There’s an inherent problem with talking about cosmetic tattooing: People tend to think it’s permanent. But the image of dark red lip lines and black eyeliner which has oxidized and aged into a blueish hue sitting atop wrinkled skin is a very much a thing of the past. At Sugarin Studio in Los Angeles, founder Christina Son makes the art of semipermanent makeup feel natural and in some cases, essential.
A form of micropigmentation, cosmetic tattooing uses speciality pigments to enhance the face, eyes, eyebrows, and lips. Dating back to 1902 as one of earliest known applications, English tattoo artist Sutherland Macdonald began tattooing round, pink-hued cheeks onto women out of his London parlor. But the skill of semipermanent makeup today is one that only few experts around the world have honed and executed successfully – and Christina Son is one of them.
Having trained in the U.S. and Moscow, a city known for it’s precision and advanced techniques in cosmetic enhancements, Ms. Son has become famous for her “untouched” look. “The majority of my clientele prefer a natural look. They’re either in front of a camera all day, or prefer not to wear makeup otherwise,” she explained when describing her unique technique. “Cameras show everything, so an untouched look is very important.”
One of Ms. Son’s specialities is lip blushing, the process in which lips are tattooed to reveal a semipermanent tint. The procedure requires an immense amount of dexterity, skill, and precision from the artist, and equal-parts patience and trust from their clients. A nearly 3-hour procedure, lip blushing encompasses drawing and defining the lip lines, followed by multiple passes of a tattoo gun and numbing agents for comfort. As with all things, Ms. Son encourages her clients to embrace a natural color range for their lips — like pinks, peaches, and nudes — instead of a drastic alteration.
The same ethos goes for microblading eyebrows. “For the most natural results and for the aging of the pigment, I always like to be conservative. I believe that learning and understanding the client’s own, natural base is very important for good-looking results that will age well,” Ms. Son explained while showing a vast array in clients’ varying base skin tones.
The uptick in microblading procedures can be attributed to the evolution of eyebrow trends. Full, or “fluffy”, brows as Ms. Son calls them, have created a multi-billion dollar industry including hair growth serums, hairlike stroke tattoos, brow pencils, cosmetic gels, and even eyebrow transplant procedures. Ms. Son uses a machine for her eyebrow work instead of a manual microblading needle. A machine, she explains, is less invasive than a blade, is more versatile, but it also requires an extreme level of control due to the single-needle mechanism. With this, she creates the wispy textures that young starlets strive for — an extreme contrast to the now-arcane “Instagram Face” Sharpie-like eyebrows. For clients that prefer a more sculpted, artificial look of perfection, Ms. Son assures that she is not artist they’re looking for. “All artists have a different approach, I just prefer everything to look more real.”
As trends evolve, it’s important to maintain flexibility with semipermanent results. Ms. Son stays up-to-date by continued education and constant researching of new technologies, tools, and trends. Lip blushing, for example, is a procedure that may or may not require a touch-up, depending on how well lips can retain pigment. Generally, clients should expect 1-2 years of tinting before seeking extras. Eyebrows, however, do require touch-ups, and Ms. Son makes sure that clients are aware of the commitment to the process before moving forward.
Because so many are yearning for a nearly-perfect brow, more and more people are turning to the world of microblading and shadowing to frame their face and shave time from their morning routines. But if it’s tinted lips, faux freckles, or well-groomed brows that you’re after, Ms. Son implores perspective clients to do their homework thoroughly. “If there’s an ounce of hesitation, give yourself the time and wait.”