Lots of decisions have to be made along the path to getting the brows you want. What style would suit you best? Should you choose temporary or permanent makeup? Why not try eyebrow extensions?
If you’ve already made up your mind to get permanent brows, maybe the most important decision you’ll make next is your choice of technician. Because permanent makeup doesn’t wash off, the skill and artistry of the technician will be visible on your face for months or years. In some cases, permanent brows may never fade completely on their own.
So how can you find that superstar PMU technician, or at a minimum, someone who can offer you high-quality aesthetic results, safety, and comfort?
It’s challenging, mainly because of confusing credentialing standards and loose regulation. But there are lots of ways to be proactive and find a talented practitioner.
Challenges to Finding the Best Permanent Makeup Technician
Does anyone else find it odd that (in my state of Washington, USA) the person who cuts my hair needs to have a professional license and 1600 hours of training, but my permanent makeup artist only needs to be 18 years old and have a current blood borne pathogens certificate (1 to 4 hours of training, available online)?
That amazes me. Hair grows back, but there’s no guarantee permanent makeup will completely fade. And, cutting hair doesn’t require penetrating the skin and the resulting risk of infection.
The lax regulation of permanent makeup may come from its origins as an offshoot of tattooing. When a person gets a tattoo, there’s a kind of implicit understanding that they’re entering “buyer beware” territory.
Nowadays permanent makeup is included in the portfolio of services offered by people from diverse backgrounds, including visual artists, aestheticians, electrologists, cosmetologists, nurses, and physicians.
The influx of people from other professions brings innovation and creativity to PMU, but it’s important not to confuse a person’s licensing and expertise in their original professional specialty with their proficiency in applying permanent makeup. Finding out how many permanent makeup procedures a provider has done is key.
Likewise, a license to do business in a locality is not the same as a professional license to apply permanent makeup. A business license authorizes someone to conduct business in a particular city or town, but it doesn’t reflect on someone’s fitness or qualifications to perform a service such as PMU. All kinds of places, from convenience stores to art galleries to auto dealerships, have a business license. If a PMU technician advertises as being licensed, make sure to find out what type of license is meant.
And if these issues weren’t enough to consider, things get more convoluted. In some states and localities, even a professional license to practice cosmetic tattooing doesn’t reflect a particular level of mastery. In these jurisdictions, people simply pay a fee to a government agency and get their license to perform tattooing or permanent makeup services.
Depending on their political views, some people may think it’s good that the government stays out of our lives as much as possible. All I’ll say here, as it applies to permanent makeup, is that when the state doesn’t provide a lot of oversight, we have to be extra proactive and take steps to watch out for our best interests.
Doing Your Homework
Here are some ways you can do your homework to get the best permanent makeup experience, based on suggestions by WebMD:
- Make sure the PMU business is licensed and regularly inspected by the local board of health if required in your area
- Research the training and testing of the practitioner with the American Academy of Micropigmentation (AAM)
and/or your state’s certifying body
- Get the facts about how long the technician has been practicing and how many procedures he/she has done
- Find actual clients of a practitioner you’re seriously considering. Talk with them about their experience and see the work in real life. Online photos are a good starting point, but unscrupulous people have been known to copy them from other websites.
- A good outcome depends on a balance of aesthetics, comfort, and safety. A doctor may be able to provide the best comfort with a numbing injection, but that individual’s artistic skills may not necessarily be as well-developed as those of a aesthetician. Every individual provider will have their own skill set, and it’s in your best interest to find out what that truly is.
- Use a technician who is willing to open packets of sterile supplies in your presence
Other suggestions are …
- Avoid practitioners whose results are trendy or have a cookie-cutter look. Seek out people who give clients a current but individualized result based on the client’s unique features and bone structure. A good practitioner will ask about a client’s tastes, needs, and lifestyle.
- Seek a technician who has experience in the exact type of service you want (microblading, ombre brows, lip coloring) and with people of your age group, gender, and ethnic background.
- Don’t ignore your intuition. Your mind takes in a lot of information you’re not consciously aware of. That nagging little voice inside your head could be trying to tell you something important.
- An actual business location in an office building or retail center is more credible than operations in a basement or car. This may seem to go without saying, but there are too many news stories about tattooing and filler injections gone wrong to ignore.
- Make sure a technician’s aesthetic sense appeals to you. Some brow artists seem to attract clients who prefer a more dramatic look, while other technicians do a lot of work that has a “no makeup” look.
It also helps to have a list of questions to ask when you speak with a technician on the phone or in person:
- Where did you train?
- How long did you train? (days, weeks, months)
- How long have you been doing this work?
- How many procedures like the one I’m considering have you performed?
- Do you specialize in PMU, or do you offer other services such as manicures, facials, hair styling?
- How many paid clients have you had? (If you sense the technician is inexperienced.)
You should get a prompt response to your phone call, text, or email from technicians. Their fees should be clearly communicated, including whether the fees are all-inclusive. (Are touch-ups six weeks after microblading free?) Materials that explain preparation for and healing from the service should be available on the technician’s website or during a consultation.
Portfolios. One of the best resources can be online portfolios or before-after photos of PMU services performed by technicians. When you look through a PMU artist’s portfolio, pay close attention to the results of clients with similar features to yours, similar concerns (such as sparse brow tails), and similar characteristics such as age, skin type, complexion, ethnicity, and gender.
While they provide a lot of information, portfolios should be only one factor in choosing the best permanent makeup technician. Because images can be stolen so easily on the Internet, it’s wise to also use other sources to verify a technician is legit.
Satisfied customers. Ask for referrals from people who’ve had successful services. With so many people getting permanent makeup these days, it’s not unusual to meet someone who’s had a procedure. If you start off complimenting someone’s brows or eyeliner, they might not mind sharing the name of their permanent makeup technician with you.
Beauty professionals. Why not ask your hair stylist, nail tech, or aesthetician for a referral? These folks are plugged into the local beauty industry and also interact with a lot of clients who may be happy to share the name of their permanent makeup or microblading technician.
Professional organizations. There are a couple of organizations with a mission to boost the professionalism of the PMU industry. They’re involved in efforts to educate technicians and the public about PMU. Membership is voluntary but can indicate that a technician is committed to the standards of the organization. You can ask questions of these organizations, visit their websites to get information about procedures, and search for member technicians in your geographical area.
Medical Websites. The following websites are credible sources of general information on health-related issues, including the benefits and risks of getting permanent makeup. Most offer guidance on finding a trustworthy micropigmentation specialist.
When it comes to choosing the best permanent makeup technician, it helps to know your own mind. The following self-questionnaire can help you clarify some of your important desires and priorities in having a permanent makeup service done. Some of these questions may help you interview prospective providers.
- What procedure(s) do you want?
- How far are you willing to travel?
- How much are you willing or able to spend? *Try not to let cost alone determine your choice of technician. If it means going to a more accomplished technician, you could save up a little longer for your service or ask if she offers any discounts such as senior or student.
- Does this technician offer or show results in the style I prefer? Fashion-forward, natural?
- Does this technician specialize in the type of procedure I want (e.g., microblading, ombre, powder brows)?
- Does this technician have any experience with my demographic (e.g., older person, younger person, darker complexions, male clients).
- How important is comfort?
- How important is the visual result?
- How important is health/safety?
- How important is fashion?
- How important is medical expertise of technician?
- How important is artistic ability of technician?
- How important is customer service?
- How important is it to have a good rapport with the technician? *It affects how comfortable you feel disclosing all important medical information to her and how you feel about asking her any question whatsoever about the procedure.
- Do I trust this technician to do what’s in my best interests?
List of Laws Covering Tattooing in the United States
Wikipedia has a handy list of laws governing tattooing in the U.S. Sections in the list cover Licensing and Regulation and Relevant Statutes and Rules in the 50 states. Be sure to verify this information with your local government.
I wasn’t able to find a comprehensive list of international laws. (If anybody is aware of one, would you mind posting a link in Comments section.) Local customs and government regulations vary widely around the world. For those living outside the U.S., please refer to your local authorities to find out more about how permanent makeup artists are regulated in your area.
Because of a lax and confusing system of regulations, it can be challenging to find the best permanent makeup technician for your needs. We shared some strategies and resources for doing your homework before you get microblading or another PMU service. How did we do?
Did we leave anything out? If so, please add it in the Comments section!
Have you had a permanent makeup service? How did you find your technician? Would you do anything different next time? We want to hear about your experience.
Thanks for reading and sharing! Here’s hoping you’re a step closer to the eyebrows of your dreams….