May – June 2009 Issue
Page: 34-36 Controversy
by: Minnie F. Francia
The final result means instant makeup all the time, but getting there can be a delicate procedure if you aren’t careful. Here’s what to consider before getting a facial tattoo.
There’s no hiding a botched facial tattoo in areas like the eye, so exercise caution when choosing a specialist.
“I AM one of those women who hate putting on makeup, so I got my eyebrows tattooed,” confesses 36-year-old working mom Joanne Francisco. Another mom, Myrna Perez, 57, also got tired of shaping her eyebrows with a pencil each morning. Because she felt that her brows were not nicely shaped, she had to pluck and then line her brows. “I thought getting permanent eyebrows would save me makeup time.
The promise of 24-hour beauty is the best come on for women who decide to get permanent cosmetics. “The advantage is really that when you wake up, instant eyeliner and brows na!” says Mayette Francisco, 38, who had permanent eyeliner and extension for her eyebrows done.
“Since the needles and the instruments come in contact with blood and body fluids, diseases may be transmitted if the instruments are used on more than one person without first being sterilized.”
Facial or cosmetic tattooing is done to enhance eyebrows, lips, eyes, and even moles. Plastic surgeon Dr.Marlon O. Lajo describes into the skin dermis, the layer immediately beneath the epidermis or the most superficial skin layer:
Traditional tattooing involves cutting into the skin and rubbing the resulting wound with ink. Others use non-electrical, hand held tools with needles to insert ink beneath the skin. With permanent cosmetics, the tattooing procedure usually involves the use of an electric tattoo machine, which inserts ink into the skin via a group of tiny needles that are fixed onto a bar attached to an oscillating unit. The unit rapidly and repeatedly drives the needles in and out of the skin.
Like all procedures involving the body, tattooing in the form of permanent cosmetics comes with its own risks. Getting these procedures in a beauty parlor has become so common they may seem harmless, but clients should think about these risks first before taking the plunge:
While a topical anesthetic can be applied before the procedure, be forewarned that it is not for those with low thresholds for pain. “It is very, VERY painful,” rues Joanne. “And you look like Groucho Marx for a week!” she adds, remembering the crusting and the formation of scabs on her tattooed eyebrows. The permanent lipstick is even worse, with painful swelling of the lips expected for three weeks after the tattoo.
According to plastic surgeon Dr.Kathy Nunez, since tattooing requires breaking the skin barrier, the procedure may carry health risks to the person being tattooed and also to the succeeding patients to be treated by the operator. “Since the needles and the instruments come in contact with blood and body fluids, diseases may be transmitted if the instruments are used on more than one person without first being sterilized, “she explains.
Dr.Marlon Lajo adds that infection can be worse if one uses contaminated ink. Some disease you risk getting include surface skin infections like tetanus, herpes simplex virus, and staphylococcal and fungal infections, as well as serious illnesses like hepatitis, tuberculosis, and HIV
Allergy Risk Although uncommon, there can also be allergic reactions to the ink. “Certain brands of red and green tattoo pigments and certain metals in the ink may cause a skin allergic reaction that may result in swelling, itching, and oozing of clear liquids,” warns Dr.Marlon Lajo.
Keloids People who are prone to developing keloids or scars that grow beyond normal should not have tattoos done. Keloids frequently occur as a consequence of tattoo removal. Dr.Lajo recalls a patient who had laser treatment to have a neck tattoo removed, which resulted in an ugly keloid scar. “I had to have a scar revision, a surgical procedure on the keloid, then a series of steroid injections thereafter.”
Which brings us to the most common problem associated with tattooes – dissatisfaction. The desire to remove a tattoo as a result of the tattoois’s mistake, or perhaps years after having it done, is something a prospective client should think seriously about. “Having a tattoo removed is more painful and laborious than tattooing itself,” warns Dr.Lajo.
Dr. MArlon Lajo shares a couple of stories of past patient who’ve had “botched” facial tattoos, which he had to “correct”. “This lady went back to this parlor a year after getting her eyebrows tattooed. She wanted them higher this time because the old ones were already drooping. Poor camouflaging of the old ones and having a new eyebrow tattoo resulted in four eyebrows!” Another patient, meanwhile, wanted permanent red lips, but the tattoo resulted in an uneven redness.
To show how difficult it is to fix tattoo problems, Dr.Marlon Lajo shares that for the patient with four eyebrows, he had to surgically remove the old eyebrow tattoo, leaving an unnoticeable scar. The lady who wanted Angelina Jolie’s lips, meanwhile, had to undergo a series of laser treatments to remove the ink. Common techniques being used to remove tattoos nowadays include laser resurfacing, dermabrasion, and surgical removal – all painstaking procedures that involve their own risks.
However, despite all the risks and the pain that they went through, Myrna, Joanne, and Mayette still do not regret having permanent makeup done. It’s serve its purpose of giving an illusion of makeup without the time and effort,”
Shares Myrna. “I think it was well worth it. You just need to find a really good professional to get it done,” adds joanne.
Dr. Nunez, whose Skin and Surgery Specialists clinic offers facial tattooing services, shares some guidelines on what a client should consider before undergoing a tattoo, and what she should look for in a professional tattoo place:
First consider your medical history and state of health
a. Patients taking blood thinners such as aspirin, Coumadin, and Plavix should ask their doctors if they can have a two week rest from the above mentioned medications, as these may lead to excessive oozing and swelling of the site. Patients on Vitamin E, hormonal theraphy, and some dietary supplements like gingko biloba may also experience the same symptoms.
b. Patients who presently are infected with herpes simplex or staphylococcal lesions should not undergo the procedure, but should wait until two weeks after a dermatologist has declared them disease free.
c. Patients with uncontrolled diabetes should not undergo the procedure because of the risk of infection.
d. Patients with a history of HIV or hepatitis should not undergo the procedure, as they risk spreading the disease to others.
e. Patients who are highly sensitive or allergic to certain metals may develop an allergic reaction to the pigments
And while facial tattoos are being offered in almost every neighborhood salon, take the time to look for a clean, higly recommended place to have the procedure done.
According to Dr. Nunez, some of the things a client should look for or demand are:
1. The use of disposable needles.
2. The operator or tattooist should wear a mask, do thorough hand washing and don sterile gloves.
3. The tattooing machine should be wrapped in a disposable sheath that would prevent blood or sweat from contaminating it.
4. Patients skin should be prepped with a gentle antiseptic (like Povidone Iodine or Zephiran solution) prior to tattooing.
5. The working area should be isolated quiet, and clean.
Tattooing is actually an easy procedure to perform as long as the operator has a good eye and steady, skillful hands. A client may want to ask around from other satisfied customers about the tattoo professional’s previous work.
Aside from the operator’s skills, Dr.Nunez stresses the importance of having a hygienic and aseptic procedure. “Someone in the medical field or who has the advantage of being supervised by a doctor will be a more trustworthy person to perform this procedure,” says Dr.Nunez. “In my opinion, a plastic surgeon’s or dermatologist’s clinic would be the best place. Not only will the patient be assured of a good aseptic technique, but the doctor can administer safe anesthesia that can make the procedure painless, as well.”
Dr.Marlon O. Lajo is a diplomate of the Philippine Board of Plastic Surgery and fellow of the Philippine Association of Plastic Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons, Inc. He is affiliated with Asian Hospital and Medical Center, Aesthetic Surgery Center Manila Doctors Hospital, and Aesthetic Surgery Center St.Luke’s Medical Center, tel.no.