How to Become a Permanent Makeup Artist

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Permanent makeup artists, also commonly called cosmetic tattoo artists or tattoo makeup artists, are beauty professionals who perform tattooing services specifically for creating the appearance of traditional cosmetic eyebrows, lip color, eyeliners, etc. Permanent makeup artists may also provide services such as scar camouflage and areola re-pigmentation.

Permanent Makeup Artistry: What is It?

Permanent makeup artistry is a form of cosmetic tattooing that involves choosing color pigments and inserting them into the skin to mimic cosmetic makeup. This may include eyebrows, powder eyebrows, lash enhancement, eyeliner, beauty marks, lip liners, and full lip color, just to name a few.

Although permanent makeup artistry is typically chosen to enhance facial features and is therefore considered a cosmetic procedure, it has also become a beneficial procedure for burn victims or for those who have had accidents or surgeries that have altered their appearance. These types of procedures, which are often called “paramedical procedures,” may help camouflage scarring or tissue damage; correct skin pigmentation problems; and re-pigment the areola of women’s breasts who have undergone reconstructive surgery following breast cancer treatments or mastectomies.

The process of permanent makeup artistry involves using a number of hand tools, including the traditional tattoo coil machine or the pen/rotary machine, as well as non-machine devices. The process typically involves a thorough consultation with a client, applying the pigment to the dermal layer of the skin, and following up for evaluation and additional treatments.

How to Become a Permanent Makeup Artist: What to Consider

Individuals who want to learn how to become a permanent makeup artist should keep the following in mind:

  • Each state has its own training and licensure requirements. While some makeup artists may be required to possess permanent makeup licenses through their state board of cosmetology, others are bound by standard tattoo license regulations. Some states have no regulations at all.
  • There are few similarities in standards from one state to the next. Some states require as little as a one-day class or weekend seminar, while other states require a formal licensing program of 200 hours or more for state licensure.

Just a few examples of state requirement disparity include:

  • Permanent makeup artists in Tennessee must be registered as tattoo artists through the Tennessee Department of Health.
  • Permanent makeup artists in Pennsylvania must meet the regulations of the county health department in which they work.
  • Permanent makeup artists in Oregon must be licensed through the Oregon Board of Body Art Practitioners, which requires being at least 18 years old, possessing a high school diploma or GED, and submitting documentation that training in blood borne pathogens, CPR, and basic first aid have been completed.
  • Permanent makeup artists in New Jersey must earn licensure through the Department of Health, which requires the completion of at least 100 hours of approved training.
  • Permanent makeup artists in Colorado must possess a current esthetician or cosmetologist license through the Colorado Board of Cosmetology and receive an advanced training certificate in permanent makeup, which requires a program of at least 132 clock hours.

Diploma and Certification Programs and Classes

Whether or not a program in permanent makeup is required for registration/licensure purposes, all individuals with aspirations of becoming a permanent makeup artist can benefit from the completion of a diploma or certificate program through an accredited school.

A permanent makeup artist training program teaches students through both theory and practical classes, which often include hands-on training in student clinic environments. Although specific classes and curriculum structure vary from one program to the next, classes in a permanent makeup artistry program likely include study in:

  • Safety, sterilization, and sanitation (cross-contamination prevention and blood-borne pathogen control)
  • Procedure room/station setup (OSHA, CDC and NIOSH guidelines)
  • Topical anesthesia
  • Procedure after-care
  • Needle selection and usage
  • Makeup artistry with symmetry
  • Technical application of permanent cosmetics (accurate insertion, proper depth, etc.)
  • Permanent makeup tools (use of hand tool, rotary coil, and digital machine)
  • Anatomy and physiology
  • Color theory and color mixing (pigment mixing)
  • Skin types and colors
  • Client consultation
  • Highlighting and shadowing

Advanced procedures, such as scar camouflaging and areola re-pigmentation, are typically reserved for practicing permanent makeup artists in advanced-level courses.

Permanent Makeup Artist Professional Associations

Because the practice of permanent makeup artistry is not well regulated (or regulated at all) throughout the U.S., many individuals seeking permanent makeup artistry services often look to professional associations/organizations for referrals, as professionals in these associations must often adhere to a strict ethical and moral code and possess specific education and training in permanent makeup artistry.

The largest and most prominent permanent makeup artist professional associations include:

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