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Kait James

Everything You Need to Know About Becoming a Cosmetic Tattoo Artist 

Have you considered becoming a cosmetic tattoo artist? Wondering where to get started? How to get started? What trainings you need? What the legalities are? What falls within the scope of cosmetic tattooing? Well, you have found the blog for you!!! In this blog, I share how I got started within the cometic tattooing industry and how you can set yourself up for success as a cosmetic tattoo artist. 

What is cosmetic tattooing?

Cosmetic tattooing is essentially the act of tattooing makeup. With this scope, cosmetic tattooing includes microblading, microshading, permanent eyeliner, lip blushing, and facial contour. In addition to tattooing makeup, cosmetic tattooing also applies to scalp micropigmentation, which is the act of tattooing hairlines, camouflaging bald patches, and tattooing full scalps to create the appearance of hair. Cosmetic tattooing also encompasses corrective body modifications. Body mods are less popular but certainly incredibly impactful. Body mods include tattooing nipples n those who have lost them to breast cancer, tattooing toenails on people who wish to camouflage the fact they have no toenails, tattooing for scar correction (such as covering old cutting scars), etc. Cosmetic tattooing encompasses a very broad range of services, but generally speaking it is the act of tattooing cosmetically, as opposed to tattooing art. 

Where do I start?

I suggest choosing one niche within cosmetic tattooing to focus on at the beginning of your career. You want to gain extensive knowledge and skill mastery of one skill prior to extending your look-book. Let your passion guide you on this. If you are incredibly interested in brows, start there. If you are incredibly interested in lip blushing, start there. Once you have fully mastered the first skill, then slowly start building your skillset. All cosmetic tattooing, with the exception of microblading, is done using the same device. However, different services do require different needles. 

Why is microblading different than any other cosmetic tattooing?

Traditional cosmetic tattooing uses an actual tattoo device; this is battery operated and mechanical device. Microblading uses a handheld pen with a blade on the end. We manually tattoo each individual hairstroke with that blade. Meaning there is no battery powering the machine. Therefore, microblading training is very different from other forms of cosmetic tattoo training.

What training is needed to do cosmetic tattooing? 

Cosmetic tattooing legal guidelines are up to the delegation of each state. I will go into depth on more legalities further down in this blog, especially as it pertains to Indiana, as Lux flagship is located in Indiana. But, regardless of legal standing, you NEED training. Cosmetic tattooing isn’t something you can hop on YouTube or Instagram and learn. My perspective is, that if you want to be a cosmetic tattoo artist, you should want to be GOOD at tattooing. If you go into the industry without proper training, you’re not. Going to produce GOOD work. And at the end of the day, the beauty industry relies heavily on reputation. You want to be known for being a good tattoo artist so that your business and clientele will continue to grow. 

So, how do I know what a good cosmetic tattoo training looks like?

Lux offers online training, as well as in person training at our flagship in Indianapolis, IN. While the online training is incredibly educational, when it comes to tattooing, the hands-on guidance is really important. The more hands-on guidance you receive, the better your work will be, especially in the beginning of your career. I like to tell people that the online training is an incredible resource if you’re interested in the service but aren’t ready to fully commit to the financials of an in- person training; you’re able to do a deep dive into the service and learn if you think you would be interested in a more hands-on approach to training. The online training is also really great for anyone who has former training. But needs a refresher or feels they just need MORE education.

If you’re interested in in-person trainings and are not located in, or close to, Indiana, I’m sure there are options close to you! Do your research. Try to find websites that advertise training via a simple Google search. Utilize social media to search. If you follow artists and really like their work, reach out to ask where they got their trainings, ask if they offer training. Generally, speaking, the person or company that trains you should have an extensive look-book of work that you respect. As a trainer, they need longevity expertise in the industry, meaning they should have been tattooing minimum 2 years. 

Lux trains on all aspects of cosmetic tattooing as a busines. Many training just offer training on the art of cosmetic tattooing. The art is vital; you need to know how to tattoo and you need to know how to do it well. Being trained on the business of cosmetic tattooing is a bonus, which is why Lux has designed the online training to train on the business of tattooing and offers this nationwide. 

What are the legalities of cosmetic tattooing?

As I mentioned previously, legalities of cosmetic tattooing vary by state. To explore your state’s legalities, you need to contact the State Board of Health. Cosmetic Tattooing is technically body art in some states, meaning it falls under the legalities of general tattoo artists. However, some states consider cosmetic tattooing a form of medical treatment. 

A great place to start is your states government website. You will most likely be looking within the cosmetology board, or the health board. If you need clarifying answers, I suggest calling these boards. In my experience, customer service representatives are always happy to assist in answering your questions and pointing you in the direction of finding answers on the website. My advice to you, is to take what the rep says, but also find that legal verbiage on the website, as sometimes there can be confusion. You need to know the WRITTEN legalities to fully cover your assets. 

Across all state lines you will need to be Bloodborne Pathogen certified to do cosmetic tattooing. We discuss this next! 

Why do I need to be Bloodborne Pathogen certified to do cosmetic tattooing?

The Bloodborne Pathogens certification is a government certification that educates you on the risks associated with bloodborne pathogens and correct protocol to protect yourself and your clients. There are a few agencies that offer this training, I prefer the training through The Red Cross. All cosmetic tattooing elicits blood. Therefore, we need to know correct sanitation to provide clean service. This is a training that you must take yearly to renew your certification. The training is online and usually takes about 3 hours to complete. I prefer The Red Cross training because they streamline my life; I get text and email reminders every year to notify me that I need to retake the course prior to my certification expiring. Many county health departments will ask for proof of this training prior to checking off on your site check. 

What is the scope of practice for cosmetic tattooing in Indiana?

In Indiana, cosmetic tattooing is considered body art and is therefore treated in the same regard as a traditional tattoo artist; this is Indiana State Law. This is then further broken down by county and regulated by the County Health Department. 

Technically, you do not need a “license” or “certification” to practice body art. Again, I hold to it that you do need trained to do it WELL. You will need a certification of a health department check to legally operate. This is done by the county health department. So, for example, if you are located in Marion County, the Marion County Health Department will do a facility check to ensure you meet regulation and you will receive a certification for that. This is done yearly. Anytime you move business locations, you will need to notify the health department and cannot tattoo until that health department check is completed. Generally speaking, each county has their own checklist of regulations; you need a hand washing sink, clean, well-kept area, etc.

Site checks are done yearly. 

Can I do cosmetic tattooing out of my house?

Technically, the straight-forward answer is no. Essentially, to have a home-based business, you need to have a separate room that is not open to other rooms within your house AND the treatment are must have its own entrance, separate from the rest of the house. You will still need to meet all country specific requirements as well, such as the sink. 

What happens if I am doing cosmetic tattooing without abiding by legalities and I get caught?

You can be fined and restricted from practicing anything in the beauty industry. So, for example, if you are an esthetician and you are found to be practicing unlawfully, the state can legally revoke your esthetics license. If you are practicing unlawfully and decide in the future you would like to obtain a state license such as cosmetology or esthetics, you can be banned from obtaining any license. 

In addition, the beauty industry is essentially a very big network. If you are found to be at fault for practicing without abiding by the laws and regulation, your reputation can REALLY take a hit. 

At the end of the day, its truly not worth it to practice without abiding by the law. The laws are designed to protect you! 

I’ve taken training courses on cosmetic tattooing, I feel confident tattooing, now how do I grow my clientele?

Client growth is organic. The more quality work you produce, the more word of mouth will spread about your skill. Word of mouth is key in the beauty industry. In addition, you need to utilize various platforms to advertise yourself as an artist. In today’s society, marketing truly falls into two categories. With the older generation, they are less likely to be on social media. This demographic will go to Google and search “permanent eyeliner near me.” Having a website with good SEO is going to direct these Google searches directly to you. On the opposite end of the spectrum, many people go directly to social media to research beauty providers in their city. You need to have a social media presence to stay relevant within this society. You need to post your work, share informational posts on cosmetic tattooing, etc. You want people to look at your metaverse presence and thing to themselves “THAT ARTIST IS AN EXPERT.” 

Be patient with yourself. Don’t compare your year one with another artists year seven. It takes time to build your reputation and grow a clientele.

It’s also supe helpful to network within the beauty industry. Try to attend some networking events. Follow other beauty providers on social media, introduce yourself, tell them you’d love to refer clients their way, and usually, that favor is returned. Find your tribe and support them as hard as you want them to support you. 

I’ve been trained, but I still feel like I need to get better at cosmetic tattooing, what can I do?

PRACTICE. Practice is key to growing your skillset. Obviously, real life client practice is unmatched. But there are various ways to practice your skill outside of live models. Practice skin is incredibly helpful and easily accessible, you can find this on amazon. I also suggest practicing on fruit. When I first started tattooing, I would tattoo the Cutie mandarins. The consistency of citrus skin is usually semi-comparable to human skin. 

Don’t underestimate the power of old school pen and paper. When I was first learning the art of microblading, I would spend hours drawing pattern designs on paper. When I first started lip blushing, I would do the same drawing different shapes of lips and prating my shading techniques with colored pencil. This took a whole new intensity when I began tattooing nipples. Nipples are by far the most intricate cosmetic tattooing design; I have sketch pads FILLED with nipples of all different shapes, sizes and colors. 

Cosmetic tattooing is ART. If you can hone-in on your artist capabilities on paper, you will be able to master in on live clients. The more you practice, the higher quality of work you will produce. 

How should I price my services?

I did a full blog post on beauty industry pricing. 10/10 recommend you check that out. In a brief synopsis, your pricing should increase as your skill set increase. In the beginning, it is so important that you practice and build your look-book. When I first started tattooing, I would offer treatment to my close friends and family for free or for cost of supplies. I needed the practice, and they knew that I was a new artist, meaning my work was up for potential error. It’s a bit of a give and take in the beginning. As your skill gets better, you’ll have more inquiries for treatment, this is when you begin increasing price. 

Keep in mind, that as a brand-new artist with a small look book, you’re not going to be able to charge as much as a 7-year vet with hundreds of client photos. 

As a vet with years in the industry, my pricing start at $600 for treatment. I am able to charge this much because clients want ME because they love my work. They don’t just want microblading, or just want lip blushing, they want MY microblading. They want my style of art. 

This also goes back to supply and demand. I book minimum 6-8 weeks out and I work a lot. My price reflects that. If I were charging $200 and treating 20 clients a week, I would gross $4,000. I would also be working insane hours. By charging $600, I am able to gross the same amount and treat 7 clients. Your price dictates your work life balance. 

Take all of these factors into consideration and create your menu accordingly. 

Do a bit of market research; what are people around you charging? You want to price according to the market so you’re able to compete within that market. So, for example, if the market average is $400 for a cosmetic tattoo and you decide to chare $1,200, chances are you won’t get many clients willing to pay significantly over market value when they can go to an artist with similar skillset for 1/3 of the price. 

To new artists- 

Overall, my advice to you as a new artist would be to invest in a good training. Set yourself up for success. Create the foundation you need to truly exceed as a cosmetic tattoo artist. Once you have that foundation, stay resilient. Anything worth having, takes time to get. Cosmetic tattooing is an art, and your skillset will continue to get better with time. In the same regard, time is needed to grow your reputation, clientele, and ultimately your income. 

The beauty industry is bigger than it has ever been! The global beauty industry is worth $511 billion. I have faith that if you are invested, you will earn your chunk of that. 

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