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Tattooist wants to make a mark

Cosmetic tattooist Nicole Brown at the awards ceremony in Auckland. PHOTOS/SUPPLIED

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A Masterton cosmetic tattooist has taken out New Zealand’s top award in the little-known profession.

Nicole Brown aims to use the recognition to help bring her line of work into the mainstream, but says a lot of work still needs to be done to bolster the industry’s image.

Brown won the New Zealand Cosmetic Tattooist of the Year award at the BeautyNZ Association Awards, held at the Hilton Hotel in Auckland last month.

Her achievement was all the more significant because, until a short time ago, Wairarapa residents had been largely unaware of the practice of cosmetic tattooing.

“It’s not easy starting something in a town that doesn’t really know anything about it … I’m proud that I’ve made it into something that people here trust, and we talk about it now.”

In June 2020, Brown set up a hub on Perry St for different types of cosmetic practitioners to come together.

Contractors at Isme Cosmetics included a cosmetic injector, teeth whitening specialist, float pod manager, and a deep tissue masseuse.

“We don’t have a huge amount of competition in here because we’re all services for like-minded people,” Brown said.

Clients would often come into the store to see Brown, but ended up also taking up the other services offered.

“We all tie in together quite well. We’re all good friends.”

Brown’s husband Jarrod also worked out of Isme Cosmetics as a tattoo removalist.

Nicole Brown’s work ranges from eyebrow to eyeliner and lipstick tattooing.

After submitting a portfolio of her work, including references from clients, Brown reached the top three and had a Zoom call with the judging panel.

They questioned her on subjects from health and safety to product knowledge, and also asked what she would change about the industry.

While premises for cosmetic tattooing needed to have certificates of registration to show they were well maintained and sanitised, there were no industry standards for the practice, meaning anyone could perform the work without qualification.

“I could teach you tomorrow, and you could just go and do it,” Brown said. “There’s nothing – no requirements, and that’s really dangerous.”

The New Zealand Association of Registered Beauty Professionals had a membership that aimed to achieve a highly qualified and professional workforce.

However, the association relied on its members to uphold its standards.

Due to New Zealand’s lack of qualifications, Brown had gone to Melbourne to study for a diploma.

She trained first in eyebrow tattooing before returning to upskill in eyeliner and lip tattooing.

Next year, covid-19 allowing, she would return to Australia to study areola tattooing, frequently used by people who had undergone surgery for breast cancer.

“It’s definitely becoming more popular,” she said of cosmetic tattooing. “In Australia, it’s everywhere, whereas we take a bit longer to catch up over here.”

The mother of three worked during school hours to complete two sets of tattooing – either eyebrows or lips – as well as two touch-up appointments.

Business was booming, with Brown booked out four to six weeks in advance.

Clients would need touch-ups on eyebrows every 12 to 18 months, while lipstick and eyeliner tattooing lasted longer and only needed touch-ups every three to five years.

“It’s just easy – get up in the morning and go,” Brown said. “It’s not to make you look like you’ve got a full face of makeup all the time… We tattoo to enhance what you’ve got naturally and make people feel like they don’t need to wear anything else.”

The work allowed Brown to fulfil her passion for helping people.

“A lot of people do have a lot of confidence issues about their face and things being different – because we’re not completely symmetrical.”

Some of her clients were even brought to tears when they saw the finished result.

“It’s nice just meeting new people and helping them.”

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