(Photo by Jill Bock, Staff)
SIKESTON - For years, Alexie Whitten's works of art hung on walls. Today, her works of art are walking around town.
Whitten has turned her artistic abilities into a new business, A Lasting Image, which offers permanent makeup and cosmetic tattooing. Permanent makeup and cosmetics tattooing is the placement of pigment just beneath the epidermis of the skin.
It is a procedure becoming popular with women for a variety of reasons. Whitten said athletes like it because they don't sweat off their makeup while it is often a choice for women on-the-go or who work long hours and don't want to spend lots of time on their makeup. For people with vision problems and can't see to put their makeup on, it is an especially attractive option, she added.
"Women really love it," said Whitten. "They love that it never washes off."
But it is tattooing. "It is the same ink, the same gun, the same needles," said Whitten.
The results, she said, can add fullness and definition to thin or sparse eyebrows, can define eyes like eyeliner and provide fullness and definition to the mouth while giving it more visible color.
Whitten begins with a consultation with a client at her Lasting Image office, located inside Attitudes at 718 Lake St. in Sikeston. They will discuss what is to be done whether it is eyebrows, eyeliner or lips, and the colors that will be used.
Next Whitten will draw on the planned makeup, defining the shape, width and color.
"I like for people to be absolutely OK with the makeup before I start tattooing," she said.
Once the customer is satisfied with the planned look, she will begin the procedure or the client can set up an appointment.
The procedure typically takes about an hour and a half. "I can only go an eighth-of-an-inch deep with the needle to implant the pigment into the dermis," said Whitten, explaining it is much better to go over an area two times lightly than once deeply particularly around the eyes where skin is thin and tender. "There is no room for error," she added.
As she does the procedure, she does use topical anesthetics to numb the skin but said there is some minor discomfort to the procedure. "Most people describe it like a bee sting on the first pass, but the topical anesthetic eases the pain," she said.
Following the procedure, a client may experience minor swelling or redness. This is treated simply with ice and an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin. The redness will disappear in a day or two and in about a week the tattoo will peel.
"About 60 percent of the color flakes off, but that is the epidermis flaking off, the dermis is where the color actually comes through," she explained.
Normally, Whitten said, a client will have one or two touchups. "Everyone's skin is different," she said. "A person who tans well will hold color well because the ink sticks to melanin. Fair-skin people can have permanent makeup done but it may take three touchups."
She said she works closely with her clients until they are fully satisfied with the procedures. Permanent cosmetics typically last seven to 10 years before a client would need to repeat the process.
The cost for permanent cosmetics depends on the procedures but runs around $300. Whitten did note she is currently offering a reduced price special through Christmas and does offer gift certificates ("This is the perfect gift for the woman who has everything.")
A graduate of Murray State University with a degree in art, Whitten previously taught art. She said because of her knowledge of color, her excellent eye and steady hand, the permanent cosmetic business seemed a natural choice. She completed formal training at the So Natural Institute in St. Louis, which specializes in permanent cosmetic training.
A Lasting Image is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Whitten typically sees clients by appointment, which can be made by calling telephone number 573-380-1224.