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Do You Have To Be An Esthetician To Do Permanent Makeup?

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Skye Rhodes

Have you ever been wondering if you have to be an esthetician to do permanent makeup?

Permanent makeup is whereby tattoo-like techniques are utilized in depositing pigments under an individual’s skin to help enhance the shape and color of one’s facial features.

It is also referred to as micro-pigmentation or permanent cosmetics.

The process aims to replicate the natural look of lips, eyelids, or eyebrows.

The mimicked look gives an illusion of applied eyeliner, eyebrow pencil, lip liner, and lipstick.

One can choose to go for something dramatic or a natural look, which depends on the pigment amount, color value, and design.

Additionally, the article details the steps to be taken if you want to be an esthetician and do permanent makeup.


Permanent Makeup

Permanent makeup is the science or art of implanting color into an individual’s skin.

The right color is deposited into the right places to enhance an individual’s natural look.

Essentially, it is a type of cosmetic tattooing whereby the color pigments are selected and used tactically to make to enhance an individual’s natural beauty.

In the modern world, people seek to save time so getting permanent makeup provides quicker beauty routines, especially in the morning.

It makes one look like they are always wearing makeup.

The clients get to choose the pigments that they want for their permanent makeup, which are then released into the skin using tattoo-like techniques.

A hollow needle is utilized to release the pigment into an individual’s skin.

The color application is on the skin’s top layer, and it takes approximately three weeks for one to attain the shade of the color that they wanted.

People use permanent makeup mostly to make their beauty routines easier and attain a natural look.

However, it’s used to make people with medical conditions such as cancer, genetic anomalies, baldness, scars, vitiligo, and alopecia gain more confidence regarding their looks.

It also helps burn, surgery, and accident victims to enhance the appearance of the scars.

These procedures help to mask tissue damage or scarring and rectify skin pigmentation issues.

For the women who have had reconstructive surgery due to mastectomies or breast-cancer treatments, it is to re-pigment the areola.

History Of Permanent Makeup

While more people are currently embracing the different forms of permanent makeup, it has been in existence for such a long time.

Permanent makeup is as old as tattoos which were first reported in a European Tyrolean Iceman, Iceman Otzi, who died in 3250 BC.

Body art became a fashion statement among Western Women in the 19th century when socialites increasingly embraced tattoos.

George ‘Professor’ Burchett also referred to as the ‘King of Tattooists’ became the 20th century’s most famous tattoo artist.

In the 1930s, he was acknowledged as the first individual to develop cosmetic tattooing techniques such as darkening the eyebrows permanently.

However, makeup was costly, and women were getting tattooed options in the 1910s to 30s.

They were getting tattooed lip liners and eyebrows, but because tattooing was not accepted socially, these procedures were undisclosed for such a long time.

When tattooing became more popular and mainstream in the 1970s people also began to appreciate cosmetic tattooing.

During this period, traditional tattoo artists were performing permanent makeup using tattoo guns and body art ink.

This wasn’t an excellent idea because tattoo artists had little to no understanding of aesthetically balancing the face and its skin structure.

Therefore, the end product was funky colors and shapes on the eyebrows which were somewhat permanent.

Unsurprisingly, there is an unrelenting negative connotation to tattooing for cosmetic purposes.

People have still had their fears about permanent makeup, which resulted from having these procedures done by people who were not qualified or certified to perform them.

The use of tattoos to enhance facial features was further developed in the 1980s when physicians started looking for ways to help patients deal with symptoms of some conditions.

For instance, people who suffered from alopecia- a form of hair loss-needed some form of natural-looking brows after losing facial hair.

Cosmetic tattoos or permanent makeup offered a solution for such patients.

It also helped patients with conditions like Parkinson’s disease or arthritis which prevented them from applying makeup with precision.

While it started as a way to help women with medical conditions enhance their beauty, more women started using it as a form of saving the time spent in applying makeup.

Permanent Makeup Techniques

Permanent makeup remained as a tattoo-like procedure all through the 1960s to early 2000s.

The procedure applied similar techniques, inks, and tools that were used in tattoo parlors, at home, or even in hospitals.

Fuzzy-edged lines and harsh colors mostly characterized permanent makeup in that era.

The technological innovations in the modern era, as well as modern consumers seeking long-term solutions for their makeup concerns, resulted in better-looking art.

From the end of the 20th century right into the 21st century, permanent makeup stopped using tattoo guns and body art ink.

It transformed to become a licensed profession and practice that applies precision and safety in enhancing beauty.

From the 2000s, there has been an increase in professionals in permanent makeup, whose specialization and practice is different from tattoo artists.

The procedure entails using several hand tools such as the rotary machine/pen to applying the pigment in the patient’s dermal skin layer.

A follow-up consultation is recommended for evaluations and further treatments.

The artistic form of traditional tattoo artists entailed performing creative and colorful drawings on the body that are noticeable.

On the other hand, permanent makeup artists seek to blend-in the colors to create a natural look.

They adopt an approach that is scientific regarding tattooing.

The methodologies and techniques employed are adapted from cosmetic surgery.

The pigments used in permanent makeup have been primarily developed and designed for the industry, and the color range is skewed towards natural palettes.

While the tattoo inks are mostly permanent unless removed, the permanent makeup pigments, are designed to fade away after some time.

As described by a world dermo-pigmentation leader, Tony Belfatto, modern permanent makeup is meant to recreate and reconstruct the magic of beauty.

Therefore, the goal is to create something beautiful, harmonious, and natural.

For instance, micro-blading has replaced the traditional eyebrow tattooing since it utilizes iron oxide-based pigments that are superficially implanted in the skin.

The pigments provide more powdery finishes that are softer and with precision like actual makeup.

The artist also used a blade that contains small needles to help apply color that is on the outer surface of the skin.

Therefore, the fading of micro-blading is faster compared to classic tattoos.

As such, permanent makeup requires periodic touch-ups but also gives the client the freedom to stop using it and jump on any other new trend.

The lip enhancements are also hardly noticeable since they do not incorporate harsh eyeliner colors that were mostly used in the past.

The Scope Of An Esthetician

The esthetics practice has its limitation regarding the procedure that an esthetician can perform and those that are beyond the scope.

Licensed-estheticians work in resorts, spas, and salons.

They perform procedures such as pore cleansing and exfoliating treatments, waxing, and facials.

After training, estheticians are licensed by the state cosmetology board to start practicing within their scope of work.

Ideally, each state provides the standards regarding the esthetician’s scope of work.

For instance, while an esthetician in Washington is allowed to apply a chemical peel at medium depth, the one practicing in Oregon is not allowed.

Therefore, with new treatments and technologies in beauty being developed, it is key to ensure that the procedure lies within the esthetician’s scope of work before performing it.

Before engaging in any procedure in cosmetics, estheticians need to get a valid license from the state.

Esthetics Procedures

Estheticians are trained to perform procedures ranging from facials, and waxing, to pore cleansing and exfoliating treatments.

They offer different skin and facial treatments, aromatherapy, and skin analysis.

They are also trained to identify any skin issues and provide the requisite advice regarding a skincare routine.


Those working with makeup companies get to advise clients about the appropriate makeup shades for each skin tone and how beauty can be accentuated with makeup.

They can also teach about proper techniques to use when applying makeup and make recommendations on skin products.

They get to instruct clients on the best ways makeup removal and skin cleansing methods.

Dermatology And Plastic Surgery

For a paramedical/medical esthetician, they get to work in a dermatology or plastic surgery office where they assist with the procedures.

They explain to the client the recommended skincare before and after the operation and in the cleaning/sterilization of equipment.

Sometimes, estheticians evaluate the patient’s skin and make referrals if necessary.

Medical Spas

While medical spas assume the traditional salon’s look, licensed medical physicians practicing within their medical specialties’ scope of work staff them.

The state’s cosmetology regulations and the state medical board either regulate medical spas.

The spa treatments in medical spas are invasive compared to traditional waxing or facials.

The procedures performed range from microdermabrasion, chemical peels, skin lightening, vein therapy, and laser hair removal.

Estheticians don’t perform these procedures, but they offer assistance to the physician and also advises the patients on skincare after going through the procedure.

States have a well-defined scope of work regarding the procedures that estheticians can perform.

For estheticians who seek to perform permanent makeup, they require proper training and certification to offer these services to the clients.

Therefore, proper training is vital since performing permanent makeup requires a significant amount of artistry and skills, especially if one seeks a natural look.

Steps To Be Taken To Become a Permanent Makeup Artist

The Permanent Cosmetic field has continued to grow through the years.

Physicians, cosmetologists, tattoo artists, nurses, estheticians, and electrologists are some of the professions that have included micro-pigmentation in their portfolio of services.

Anyone interested can get into the permanent cosmetic field, but longevity is primarily defined by the amount of quality of training that one receives.

Clients need to know that the artist knows what he or she is doing.

Therefore, seeking training is a good place to start.


One should look for classes that have been approved by the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP) and the American Academy of Micropigmentation (AAM).

This is key because SPCP and AAM provide the requisite certification in Micropigmentation and the trainers in such institutions are certified.

One should avoid joining classes with shorter training periods, particularly those offering less than 100 hours.

While these classes may offer appropriate micro-pigmentation training, it becomes difficult when one is looking for certification to practice.

In the beginning classes, one gets to learn how to perform the lip liner, eyebrows, and eyeliner blend.

Advanced courses include lip color, camouflage, and skin re-pigmentation,

It is also crucial to ensure that the class is offering practical training with live models with a minimum of four procedures on live models.

One should also ask about the instructor’s portfolio to establish whether they have done sufficient procedures to enable them to be good trainers.

Since the industry is continually changing, it is also essential to ensure that each year, the instructor enrolls in some continuing education course.

An excellent instructor should good balance between continuing education and work experience.

The curriculum should also cover topics such as color blending, pigment selection, autoclaving, needles, equipment operation and maintenance, and health considerations.

It should also include topics on sterilization, makeup artistry, and skin structure.

It should also include consent forms, chart notes, pre-and post-procedure care, client forms, documenting with photography, and pigments and equipment suppliers’ lists.

A good curriculum should also include client consultation techniques, safety and sanitation procedures, application of insurance coverage, and legal disclosure documents.

Other topics include business marketing and the laws and regulations that govern the permanent cosmetics practice.

Presently, there are three types of Permanent Makeup devices available in the market place.

They include:

  1. The non-machine/hand method
  2. The rotary/pen machine
  3. The traditional coil/tattoo machine

Each type has its advantages and disadvantages.

Therefore, one should familiarize with each one of them.

One can start with any method as long as the unit is fully disposable or can be heat sterilized since the standards no longer accept cold sterilization.

Some states have wholly outlawed cold sterilization following the Centers for Disease Control guidelines.

For advanced procedures such as camouflage, check brush, and lip color, the instructor should be qualified in them and have certificates that indicate continuing education.

After identifying the right class, one should enroll, settle the training fees then commence the training.

After completing the training, one receives documentation that shows the number of hours attended and the instructor gets to sign.

Getting live hours when working is helpful, especially when going for the SPCP or AAM examination to report that one has completed the required 100 training hours.


One can seek an internship or apprenticeship with any locally-available technician to help hone the micro-pigmentation skills before sitting for the AAM or SPCP exam.

Some states require the trainees to complete an internship while others consider the training sufficient.

In most cases, there is no pay for internship programs for micro-pigmentation.

Some certified technicians charge the apprentices about $500 per procedure.

The trainee should then join the SPCP or AAM, which is a requirement before taking their examination.

The membership in these organizations is purchased at $310 for SPCP and $250 and can be obtained through their websites.

SPCP is well-known globally while AAM functions within the United States.

Apart from the micro-pigmentation training, one also needs to complete the Bloodborne Pathogens Standard (BPS) course.

The BPS course is a requirement from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) for every individual working with individuals whose job makes them exposed to blood.

The BPS training educates individuals who aspire to be permanent makeup artists about the techniques to use to ensure the safe handling of infectious materials.

The BPS course costs approximately $25, and the organization provides a certificate of completion after finishing the course successfully.

One then gets to sign up for an SPCP or AMM certification test.

The test costs $250 for each organization.

The tests can be bought from their respective websites.

When requesting for the exam, each organization requests proof of membership, photo ID, and certificates of completion of micro-pigmentation and BPS training.

Other states require the aspiring permanent makeup artists to also test for communicable diseases like hepatitis

AAM also requires the trainee to provide proof of client work and the technician’s insurance.

For practical work, AAM asks for a client file with samples of five lips, five eyeliners, and five eyebrows worked on by the technician.

Nevada, Massachusetts, Maine, and New Jersey ask for two lips, two eyeliners, and two eyebrows.

The SPCP examination has 100 questions with multiple choices.

The covered topics include technical applications, documentation, pigmentology, anatomy and physiology, client management, disease and disorders, and infection control.

The AAM exams have three segments covering the same topics including a practical exam, an oral exam, and a written exam.

SPCP and AAM sell several sample tests and study guides on their websites that can help a trainee prepare for the examination.

Some states require trained technicians to acquire safety and first aid training, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) as well.

The American Red Cross, medical centers, community colleges, and universities provide these classes.

The students get to learn about how to respond to and prevent medical emergencies and how to perform CPR.


After passing the board exams and being certified, one needs to go to the Department of Health to obtain an operating license.

The scope of the license differs based on the location.

The license can be for tattooing, permanent makeup, or cosmetology.

The trained technician should contact the Department of Health or Public Health and ask for an application.

Before applying, the trained technician should ensure that they meet personal hygiene, equipment, and facility requirements.

The trained technician should also meet the national cosmetic standards that uphold the customers’ safety.

These standards are available on the board’s official website.

They include injury and infection prevention, as well as ink and pigment requirements.

The trained technician should comply with the national standards.

The trained technician should establish the micro-pigmentation requirements in the specific area of practice since the regulations differ.

All requirements can be obtained from the local Department of Health, Commerce, Human Services, and Cosmetology.

After obtaining the License to Operate a Body Art Establishment, one can start applying for a job at permanent and cosmetic makeup boutiques.

Final Thoughts

So, on the question, if you have to be an esthetician to do permanent makeup.

One does not need to be an esthetician to become a permanent makeup artist.

While estheticians are in the same beauty realm, their scope of work does not include permanent cosmetics.

An esthetician can only get to perform permanent makeup when they undergo proper training and obtain the certification and licensure that authorizes them to practice.

Presently, anyone who is interested in permanent cosmetics can become a permanent cosmetic artist.

Physicians, nurses, estheticians, electrologists, cosmetologists, and tattoo artists are seeking proper training to add permanent cosmetics into their portfolio of services.

It is a highly specialized profession that requires the utmost precision.

To become a successful permanent makeup artist, one needs sufficient training in micro-pigmentation.

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