‘Be Beautiful 24/7’, Culture Of Permanent Tattooed Makeup


Mexico City: Advertisements posted around Mexico City read “Be beautiful 24/7” and “Always ready to go out!” The flyers show women wearing makeup so perfect it looks like it was Photo shopped onto their faces, but it’s actually permanent makeup — makeup that’s tattooed on to be precisely symmetrical — a subset of the Mexican beauty industry that’s boomed in recent years.

Permanent makeup beauty schools have popped up across the country to satisfy demand. In Mexico City, a class full of women and a few men sat at their desks, pigs’ feet in one hand, a tattoo machine needle in other. Their mouths were covered in surgical masks as they intently practiced tattooing eyebrows and lips on pigs’ feet. “We use pork because it is known that pork skin is the most similar to human skin. We are alike — we are distant cousins!”

explained Trinidad Villalobos, the owner of Girona Permanent Makeup School. Once students have perfected contouring and symmetry on pigs’ feet, they are then allowed to practice on humans, who pay a reduced rate for beauty procedures like lip liner, eyeliner and eyebrows.
Villalobos, who is tall and spry, has bright green tattooed eyeshadow herself. She founded the tattooed makeup school on beauty street (“la calle de la belleza”) in the La Merced neighborhood of Mexico City three years ago. On beauty street, women get all types of beauty treatments — waxing, eyelash curling, eyebrow “ironing”, tattooed makeup, nails — essentially in the middle of the street. Villalobos said that her goal is to teach students that tattooed eyebrows and lip liner, “have to be symmetrical. Our job is to make everything symmetrical so that the person is more beautiful because it is scientifically proven that more symmetry equals more beauty. We are very imperfect — subtly imperfect.”When I visited the school in July 2017, Villalobos was showing a classroom of students how to create the perfect lip liner. The course costs 10,000 pesos ($560 USD) but according to Villalobos, “It is not an expense — it is an investment in your education.” Students get a tattooing machine and five pigments, as well as anesthetic. “This is for all types of people and with any level of schooling,” Villalobos explained. “We have lawyers, we have doctors, we have nurses, we have social workers, all kinds of people including housewives.”

Georgina Saliz, 49, who trained at the school, now works from home doing tattooed makeup. “Economically, I’m doing very well. I was a housewife. I can support my family now. I have two children, 16- and 19-years-old. I came here and discovered myself. I feel very productive. I am in the process of getting my own eyebrows tattooed.” Patients, many of them students themselves, are under local anesthesia for the procedure, which often requires that they return for various sessions in order to perfect the exact color and type of makeup they want.

Villalobos, over her years of teaching, has seen how her course has helped women earn a living and find a sense of purpose. “I ran into a student from a few years ago and I asked, ‘How are you and your husband?'” she said. “She replied, ‘I already left him. Now I have my own bank account.'”