San Mateo Times

Permanent makeup lures some to needle
By Christine Morente
San Mateo County Times

MILLBRAE — No one said looking good is supposed to be painless.

That maxim rang especially true as Julie Wallace leaned over to tattoo the outline of Nancy Wallace’s lips with ink the color of Jamaican Rum.

It was quiet inside A Perfect Line, except for the soft hum of Wallace’s permanent makeup pen.

Wallace, 29, used one gloved hand to steady the lip, while the other lowered the tool’s needle to blend the color in.

Then she pulled back.

“You’ve got color!” Wallace said to the patient — who happened to be her mother. Cathy  peered in for a closer look.

“It doesn’t look clowny at all,” said Cathy, a permanent makeup technician and trainer. “It looks nice and very natural.”

The process of getting one’s lips out-lined typically takes as long as two hours and plenty of topical cream to numb the pain.

On Thursday morning, the younger Wallace went In for a refresher course, while in the next room, Deborah Ann (who goes by just her first name) practiced different types of brows on a pig’s ear.

Both Wallace and Deborah Ann studied under Cathy, who has practiced micro-pigmentation, or cosmetic tattooing, for the last 15 years.

Usually, women go to her to get their eyebrows, eyelids, and lips enhanced. Cathyalso offers reconstructive areola work for breast cancer patients and puts on facial beauty marks for younger women.

She opened her academy at 348 Broadway in July 2007 and has trained six students so far. Cathy — who was raised in Mlllbrae, but now lives in Hayward — said her school is the only one of its kind in San Mateo County. Her business is certified under the San Mateo County Board of Health.

The demand for permanent cosmetics has risen over the last 12 years. Typical clients are older women who want to look more “refreshed,” Deborah Ann said “The brow tends to fade as people age, leading some older women to want to have their brows filled in.

Women also like the convenience that permanent makeup brings, allowing them to use less time to get ready in the morning.

The tattoo will fade over time and needs to get touched up every couple of years, because the ink doesn’t go deep into the skin. For clients, procedures range from $400 to $700. ‘

At the academy, Cathy’s students first practice on mannequin heads and pig ears before moving on to their models. For certification, Cathy requires 35 hours of home study and 50 hours in the office.

Julie Wallace has been certified since September. The San Bruno resident hopes to open her own business called “Bella Faccia” — which means beautiful face in Italian — somewhere In San Mateo County.

Wallace understands her clients’ pain. She’s had her eyelids done and experienced the discomfort of the healing process. But she still wants to get her lips done.

Wallace admitted to being nervous the first time she worked on a model.

“Once I started, I saw how it went In the skin and the outcome of a couple of dots.” she said. “It kind of settled (me). It was like starting to ride a bike.”

In the end, Nancy Wallace approved of her daughter’s work. By Friday, her lips were no longer swollen. “They’re pretty normal and a little tender,” Wallace said. “I’m really happy with my lips.”

Staff writer Christine Morente covers faith, families and North County. She can be reached at 650-348-4333 or at