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Growing trend of microblading raises questions over state regulations

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) -  The trend of microblading is becoming more popular across Eastern North Carolina. It's essentially a tattooing procedure, generally done on eyebrows.

A thin blade draws individual hair strokes on the brows creating a semi-permanent tattoo.The blade cuts the skin and the ink creates color pigment.  The cuts follow lines marked based on proportions of the face.

"Microblading gives more of a natural look," said permanent makeup artist, Sarah Bateman. "Each line is drawn specific for the person."

Bateman has been in the cosmetics and beauty industry for 15 years. She co-owns a salon and spa in Winterville and saw additional opportunity to a branch into the field of permanent make-up. She opened Ink Permanent Cosmetics in 2017.

"It's still art, it's still the beauty industry, you get to help people. You can help people who are losing hair feel better about themselves," said Bateman.

Sarah learned the method at a training center in Greensboro. She also had to obtain a tattoo permit, therefore becoming a tattoo artist.

"I feel like the regulations through the Health Department are a lot easier to obtain versus the cosmetology or cosmetic board," admitted Bateman.

The Department of Health and Human Services issued her year-long permit after conducting a sanitation inspection.

"Every artist is going to have their own establishment and has their own way of doing things so it is a very individualized inspection," said Pitt County Environmental Health Program Specialist, Kent Keeter.

There are about a dozen permitted permanent makeup artists in Pitt County. As long as the artist passes a sanitation inspection, they can set up shop and start practicing. Yet, there is no way to know if those artists are trained in permanent makeup.

"There's a lot of information that's required for us to keep our tools clean, using disposable needles, following the blood borne pathogen regulations, but then there are other gaps where they don't regulate," said Bateman. "For instance, the brushes that we use, there's not a real clear definition of what we're supposed to do."

Another example of would be the use of tweezers. In the cosmetology world, they must be sanitized between each use.  In the tattooing world, there is no regulation on how to keep tweezers clean.

It's something other states like Colorado noticed. Permanent makeup artists there are regulated by both the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment and also the Colorado Office of Barbers and Cosmetology. Some other states encourage certification by the American Academy of Micropigmentation.

"Anytime you do that it helps because then government isn't the one going after them, then their own board can take action on them and you're being judged by their peers," said Keeter.

Bateman hopes to see North Carolina take similar action.

"The trend of microblading has made us look at the tattoo permit regulations a little closer and there is room for growth," said Bateman.

If you're a consumer interested in getting microblading, call your local Health Department to see who in the area has a current permit. Then, assess their work, read reviews, and ask for a consultation.

Click here to read the current rules governing tattooing in North Carolina.


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