Permanent Makeup: Utah County leads the state with regulations


Debbie Jensen CPCT,

In Utah County, permanent eyeliner, eyebrows and lip colors can be your greatest blessing — or your worst nightmare.

Are you aware that in the state of Utah there are absolutely no licensing requirements to do permanent cosmetics? This means that it is possible that the hairdresser perming your hair has far more schooling than the person putting pigment under your skin, which will remain there for the rest of your life.

Permanent cosmetics and the practitioners who apply them are spurting up in nearly every beauty salon across this valley. This is strong evidence that these procedures are becoming mainstream and is good news for the beauty industry and for many women who suffer from various ailments as well as allergies to topical makeup.

For the woman who has no eyebrow hair, a fading lip line or disappearing eyes, the availability of permanent makeup brings a great sigh of relief. These procedures can be used to restore the features of burn patients, Alopecia sufferers, breast cancer survivors and those scarred from accidents or surgery.

Educating yourself about these procedures can better your chances of a good outcome and save you unwelcome results and costly repairs. It is imperative that you understand the risks that you are exposing yourself to and know as much as possible about the technician who is applying your makeup.

Fortunately, Utah County has led the state with county regulations and requirements. Ron Tobler of the Utah County Health Department has been instrumental in bringing about regulation of the permanent makeup industry. These regulations are available at the UCHD, but I will share some of them here.

Permanent cosmetics are applied with needles. Before you get too distraught, let me assure you that topical numbing agents are used in most cases, making these procedures quite comfortable. The color, or pigment, is inserted through the top layer of the skin into the second layer with various tools, machines and methods. These include coil machines, similar to those used by tattoo artists. There are also smaller, quieter versions of these machines, called rotary pens. Rotary pens were developed specifically for the permanent makeup industry. Also used are hand tools, which have no motor and require the tech to “tap” the pigment into the skin manually.

Manufacturers and users of all of these methods give lengthy versions of why their method or machine is the best, but the truth is, the method is only as good as the technician who uses it. All of these methods are capable of creating beautiful results, provided the technician has had the proper training required to perfect it. Some technicians will tell you that their method is not a tattoo. This is erroneous information. Any time pigment is placed below the surface of the skin, it is a tattoo. There is no other way to make something permanent other than to tattoo it.

Tattoo needles, in any form, are exposed to body fluids, or blood, during the tattoo process. This means that particles of blood may be contaminated with unfriendly “bugs.” Re-using a needle is absolutely forbidden! Even reusing a needle on the same client is against the law in Utah County.

I have seen technicians give the needle to their client and tell them to bring it back with them for their touch-up appointment. This is negligence on the part of these technicians. The needle is no longer sterile when it leaves that studio, and the client could drop it, lose it, or discard of it improperly, exposing innocent people to contaminates. Needles must be discarded in a puncture-proof container after one use. It is possible that any number of contaminants could be living on a needle, including Hepatitis and HIV.

The area where the procedure is done is of utmost importance. By law, the room must be separate from other areas and have a sink in the treatment room for the technician to properly wash her hands. Washing of the hands in other areas leaves open opportunity for germs to make their way to the treatment room if the technician touches doorknobs, etc. Mixing hairs pray and nail dust is a disaster waiting to happen and increases the likelihood of infections. The technician should wear gloves while she is working on you. The floor must be of a smooth surface and easily cleaned. Carpet is forbidden as it harbors bacteria.

When selecting a technician to apply your cosmetics, make sure that she is registered with the UCHD. She should have a certificate hanging in a visible location. This indicates that she has taken the blood-born pathogen test required by the Health Department., that she is properly registered, and that her facility undergoes annual inspections. If you meet someone who does not meet these requirements, turn them in to UCHD.

Educating yourself and knowing how to screen a professional technician will help to ensure positive results for you. Permanent Cosmetics can be a very safe and uncomplicated experience, provided certain guidelines are heeded. They are a lifesaver for many, many women, and can be the best thing that you ever do for yourself. A few suggestions to aid you in your selection of the appropriate technician would include the following:
(1) Check references from past clients.
(2) Ask the technician how long she has been applying permanent cosmetics and ask to see proof of her certificate(s) of training. Note the date on her certificate and how many certificates she has. A professional technician will update her training on a regular basis. The amount of time that she has in the business will give you basic information. However, this is not the “tell all” that she is really good. A technician may be in the business for 15 years, but took a two-day course 15 years ago, whereas a three-year technician may have seven certificates and spent thousands of dollars to update her knowledge regularly.
(3) Ask to see a portfolio of before and after photos of her work. Make sure that the photos are of people that she has done and not generic brochures that she has purchased from other companies.
(4) Look around her studio. Is it clean? Does she have a sharps container in view to dispose of her needles? Does she use single-use disposable components that come pre-packaged and sterilized?
(5) There are two non-profit organizations dedicated to education in the industry of permanent cosmetics: the SPCP (Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals and NCTA (National Cosmetic Tattooing Association). Membership in these organizations indicates the tech’s willingness to better the industry, update education and maintain knowledge through conventions and programs. A certificate evidences membership.
(6) Many, but not all, good technicians will be affiliated in some way with a physician in order that the physician offer advice and support in the event of a problem. It also indicates that the technician is more likely to use proper sterilization procedures.
(7) Realize that all of these procedures will require maintenance. They are affected by a variety of outside conditions, such as sun and UV exposure, chlorine, certain medications, skin type, pigment color and others. In other words, to keep them looking their best, you will have to have them touched up. The amount of time between these touch-ups will vary from person to person. These are not one-stop-does-it-all procedures. Ask the technician about her touch-up policy.
(8) In permanent cosmetics, the saying “You get what you pay for” is only too true. I am often discouraged when a callers’ first question is, “How much does it cost?” rather than “Tell me what your qualifications are.” A good technician will spend thousands of dollars educating herself in order to know as much about her industry as possible.

Debbie is co-owner of The Permanent Cosmetics Clinic in Orem. She is a technician and educator in her field. She also works in the offices of Cosmetic Plastic Surgery Institute Day Spa & Retreat. Debbie publishes COSMETECH~Permanent Makeup Magazine. She is working on proposed legislation that will require proper education and licensing of all permanent cosmetic professionals in Utah.


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