ask if the artist possesses a recent autoclave certificate that shows that the unit is regularly tested and in use by the operators of the business.

If the PMU artist gives you any "attitude" or is evasive with regards to the use of the autoclave or tries to pass off an ultra-sonic cleaner as a sterilization equipment then head for the front door.

4. The PMU Artist Uses New Sterile Needles

New sterile needles are always removed from a pouch called an autoclave bag. The needles should not be removed from this pouch until your PMU work is in progress. Each autoclave needle bag usually boasts a small label called a "sterile confirmation" label along with the name of the manufacturer. If you do not see this label on the bag or if your needles are sitting outside the bag, then the artist may be reusing materials. New needles are bright silver in color. If needles appear stained, brownish or dulled then stop the procedure.

5. The PMU Artist Wears Non Latex Gloves

Fingers spread germs to raw, freshly tattooed skin faster than anything else. For this reason the tattooist should always wear standard medical non latex (latex can have allergic reaction to some) gloves. The gloves should not have holes or tears in them and fit the artist properly. It only takes a pinhole in the latex glove to increase the risk of cross contamination.

6. The PMU Artist Disposes Needles In a Sharps Container

A Sharps container is a plastic container, usually red, with a biohazard symbol on the outside. You also see these containers that are labeled "hazardous waste" in dental and doctor offices.

Used needles, and anything else contaminated and not scheduled for autoclave sterilization should be placed in these containers and removed in a timely manner.

7. The Artist Has a License to Practice

Most states require a tattoo artist to have some kind of license before they can touch anyone with a needle. Check the laws in your state to make sure that you are dealing with a licensed practitioner.

8. The Artist is Trained and Certified

Unfortunately, there isn't any kind of official certification given to tattoo artists that complete their education. PMU is an oral tradition that is usually passed down through generations through an apprenticeship. However most tattoo artists will be able to produce proof that a well-known tattoo artist has trained them in safe and hygienic practices.

9. The PMU Studio is Clean and Well Lit

Although most PMU studios are kind of medical looking, complete with bright lights and stereo music, this doesn't mean the place is clean. What matters most is that the "surgical" area looks spic and span and is well lit with halogen lights.

10. You and the PMU Artist "Click"

You must revere and respect the PMU artist and he or she must revere and respect you. You do not have to become best friends, however this is a situation where you should not be subjected to any kind of humiliation, sarcasm or displays of artistic temperament. Behaviors that fall into the category of displays of artistic temperament include anger, giddiness, and a reluctance to stick to schedule and inviting you to get high or drunk. A tattoo artist should also not consider him or herself to be too hip to conduct themselves in the civil and courteous manner that is usually associated with good business practices.

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