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Few of her clients own a Harley Davidson.

And even fewer are looking for the jaws of a fire-breathing dragon or diamond-backed rattlesnake laced around the blade of a sword tattooed on their bicep.

The clients Gina Hamilton works with are looking for something more attractive ÿ something more feminine.

As one of the few make-up artists in the valley who specializes in permanent cosmetics, Hamilton is convinced that the technique, which is a form of tattooing, can be used to effectively restore eyebrows or misshapen lips, cover scars, or provide permanent lip or eye-liner.

"A lot of my clients are sick of putting on eyeliner, sick of putting on lip liner or sick of getting up in the morning and looking scary to themselves," said Hamilton. "The idea with permanent cosmetics is to enhance what (beauty) you already have. We try to keep it as simple and pretty as we can."

The procedure is less intrusive than traditional tattooing, penetrating only into the second layer of the skin when conducted on the face. The process is a "bit painful," said one client who requested to remain anonymous, but Hamilton explained that most of her clientele refer to the sensation as a prickly buzz.

Hamilton has experienced the procedure first-hand ÿ the lip liner, eyeliner and eyebrows. The initial application usually causes some degree of pain, she said, but several types of anesthetics can be applied to mitigate, and even eliminate, that discomfort. Regardless of the anesthesia, Hamilton explained that those pursuing permanent cosmetics should expect some pain when the needle breaks the skin for the first time.

"Most people experience some discomfort,"agreed a report from the Society of Permanent Cosmetics Professionals, "But it may vary according to each individual's pain threshold and the skills of the technician performing the service. There are different methods available to help with pain management, including various anesthetic ointments, anesthetic locals and nerve blocks."

Permanent cosmetics have been used by the general public for more than three decades as an alternative to traditional cosmetics. The procedure is convenient, said Hamilton, but it has also been used for those with allergies to traditional cosmetics, failing eyesight or physical disabilities.

"I don't care about looking glamorous," said one of Hamilton's clients. "If your eyesight is failing and you can't do it without your bifocals, then it (permanent cosmetics) is a nice alternative."

But the "alternative" is not without a price tag.

The average cost per procedure, particularly in metropolitan areas such as New York or Los Angeles, averages between ,400 and ,800, according to a Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals report.

The price has been adapted to Cache Valley, but residents are still looking at approximately ,250 per procedure, depending on what the client is looking for.

Although Hamilton has acquired a large clientele base, she indicated that the "permanence" of the procedure has caught some people off guard.

"A lot of people have asked, 'Aren't you afraid of putting something permanent on someone?'" Hamilton said. "I don't look at it that way. I've done it long enough that I'm confident that the shape and color will be right. But, on the other hand, this isn't something you want anyone to do."

If needed, the tattooing can be removed by laser, but the Society of Permanent Cosmetics Professionals emphasized that slight alterations can generally be made by changing the color or shape.

Hamilton is accredited as a member of the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, but more and more technicians are opening practices with no professional training or experience.

Emily Marshall, media relations correspondent for the Northwest Dermacolor Center, said that it is up to the consumer to decide whether the technician is properly qualified.

"Most potential clients assume that the training and application techniques are standard, but that is not the case," said Marshall. "There are no certifications or licensing required. If a person has a machine, pigment and a chair, they can go into business."

The quality of the work is not the overriding concern, said Marshall. If it is done without proper training and sanitation, however, Hepatitis B or other diseases can be introduced.

She indicated that several questions should be asked by the consumer to ensure that the technician is qualified.

"First, ask where and how long they trained," she said. "A few hours or a few days is not enough time to achieve the proper training. Most good technicians have received weeks of training and participate in continuing education. Ask how long they have been doing permanent cosmetics. Do they belong to any organizations such as the Society of Permanent Cosmetics Professionals? Ask if they will furnish pictures and references. Ask to see where the procedures are performed. Does the area look clean and comfortable?"

Cheri Durbin, writer for the Society of Permanent Cosmetics Professionals, explained that tattooing, whether it be for decorating the body or applying permanent cosmetics, should be considered in-depth before pursuing any type of procedure.

The Centers for Disease Control indicated that there has been no incidence of HIV in permanent cosmetic procedures, nor an increase in Hepatitis B cases in the last 10 years. There is little chance of transmitting disease, said Durbin, if performed under the proper conditions.

"If the technician is using an autoclave on their instruments, not reusing needles and has a clean, sanitary environment, the chances of developing any type of communicable disease are remote, if not impossible."

Allergic reactions are possible, but Durbin indicated that they are "extremely remote," happening in less than 1 percent of every 100,000 permanent cosmetics procedures.

The Society for Permanent Cosmetics Professionals issued the following sanitary guidelines for areas where the procedure is performed:

* All needles should be new and sterile for each client.

* Other machine parts should be pre-sterilized and disposed of in a sanitary manner.

* Gloves should be new for each client and changed during the procedure when needed.

* The technician should be clean, neat and knowledgeable of environmental safety requirements.

* Clean sheets should be used for each patient.

* The room or treatment area should be in an area free from other contaminants.

Whether it be eyeshadow or eyebrows, Hamilton believes that permanent cosmetics will gain popularity in Cache Valley, as they have on the West Coast.

"I don't think permanent cosmetics are for everyone," she said, "But for women with no eyebrows, it is a self-esteem boost. There will always be a market for people with that type of hair loss. It can help people feel more comfortable about themselves."

Please be aware that Cache Valley Publishing does not endorse, and is not responsible for alleged employment offers in the comments.

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