Why I Got My Face Tattooed
I was 13 or 14 years old when I first learned of permanent makeup, tattooing your face to make it appear like you have eyeliner on and eyebrows filled in all the time. That very moment when I learned of it, I knew that I would get it done “someday.” Here’s why…
Self-confidence: For as long as I could remember I was self-conscious about the way I looked without makeup on. For several years as a teenager, I would even re-apply it at night time and wear it to bed. I would make sure to put it on first thing on a Saturday morning so even my own mother wouldn’t see me without makeup. I was completely ashamed of how I looked and was completely sucked into the world of beauty magazines and learning all the secrets to looking like my favorite celebrities. Poor, little 14-year-old Heather had no idea that celebrities not only have millions of dollars, but also have plastic surgery, lip injections, personal trainers, hair extensions, fake nails, spray tans, and beauty treatments to look like that!
I remember being extremely uncomfortable and unhappy whenever I would wake up from a sleepover and my friends would see me without a drop of foundation or mascara on. If I went to the beach I would feel uncomfortable and try to avoid eye contact with people. If I woke up on a family vacation I would have to put a full face on or I felt like my family would secretly judge how I looked.
I had a very unhealthy body image as a teenage girl and a very, very long and painful journey toward self-love and self-acceptance that I’m still working on to this day. But that’s what initially drew me to permanent makeup. From the moment I first learned of it in my early teens, I knew that I had to get it. I wouldn’t feel comfortable in my own body until I had it. I knew that it would bring me some peace of mind and help me relax about how I looked without having to wear a full face of makeup each day.
A+ Brows: Right smack dab in the middle of high school, that’s suddenly when the brows became a big freaking deal. My Twitter account was blowing up with girls posting close-up photos of their brows and selfies with brows that would make you wonder, “How the f*ck did she do that?” The brows became sexier than boobs! All the so-called “popular” girls had the most gorgeous brows and would be complimented left and right about how their brows were “on fleek.” (Remember when that was a thing?)
Sadly, I didn’t have much to work with. My brows just didn’t have a nice shape to them. I’ve also never been someone that was into the makeup arts, I was way more into skincare. So I never learned how to get those brows that everyone wouldn’t shut up about.
Convenience: The last reason why I really wanted permanent makeup is for the convenience and ease of getting ready. I knew that I would save me so much time in the morning because I had to shape and fill in my eyebrows and then spend time fixing them and trying to get them to match and look identical. Some days they would look good and others not so much, but either way, they took a whole lot of time. I wanted to finally get ready and use those 10 minutes on my brows doing something else, like oh I don’t know, SLEEPING! I wanted to cut that part of my morning down significantly because I put makeup on because I have to, not because I love doing it.
Preparing for Permanent Makeup
I really wanted permanent makeup right from the second I heard about it, and I spent a decade looking at pictures of it in my free time, talking to women who had it done, reading FAQ’s about it, scoping out artists, looking at portfolios, and deciding what I wanted. I didn’t know when I was going to get it done, but I knew that I wanted to be prepared for the day I was old enough and finally had the money.
The day finally came in October 2017 when I made the decision to get permanent makeup and microblading. I then got it touched up in January 2018, so I’ve had it now for just over a year. Because it’s been a year, I’ve been asked about my experience with permanent makeup from women who are also interested in getting it done. I always answer their questions with honesty and try to be as helpful as I can, but I also don’t want to scare them away from getting it done. Because if I’m being completely honest here, getting your face tattooed is no walk in the park, and there are some things I really wish I would have known when I walked into that studio to get inked. Before you consider going in and getting your face done up, especially if you’re getting two makeup treatments done at once, it’s much more like getting outpatient surgery than is it spending a day in the spa.
Here’s my entire permanent makeup experience from start to finish. I share the dirty details that you won’t read in any other blog from the cost, the actual tattooing, the healing and more. I’ve never heard a completely open and honest account from anyone else who has had permanent makeup, and I really believe this a procedure women should be more transparent about with each other.
I actually saved money several different times to get permanent makeup while I was in college. After doing my research into the prices from different artists, I knew that I would have to pay about $1,000 or more to have permanent eyeliner and microblading done from someone who was very good at it. Microblading and eyeliner are both usually several hundred dollars, but many professionals charge up to $500 or more for each procedure. However, because of the boom in permanent makeup popularity and the number of people getting certified to do it (also the ease of getting certified today… be careful who you let tattoo you), I’ve seen the price slowly coming down from $1,000-$1,500 for both eyeliner and microblading when I was in high school, to now, just a few hundred dollars.
Eventually, when I finally had the money, the time, and was mentally prepared to get inked, I found the artists of Professionals in Permanent Makeup through Groupon. I had looked at other places, but I knew that I trusted the Professionals in Permanent Makeup more than anyone else I had come across, even though I found it through a Groupon deal. They had tons of five-star reviews, a very hefty portfolio of flawless microblading and eyeliner, and they were just 30 minutes from my house!
Also, because I was 1) getting Groupon pricing 2) getting two permanent makeup procedures done and 3) paying the entire amount up front, the cost was significantly cheaper than I thought it would be! So oftentimes, when girls ask me how much it costs to get it done, I have a difficult time answering that question because I searched for a great deal. At the end of the day I had to pay about $500 to get microblading and eyeliner done, and then about $200 for the touchups. I remember being so happy that I didn’t end up paying $1500 by the end of it! Again, the price is lowering because it’s more popular, but I believe you get what you pay for. I wouldn’t trust someone to tattoo my face for $250. To me, higher prices mean they have more experience.
What I remember most of all during the consultation was how worried I was that they wouldn’t understand the look that I was going for. I’ve gone into hair salons before and came out with a completely different color than I asked for. What if that happened with permanent makeup? I was so nervous that somehow they wouldn’t understand that I wanted definition and shape to my brows, but that I also wanted to look natural. I didn’t want to walk out with crazy eyebrows that didn’t match my face. What made it extra nerve wracking for me was that I noticed that Stella, the woman who was actually going to be tattooing me, not only couldn’t speak English but was bouncing around the room the whole time setting up for her appointment that day. Kathy, from the Professionals in Permanent Make-up, was the one who sat with me the whole time and would translate some parts or ask Stella some questions. Then Stella would occasionally come over and look at my face. Kathy told me about the process and the healing and asked me lots of questions about how I preferred to wear my makeup.
I also remember the consultation being quick and efficient. I wasn’t there for more than 20 minutes or so. And I remember that they were very interested in how I wear my makeup every day and I was told to wear my makeup to the consultation so they could see what my everyday look is like.
The Pre-Permanent Makeup Mental Breakdowns
Leading up to the appointment, I was a hot mess. I wanted my makeup done my whole life, but as soon as the appointment was booked I started panicking and thinking of every possible thing that could go wrong. My mind went something like this for the days leading up to the appointment, “What if they accidentally tattoo big black lines on my face? What if the eyebrows are crooked? What if they mess up the shape? What if it’s obvious I got them done? What if I’m making a big mistake? What if I chose the wrong person? Should I have done more research?”
For that reason, I also went to the Facebook page for the Professional in Permanent Makeup and looked through their before and after photos about 15-20 times a day. I would always look at their page and be reminded of how beautiful their work is and calm down, then I would start to panic again, and frantically open up the page.
I was such a nervous wreck that I couldn’t eat and was in a constant state of stress from anticipation. My boyfriend, Matt, can tell you that I was completely panicking and was not at all pleasant to be around then. He had to constantly reassure me that everything was going to be ok.
My Experience & What They Don’t Tell You About Permanent Makeup
When the day finally arrived for my appointment, I ended up getting my car towed right before I was about to leave and wasn’t able to make my appointment. I called and had to reschedule and out of Stella and Kathy’s generosity I didn’t have to pay a fee for not making the appointment which they are normally very strict about. Then I had to go through the anticipation all over again! Eventually, the day arrived, I didn’t get my car towed, and it was time to finally get my face tattooed after over 10 years of wanting it done. And let me just say it was the longest five hours of my life!!
My appointment started with Kathy and Stella taking many measurements of my face, drawing on my face to create my shape, and constantly stepping away to make sure the outlines were symmetrical. I remember being so lost because they were doing so many things to prep my face and prepare for the microblading. Stella also did threading on my brows to shape them and get rid of the little hairs that were hanging around. I had watched videos of women getting microblading done before, but I never actually saw the process of creating the shape ahead of time.
Stella and Kathy also kept handing me a mirror to look at the shape and see if it was what I wanted. I remembering being so overwhelmed because there were so many lines and markings on my face that I couldn’t even visualize what the final product was going to look like. I kept thinking, “There’s too much going on! The brows are too big! I’m gonna look like I have Nike Swooshes on my face!” I’m not at all good visualizing a final project, so this part was so very difficult for me. I finally had to give them the ok, and trust their judgment.
Then, the actual tattooing started. This is the stuff, no one tells you ahead of time: IT HURTS. Stella was numbing me as she was tattooing me, but for the first 20-30 minutes, I was in pain. I felt every little cut on my face as I laid there questioning every decision I had made in my life. I often get asked by other women whether it’s painful. I always tell them the truth. Someone is making little cuts all over your brows, so yes it hurts. There’s nothing pleasant about it. The only good thing is that after a while you start to not feel it and the pain goes away. You slowly get used to the sensation and the numbing starts to kick in.
Unfortunately, I was so nervous about getting it done and laying on that table for 5 hours getting my face tattooed, that the entire time I had adrenaline pumping through my body. I was on high alert. My heart felt like it was going to pop out of my chest, I felt sick, I was worried, and I was hyper-aware of everything that was happening around me. I often hear girls, who went through the microblading or eyeliner procedure, say that it wasn’t that bad and they fell asleep. For me, I was in a state of stress from the moment the tattooing began. I’m a worrier so all I could think about was every possible thing that could go wrong. The thing that I was most worried about during the microblading was her hand slipping causing a giant scar or line of ink across my face forever.
After the pain of being cut finally subsided, it was still incredibly uncomfortable. What had never occurred to me was that there would be a woman pressing and drawing on my face for 5 hours straight! Throughout the whole process, I could not get used to how heavy and uncomfortable it was to feel her hand and arm pushing against my face and resting her weight there. On top of that, she had to wipe my face and eyes many, many, many times. By the time I left my face was so swollen and red that I didn’t even look like myself.
I also remember more than anything that throughout the process of tattooing, I had to sneeze and blow my nose constantly. I had this intense tickle in my nose that didn’t go away for those 5 hours, and it got a million times worse once it was time to do the eyeliner. I had to keep stopping to ask for tissue and blow my nose, and I could tell Stella was getting annoyed by it.
I eventually decided to keep the tissue box in my hand the whole time and had to hold the tissue against my nose during some parts of the tattooing to keep the tickle at bay. The constant tickle sensation and the feeling of having to sneeze was something I didn’t expect at all. I had never heard of other women having that reaction and it made the fears so much worse because I kept thinking, “What if I sneeze, causing her hand to slip and I end up with a scar or a line of ink across my forehead?”
I had made it through the microblading ok, but once I had gotten to the eyeliner, that’s when my nerves shot even farther through the roof. I don’t think I’ve ever been so worried before in my life. It began with Stella giving me three numbing shots in each eye, which was the worst part of the entire experience. I could feel the pain and pinching sensation of the needle followed by the liquid from the shot popping all over my eyeball. The numbing shots were so excruciating. I had never had pain that strongly in my eye before. It’s such a delicate area filled with so many nerve endings, I don’t know why I had never heard of women saying they were in pain from getting it done.
The actual eyeliner tattoo was far worse than microblading. I could see the outline of the needle through eyelids since there was a fluorescent light above my face. I would feel my eyelid and eyeball vibrating, and I could feel the little punching of the tattoo gun. In some parts, Stella was trying to get close to my lash line and my eye would actually open slightly. I tried so hard to hold my eyes still and closed the entire time but Stella needed my eyelids to lay flat for the tattooing. So there were moments when my eyelid would creep open.
That moment of my eyelid opening and seeing the needle through the light over my face is an image I will have permanently ingrained in my mind. I’ve never been so terrified before. My biggest fear for those few hours was that all it would take is one slip of her hand and I would be blind forever.
Also, keep in mind that throughout my entire experience, my makeup artist and I couldn’t talk to each other. I would always have to talk to Kathy who would relay something to Stella. I think what made it all so much scarier was not only getting a face tattoo, but getting a face tattoo while having a language barrier! Five hours of getting my face tattooed by someone and we never even said a word to each other. I think that also made it feel so much longer because she couldn’t check in with me and tell me little updates about how it was coming. I was in the dark the entire time wondering when the hell it was going to be over.
Immediately After Getting Inked
Immediately after the appointment, I was ROUGH. My face was swollen, my skin was red, and my eyebrows and eyeliner looked like someone had drawn over them with a sharpie. You know how when you get a fresh tattoo, the ink is really dark and prominent? Ok, imagine that on your face. It was a scary sight to see. I also was incredibly sensitive to light and felt like I wanted to lock myself in a dark room and never come out.
Walking out into the light of day was surreal. It had felt like I had just been punched in the face repeatedly. My eyes couldn’t really focus on anything and all they wanted to do was rest. My body was still so on edge and filled with adrenaline that I was shaking. I felt like the way I would imagine feeling after getting tased, only that sensation lasted for a whole day.
The worst part about afterward though, was that I had to run several errands in Jax and then drive myself an hour and a half to Matt’s house in downtown St. Augustine, DURING rush hour. I can barely survive Jacksonville rush hour traffic even when I’m feeling like myself, let alone after getting my face tattooed. If you ever decide to get it done, especially eyeliner, for the love of life have someone else drive you! Kathy and Stella told me that many women would drive down to see them from Atlanta and then drive themselves back home after getting it done, and I have no idea how that would be possible. My eyes were so swollen, tired, unable to focus, and sensitive to light that I almost got into car accidents the entire drive home. Driving yourself home after permanent makeup is about as smart as driving yourself home after taking seven shots of tequila.
The Healing Process
Here’s another fun fact about my permanent makeup experience… I never told my family that I was getting it done and I had to keep it a secret even though I still lived with them at the time. Long story short, there’s a woman in my family who has permanent makeup that everyone hates. She married in the family for money, and her life revolves around getting plastic surgery, doing her makeup, shopping for designer bags, and gossiping about anyone who is below her socio-economic class. So now, my family associates permanent makeup with her, and they’re 100% against it.
So when I was going to get it, I knew that if they found out, it would cause screaming matches and probably lead to them taking away my car or something to make a point about their disapproval. I had to stay at Matt’s house for almost an entire week hiding away and making up reasons as to why I wasn’t coming home.
I hung around his house with a super puffy face, keeping my head elevated, and drinking shocking amounts of water trying to get my face to go back to normal. Any time I would eat something with even a little bit of salt in it, my face would puff up again like blowfish and I was back to square one. During this time Matt also had to keep talking me off the ledge every time I looked in the mirror. Kathy has tried to tell me about how it would look after, but I didn’t know my eyebrows and eyeliner would be that cartoonish.
Just like when you get a regular tattoo, the ink continues to fall out in the following days. Your skin doesn’t hold all of it, so it looked like my eyebrows were nothing but large, dark brown Nike Swooshes on my face until the ink slowly started to come away. I also wasn’t able to get them wet or wash my face for a week or two.
Throughout the healing, the ink continued to fall out as scabs formed on my face. I remember how itchy my eyebrows were more than anything, but I wasn’t able to scratch them or it could have messed it up and peeled off the ink. As they were healing, the skin on my brows flaked off much like dandruff and I kept my eyebrow brush around to lightly remove the dead skin cells.
The healing was far more unpleasant for the eyeliner than it was for the microblading. When the eyeliner was healing it had a big scab all over the area that was tattooed. It stuck far out from my eyelid and was a nasty gray color from all the ink. It also had to fall off on its own even though all I wanted to do was rip it off and not have it on my face. That was the worst of the healing process because it took close to two weeks to fall off. What actually happened was that half the scab was still attached to my face and half of it was stuck in my eyelashes. I couldn’t even remove that part because it would pull at the rest of the scab. So there I was for a full 10 days with half of the scab stuck in the center of my lashes and the other half attached. Then when the scab fell off, the majority of my eyelashes fell out with it. From the first day I had gotten it done until I was completely healed, I wore sunglasses 24/7.
The only thing that I had to do as far as cleaning and maintenance was using this little product made out of a mixture of ingredients including beeswax and vitamin E to clean and moisturize it. I absolutely hated that part because the product was so hard and sticky that it actually hurt to put it on. It didn’t feel like I was being moisturized and helping it to heal at all. I would have much rather used Aquaphor, but I don’t think they would have wanted me to because it would have been wetter.
Once I finally healed and the scabs were completely gone, I was pretty happy with the makeup so far, but it wasn’t completely perfect yet. The coloring looked great, but the eyebrows had some flaws and didn’t completely match. That’s why they always want you to come in for a touch up after several weeks. My eyebrows had some minor things that had to be corrected where the skin didn’t hold ink in some areas, and one of the eyebrows was slightly thinner than the other. I also ended up getting a white head on one spot as I was healing so no ink stayed there causing a small spot that didn’t hold any ink. I counted down the days until my touch up and still kept panicking about how it would look in the end (because that’s just what I do).
When the day came for me to get the touch up, it wasn’t nearly as bad as getting it done the first time. It didn’t take as long getting the makeup done because it was pretty close to perfect. It also wasn’t as traumatic and nerve-racking the second time around and the healing was much more pleasant. It still was not necessarily enjoyable but at least I knew what to expect and I wasn’t in there for more than 5 hours. The worst of it was finally over. For that reason, I’ll probably regularly go back for touch ups so that whenever I do get it done, it’s quick and painless.
Moving forward, Kathy recommends getting a touch up every 2-3 years, but if you like your makeup looking super fresh and close to perfect, they recommend every year and a half. I’ll be going back for my microblading touch up in the next 2-3 months, but I don’t know if I’ll ever do the eyeliner touched up. I like having it done and I like how defined my eyes are without make-up on but I don’t know if the pain and procedure is worth it to me.
I’m sharing my full experience with all this detail with you today not to scare you, create clickbait, or convince you to not get permanent makeup done. I’m sharing this with you today because I heard so many women talk about it as if it wasn’t a big deal and getting it done wasn’t uncomfortable at all. The women that I read reviews from and talked to about it made permanent makeup sound like it was as simple and painless as getting a pedicure. It makes me so mad that I never heard about all of this before I went in and got inked.
My theory is that many women don’t want to share what they went through in order to look prettier without makeup. I think women have a fear of being judged about what we put ourselves through for our vanity. We live in this weird culture where women are expected to look like a Kardashian but are then judged for trying too hard and getting invasive procedures done all for the sake of looking younger, prettier, and more feminine. Yet there’s so much pressure to look good, can you blame women for trying?
So today, I wanted to share with you what they don’t tell you about getting your face tattooed – all those uncomfortable little details of the process that make you lay on a spa table for 5 hours with a needle in your face questioning every life decision you’ve made. But hell, it makes for an entertaining story and I always get a ton of laughs from it when I tell people all about it.
Believe me, I’m happy I got permanent makeup. I’m SO happy I got it. I love the way that it looks and I get compliments about my makeup all the time and about how well done it is. It not only makes my routine easier but it has made me so much more confident. I just didn’t like getting it done, and now I make sure that every woman who tells me about how they want microblading or eyeliner done knows what they’re getting into ahead of time.
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Remember to keep an eye out for my upcoming blog post with all of your Frequently Asked Questions about permanent make-up. I answer one question at a time from readers and followers who are curious about the procedure.
As always, let me know what you think in the comments! Do you have permanent makeup? Do you want to get it done? Why did you decide to get it? If you did get it done, what was your experience like? Was it easier for you or about the same? And I’m curious, what exactly did you get done? Did you drive yourself home afterward?! Did you have any crazy tickling sensation like me?
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Photos Ray Reyes @rocketsciencephoto.