Elizabeth Vierich
  • Elizabeth Vierich
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"Honey, I want a tattoo. On my face.”

Patrick didn’t even raise an eyebrow. “Good, we’ll save a fortune on eyeliner.”

“Cosmetic tattoos can help people on many levels,” says Elizabeth Vierich of Cosmetic Ink in the Bernardo Winery (760-509-5400; cosmeticink.net). “For some, it can make a real difference in their lives, while for others, it’s just a convenience. Or it can work like an instant ‘facelift,’ restoring shape and color. I get clients from their late 20s up into their 90s.”

Vierich specializes in three areas: eyeliner, lip color, and eyebrows. “I trained in a tattoo parlor, and I use a coil machine. For eyebrows [$375], I’ll use a larger needle group — maybe eight small needles. That will give a softer, airbrushed look. People often ask me if they have to shave their eyebrows first, but I say no. I want as much hair as possible, to give the design flow and a natural look. First, I’ll draw the design on the eyebrows and consult with the client to make sure she likes it. Then I’ll do a topical pre-numb — it’s a very comfortable procedure. After that, I’ll do my first pass with the pigment.”

Color theory is extremely important when applying a cosmetic tattoo, says Vierich. “For eyebrows, I like to use iron oxides, which are more of your earth tones. That gives a softer, more natural look. For lips and eyeliner, you can use the bright, vibrant colors that you use for other kinds of body art, because the skin is different there. But if you use them on the brow, you’ll end up with funky colors.”

For eyeliner ($250 lower only; $450 upper and lower), “I use blacks and grays. It’s a standard, basic look. The client can add more to make it more dramatic on special occasions. I also try not to be too dramatic on the outer edges of the eye, because as the skin ages, a big wing or tail out there may start to sag.”

Vierich says that when it comes to lips, the majority get a full lip color ($550), though lining is available ($350). “The trouble with lining is, a darker outline doesn’t always translate well as a tattoo. If you’re not blending with a full-color lip tattoo, when your lipstick wears off, you can end up with a hoochie look. But if someone wants to get a soft, natural look as a liner because they are losing their lip line and want to restore it, I can do that.”

The application can take anywhere from one to two hours. “I offer after-care instructions, and I send my clients home with an organic ointment for their lips and eyes. I also find that about 75 percent of my clients choose to have a touch-up done after four to eight weeks [$80–$100]. Sometimes, it’s because they were really conservative at first, and now they want something more dramatic. Sometimes, it’s because they have spots where the pigment just doesn’t take as well. The touch-up gives me a chance to blend things better or to add a second coat.”

Lisa Kelly of Browology in Bankers Hill (619-990-1138; brow-ology.com) specializes in eyebrows ($450). “It’s about 98 percent of what I do,” she says. “I started out wanting to do areolas, to give back to breast-cancer patients who had had their areolas removed. I’ve seen where they’ve had them tattooed back on, and they look amazing. But what I learned during my training is that you don’t start with areolas; you need to work your way up to that level of skill. And as I continued training, I found that I loved doing eyebrows. Many cancer survivors had lost their eyebrows during treatment, and I was able to give them some normalcy back. It was so gratifying.”

Both Vierich and Kelly stress the importance of knowing your tattoo artist’s qualifications and references, and both note that permanent makeup isn’t quite permanent. “Eyeliner lasts eight to ten years,” says Vierich. “Lips last six to eight years. And eyebrows, which use the lightest pigment, last 18 months to five years.”

“The worst enemies of permanent cosmetics are sun and salt water,” warns Kelly. “Even exfoliants can be a problem if you don’t avoid the pigmented area.”

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