Permanent makeup: Cosmetic procedure finding converts in New Hampshire

Permanent makeup: Cosmetic procedure finding converts in New Hampshire By VICTORIA GUAY Staff Writer PORTSMOUTH — For people who are tired of having s...
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Permanent makeup: Cosmetic procedure finding converts in New Hampshire By VICTORIA GUAY Staff Writer PORTSMOUTH — For people who are tired of having summer makeup meltdowns there’s help on the horizon in the form of permanent cosmetics — also known as micropigmentation. Micropigmentation is a process by which eyeliner, lip liner and lip color can be permanently applied by injecting pigments into the skin with fine needles. Eyebrows and eyelashes can also be enhanced by the process. Though it was available in the ’70s, the process did not become well-known until the 1980s, according to the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals Web site. Local Micropigmentation Specialist, Corky Toole said that the procedure is just now gaining popularity here in New England. "It continues to be very popular on the West Coast but it’s just starting to reach the East Coast," Toole said. "New England is behind the times on a lot of trends." Toole has been a micropigmentation specialist for eight years and is licensed by the State of New Hampshire’s tattoo board. Toole is also a registered nurse and reiki master. She rents space in the Terramagra Salon in Portsmouth, where she performs micropigmentation procedures in a small room walled with mirrors on two sides. Currently in New Hampshire, there are only eight businesses offering permanent cosmetic application, most of which are located in the Seacoast. However, Toole, said some of the other businesses do not use the micropigmentation process, meaning the procedure is more like a body tattoo, where permanent inks are used as opposed to pigments. The tattoo inks are harsh on the skin and last a lifetime. Toole explained that though the pigments are called permanent, they do have to be replaced every three to four years as fading will occur. This is because only the top layers of skin are pigmented and the color fades as skin exfoliates. The advantages of micropigmentation, said Toole, are that it is gentler on the skin and more natural looking. Also as skin tone and personal taste change, so can the color and degree of permanent makeup.

An average procedure lasts from one to three hours and costs anywhere from $400 to $800, according to the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals. Toole charges from $200 to $700 — the highest amount is for a full lip shading and the lowest amount is for lower-lid eyeliner. She also offers eye lash perming and tinting for $25 each. Eye lash perming and tinting is meant to simulate mascara. There are many reasons why micropigmentation appeals to people, said Toole. "It’s for people who don’t want to wear a lot of makeup or spend a lot of time on it," Toole said. "We live in a time now where you try to save as much time as you can." She used the example of going to the gym. "It’s for people who don’t want to sweat off their makeup, yet want to have a polished look," Toole said. She added that the process is also for people who want to camouflage a scar or correct imperfections. People who are allergic to regular makeup or who have trouble applying daily makeup due to poor eyesight or arthritis can also benefit. Lori Elliott of Hampton, said she decided to get eyeliner on her upper and lower lids because she saw how good it looked on Toole. Elliott, who is the receptionist at the Terramagra Salon, said she doesn’t wear much makeup and doesn’t want to bother with it every day. "I live near the beach and in the summer time, all I wear is eyeliner and mascara and this will get rid of that ordeal in the morning," said Elliott. "I like not having to worry about makeup." She said she doesn’t have to worry about cleaning it off at night either. You can go to sleep and you don’t have to worry about waking up with raccoon eyes," Elliott said. A Web site called, which advertises a San Antonio, Texas, micropigmentation specialist, said having permanent cosmetics applied can save 15 minutes a day or 92 hours a year. Toole said she started in 1995, working for a plastic surgeon who specialized in breast reconstruction, mostly for women who have had breast cancer. Toole would use the micropigmentation process to create the look of natural nipples and areolas. Toole would also use micropigmentation to lessen the visibility of face lift or medical surgery scars.

After doing that for a few years, Toole wanted to do something different so she commuted from New Hampshire to New York City on the weekends to attend classes and work with Yolanda Moore, a nationally known micropigmentation specialist. She started doing permanent makeup work about 4 years ago, however, Toole said she still occasionally works with plastic surgeons for scar revisions and breast enhancement. Toole set-up shop at Terramagra in November and has been busy ever since. She said business was slow at first, but as customers told friends, she found her client base growing by word of mouth. Having a nursing background, Toole said, she puts a strong emphasis on the safety and sterility of the procedure. Before clients hit the comfy operating chair, they must attend a free consultation with Toole so that she can be familiar with their medical history and alert the client to any health concerns. For example if someone is diabetic, they may not heal as well or as fast. When doing lips, if someone has a cold sore or blister, she will tell the client to get the sore treated before having the procedure done. Toole said she has a whole packet of information to give people, including a list of preparation techniques. She said a client should come to the salon with no makeup on the day of the procedure. Any tweezing or waxing should be done at least 48 before the procedure and electrolysis should be done at least five days before. Included in the packet is a list of over-the-counter and prescription medications that can increase bleeding. For over-the-counter remedies such as aspirin and ibuprofen, Toole recommends staying off them for three weeks prior to the procedure. "If you take aspirin, you could loose your whole tattoo," she said. For prescription medication, Toole said clients should talk to their physicians first. Toole said she has reservations about camouflaging some birthmarks and most moles because the marks could be indicators for cancer. She suggests getting the birthmark or mole in question checked by a doctor before undergoing a micropigmentation procedure.

Once in the procedure chair, which reclines back so the patient is lying down, Toole covers the client with a sheet and puts a surgical cap on their head to keep hair away from the face. Toole herself wears surgical gloves and a surgical mask. With soothing music in the background, Toole will apply a topical anesthetic to the area that is to be pigmented. During her procedure, Elliott said her eye felt numb. When asked if was hard to keep her eyelids closed, she said that the bright light made them water. "At first it’s uncomfortable because someone is messing with your eyes," Elliott said. "It’s scary when you first get it done, because your not really sure what it is going to be like," Toole said, adding that she tries to make the experience as relaxing as possible. "It’s uncomfortable but it doesn’t hurt," Elliott said when asked if her eyes or eye lids were sore after the procedure. She said they were itchy Toole said the pigmented area can be tender for about 10 days after a procedure. According to the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals Web site, most people will suffer some discomfort during and after a procedure, but the degree will vary due to individual pain thresholds. During the procedure there may be some bleeding or bruising. The Web site said side effects are few and include tenderness and swelling. Eyebrows are usually least affected, while a person’s eyelids and lips may swell for two up to 72 hours after the procedure. Toole said bleeding and bruising almost never occur during procedures she’s performed. According to the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, if proper sterilization and sanitary guidelines are met, the procedure is very safe. The Web site says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported that there have been no incidents over the past 10 years where HIV or Hepatitis B has been transmitted during the tattoo process. The site also notes that the chances of having an allergic reaction to the pigments are slim with a person being more likely allergic to regular makeup. Toole said that a month after a procedure, clients come in for a follow-up visit so the rate of fading can be determined. Touch ups are usually needed every 3 to 4 years.

She said it’s always better to go lighter and more scant the first time and go darker and wider on the touch-up. Toole is an instructor and has taught classes in San Francisco and Los Angeles. She also travels around New England to teach and perform procedures. She said her services are in great demand in Massachusetts now that a ban on tattooing and micropigmentation has been lifted. Her next local class begins May 19. The class will be a break for aspiring micropigmentation specialists as it is free of charge. Normally the class costs $900 but, she said, the company she works with for equipment and supplies, MCN International, is offering the free course because of the tragic events of Sept. 11. Victoria Guay can be reached at 524-3800, ext. 5937, or by e-mail at [email protected]