What to Look For in a Permanent Cosmetic Technician

By Marjorie Grimm, CPCP

This article is provided to you with an objective overview of what the general public should look for in a permanent cosmetic professional in California and Washington.  Each state has unique requirements and these happen to be the two states I work in and am knowledgeable about.  For those of you in other states that may be reviewing my site for information, please go to the website of the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals at www.spcp.org and in the “Info for Technicians” drop down menu select “Regulation Information.” While this is meant as a guide and will steer you in the right direction to conduct research, it is the consumers’ task to be sure all state, city, and county regulations are considered before pursuing permanent cosmetics.

In California tattooing is regulated by the Department of Health.  There is no prescribed requirement for training, although permits are required for the facility and the technician.  

In Washington, tattooing is regulated by the Department of Licensing (DOL).  As of July 1, 2010, a mandate for licensing was passed by regulation. 

The primary focus in these two states is clearly at this time, health and safety regulations and permits and licenses.  Washington DOL has indicated training will be required.  This page will be updated as appropriate.  

The selection of a trained, credentialed technician who meets your appearance objectives is at the discretion of the person seeking the service, but things are getting somewhat better; at least these two states are requiring standards from ethical technicians.  The problem always remains what do they do about the technicians who refuse to comply with standards and don’t give state laws the time of day? 

In California (and I’m sure this happens in other states) there are technicians who just simply don’t seem to care about the consequences of non-compliance.  They offer services under some very questionable circumstances. Recently one of the women I trained advised me there are people coming into the US from other countries, conducting procedures at “home parties” and then returning to their home country.  The people at the home parties who received permanent makeup are left without follow up services or anyone to ask questions of during the healing process period. 

I’ve also noticed that people seem to be traveling to other countries and during their stay getting permanent makeup and then returning to the US.  This is not a great idea unless there are frequent trips to the country where you received permanent makeup services and unless the technician has proof of training and demonstrated skills.  The results that I’ve personally seen indicated there wasn’t any training or skills involved.  Unfortunately I’ve advised several women who received their makeup under these circumstances correction work was out of the question, it needed to be treated by a medical professional with laser. 

What it gets down to is like any other product or service, you can either afford to seek out permanent makeup services with a credentialed and skilled individual or you cannot.  Price shopping without regard to skills is not recommended.

If you are considering choosing a technician for your services based on the lowest price you are quoted, this is not a wise approach to base your technician selection.  If it seems too good to be true, it most likely is just that, too good to be true, and you should beware. Although ethics would dictate that a person would not offer permanent cosmetic services unless they were credentialed to do so with proof of fundamental training and attending a Bloodborne Pathogens class to ensure they are following the prescribed health and safety rules that dictate processes for invasive procedures, sadly, many do not.  Tattoo equipment can be purchased online or at beauty shows by anyone.  Video type training is also sold teaching those who purchase the video how to perform permanent cosmetic procedures without the benefit of a trainer, without every having completed any hands on procedures or successfully passing any competency examinations.  This is clearly dangerous.

Technicians who have training, experience, and implement sanitation and sterilization standards to ensure your safety are not going to offer the cheapest rates.  They are professionals who use equipment that prevents cross contamination from one client to another; safe pigments/anesthetics, and disposable single use products/machine accessories, and offer at least one follow up visit after the initial procedure has healed.  This all adds to the price of the service.  Professionals also work in an environment that is considered safe for conducting invasive procedures.  Your dentist and physician do not work out of their homes so why would you consider a technician that performs an invasive tattoo procedure from that type of environment?  There are industry standards regardless of whether the language in laws speaks directly to specific safeguards, articles such as this one are provided to ensure you have all the information you need to make a good decision about permanent cosmetics.

April 2006 update - California - Santa Clara County has passed county regulations for body art services, which includes permanent cosmetics. (go to: www.sccgov.org/portal/site/deh/ and put “tattoo regulations” in the search section and click on “Body Art Regulations.”

Faces By Design as a permanent cosmetic facility and Marjorie Grimm as a permanent cosmetic technician are both permitted and compliant with the April 2006 Santa Clara Department of Environmental Health (DEH.)  These permits, required for all body art facilities and technicians must be displayed in the applicable facility for public viewing. 

These regulations provide a safeguard for those seeking permanent cosmetic technicians who are compliant with the law.  Although the regulations do not require proof of training, it is a positive step toward recognizing technicians who respect their profession and adhere to federal and state laws to protect the public.

There are many aspects of training, proof of skills, business practices, and other elements of the permanent cosmetic process and technician abilities that a person seeking permanent cosmetic services can inquire about or observe.

  • Training – Can the technician you are considering show evidence of primary and continuing education training? In states where there are no licensing provisions, training certificates of completion are provided to technicians who have successfully completed classes.
  • Bloodborne Pathogens Training – This is a class that professionals who perform invasive procedures may be required to take to learn how to perform safe procedures and prevent cross contamination.  Requirements will vary from state to state, sometimes as in the instance of California, from county to county, and also depends on the how the office is staffed, etc. Bloodborne Pathogens training is always to the credit of the technician.  A certificate of attendance is provided at the completion of these classes. In California, tattoo artists are required to register with their local County Health Department.  Permanent cosmetics is tattooing no matter what anyone calls it.
  • Business professionals post or otherwise make available their city business license (This is not a tattoo license, but rather a license to conduct business in the city where they work in.)  Please be aware that a license for other beauty or medical related services does not constitute a license for tattooing in these two states.  There are no specific state issued licenses for tattooing in California and Washington.
  • You can inquire about how long a person has been providing permanent cosmetic services, however because there is no licensing (in California and Washington specifically) it may be difficult to confirm.  You can ask to see training certificates as an aid. 
  • Photo portfolios of before and after work is also a good source of information to help determine if the technician performs work that appeals to you.  Make sure the photos are not a purchased “coffee table book” type presentation and are actually the work of the technician you are considering. Photo examples of work should also include examples of “healed work.”  The appearance of the permanent cosmetic procedure changes during the healing process. 
  • Consider the environment where the procedure will be conducted.  Is the studio clean?  Will your procedure process take place in a room dedicated to permanent cosmetics, or is the procedure conducted in an open area where other services such as nails or hair are being conducted?  There are environments considered less desirable that do not offer safe conditions under which to perform an invasive procedure.
  • The ability to communicate with your technician is of paramount importance.  You will be telling her/him how you want to look, the color(s) and design work you prefer.  Your technician will be conveying information during and after the procedure regarding after care, follow up appointments and important details that require both of you are able to understand one another.

If you have any questions regarding the information on this page of my website, please contact me at 408-984-0401 (California location,) or 425-254-1667 (Washington location.)

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