Permanent Cosmetic Technicians: Diverse, Professional and Life-Changing

Narrowly escaping a blizzard in Toronto, I arrived in Las Vegas last March carrying a suitcase full of summer clothes and plenty of imaginary baggage and myths about the permanent cosmetics industry.  Given carte blanche by the Board of the SPCP to attend their convention, I was reassured that my toughest questions would be welcome.  Given the fair amount of negative press about this industry, my reporter’s mind wanted to learn more about this unique aspect of the beauty business.

The people I met had unique and refreshing outlooks.  At the convention, the SPCP taught members to be proud about what they do and who they are.   And in conversations with Cari Bickley, the keynote speaker, I learned about how you change lives.

My first surprise were the attendees.  All walks of life were represented, with most of the women dressed as professional businesswomen.  Your medical advisor, Dr. Whitney Tope, put it in perspective when he told me this was more like the “country club” set than the biker-babes or ex-showgirls I was expecting.  Most of the technicians I met were walking advertisements for cosmetic tattooing, and the results looked super.  (Although there were a handful of male attendees, about 95% were female.)

I assumed cosmetic tattooing hadn’t been around long enough to create consumer confidence.  (The first I’d ever heard of it was in a magazine article a couple of years ago.)  I soon learned that the figurative tattooing is an ancient art, and cosmetic tattooing had become mainstream in the last decade.  During that time, the SPCP has be come the regulating body which promotes the industry and its standards.  For instance, the SPCP vigorously encourages continuing education and disparages initial schooling in a “quickie” 2-day course.

While I was impressed there was a doctor on your board, I was surprised to discover one of the founders of the SPCP, Susan Preston, is a major player in the insurance industry.  It was fascinating to discover that in the beginning she and others had to come up with a stringent set of ethics and rules which would stand up in a court of law.  And now the SPCP serves the international community by trying to unify global standards.

Okay, I’ll fess up, I sat through as much as I could of Dr. Tope’s talk (with colorful, realistic slides) on tattoo removal.  No reflection on the good doctor, I’m simply a squeamish kinda gal.  But what I did glean from what he said was this – the old fashioned ways of tattoo removal are the recipes for disaster.   Using such materials as acid (ouch!) to burn off a tattoo will probably result in a scar in the shape of the original tattoo.

Even I could see the optimum choices were 1) Leave it alone; 2) Tattoo over it to change or correct it; or 3) Take advantage of the latest technologies utilizing laser surgery, performed with anesthesia by a qualified physician.

Although the average customer is between 45-65 and hoping to slow the aging process, I also never realized how many clients are referred by the medical community.  Which brings me to my next topic – my interview with the eloquent Cari Bickley, a recent Mrs. Washington.  She was candid about living with Alopecia (total body-hair loss).  She had the courage to enter a beauty pageant – which she ultimately won!

It must have been a horrifying experience to realize she was losing her hair.  Cari heartily concurred, “especially for somebody who was so wrapped up in what they looked like!”  She began losing her eyebrows in high school, and it quickly progressed to bald spots on her scalp.  “I was able to control that for about 10 years with cortisone injections, which were incredibly effective.  But shortly after the birth of my third child, I was completely bald.   It took 6 months to go from a semblance of normalcy to having no hair at all.”   Her advice to others struggling with Alopecia, “Dig deep inside yourself, and look beyond the mirror.”

She’s grateful permanent cosmetic tattooing created her eyebrows, boosting her confidence and convenience.  Her beauty regimen includes false eyelashes and several wigs.  She encourages others to have permanent cosmetics, saying, “Do it!  But since it’s permanent, don’t turn your face over to somebody just because they’re the cheapest one out there.  Do your research and find the best one you can afford.”  Cari says the next step in her life will be to write a book about her extraordinary experiences.

For this writer, the four days I spent in Las Vegas were an extraordinary learning experience.  I believe the SPCP is an invaluable organization, created and run by people who care about their industry, their peers, and most especially their clients.  In Las Vegas many myths were dispelled for me, friendships made, and much was learned.  Now more than ever, I’m determined to pass on all I’ve discovered to the public at large.  Just like they say on the X-Files, I knew the truth was out there.  And it was.

By Joyce Singer, Guest Columnist