The History of International Institute of Permanent Cosmetics by Susan Church

In 1988, the relatively unknown phenomenon of permanent makeup made its way into the beauty industry. That year, I took my first permanent makeup class – a two-day seminar that provided information on how to market my business and how to put a few dots of pigment into an eyebrow. For this minimal course, I was charged about $5,000.00.

There were over 40 students in this class, all of whom will tell you that we were given no hands-on experience. I did not learn how to implant pigments into the skin, anything about skin undertones in relationship to permanent cosmetic makeup, the depth the pigment should be inserted or any pre-procedure preparation or aftercare.

With the end of that two-day “course” I came to realize that the surface of permanent cosmetics had barely been scratched, but I didn’t let this discourage me from continuing on. As a traditional makeup artist I knew that, if I used tools to apply makeup and paint and worked with chalk to draw, I would be able to conquer this new tool – this noisy, cumbersome tattoo machine – and learn to apply permanent makeup with it. On my own, I learned how to place pigment into the dermal layer of skin. You could say that I actually graduated from the School of Hard Knocks, but in the first few weeks after my initial class I had worked on dozens of clients. The results were OK, but I knew there was much more to this innovative art form.

As I continued to practice, there were no professionals that could give me straight answers to all of my questions – and believe me, I had a million of them. I persisted in discovering how to make the whole permanent makeup application work, and soon I was asked to head the Instructor Assistance Line for the company that had originally trained me. I took phone calls for at least 5 hours a day, trying to help new technicians with the information and experience I had gained on my own.

Due to the invasive application of the permanent makeup application process, I knew that anyone performing these procedures would need insurance. I discovered Susan Preston, who was an insurance broker. We both knew, from all of the problems that we had witnessed, that this neophyte industry needed a proper education system and source for technical assistance.

We discussed starting an association that would help to unify and educate technicians, as well as the public, about permanent cosmetics. We not only established the Society of Permanent Cosmetics (SCP), but put the first SCP conference together with the help of my son Scott, who had just graduated from culinary school. He told us exactly who to contact to set up the conference at the hotel, what to order, how to handle the vendors – basically everything we would need to do in order to have a successful conference. In just a few short weeks we planned the very first SCP conference, which was incredibly successful.

Susan and I pushed to establish standards and hold technicians accountable for their work. We required each technician to sign and follow a code of ethics in order to be an SCP member in good standing. Because of this, we have been able to develop a strong foundation for the booming permanent makeup industry that exists today.

The industry needed appropriate standards for all phases of all of the processes we were carrying out. We all needed to learn about proper sanitation, sterilization, what an autoclave was and how to use it, which products worked and why, what was legal to use, what we should do with our needles once we used them, how to set up a proper tray, proper technique and so much more. The horror stories are plentiful, but I will save those for a future conference topic.

There was so much misinformation in our industry that any sane person would question everything. Through my own trial and error I discovered how to make permanent cosmetics work. I knew that I could shade in an eyebrow with powder, but I wanted to create realistic looking 3-dimensional eyebrows. I knew I would have to use several colors and different needle groupings to achieve this look. It took a while to perfect, but I eventually got the results I had hoped for. For IIPC, we took the best results from my learning years and complied an educational program to teach both powdered eyebrows as well as realistic ‘eyebrow hair simulation‘ – in addition to many other procedural techniques. I had long discussions with tattoo artists, physicians and traditional makeup artists like myself, and through all of this information, trial and error have come the successful techniques and protocol we employ today. Each application has its own set of rules; eyeliner procedures are different than eyebrows, and lip color is different as well. We use different needle groupings, pigment colors and techniques to achieve distinctive looks. Everything that we have discovered to be effective, safe and applicable is taught in IIPC’s classes, making our institution a consistent leader in education of Permanent Makeup industry since its inception in 1990.

In 1990, I found myself in the office of Dr. Grossman, a world-renown reconstructive surgeon, where I was fortunate enough to work with some of his burn patients. One patient in particular had a skin graft over her cheek and lip area which had both hypo- and hyper-pigmentation, and I worked with her in attempt to camouflage this discoloration. While performing Corrective Pigment Camouflage (CPC) on the patient, she told me how the contractured bands of the graft’s scar tissue were being released by the needle’s penetration, and that she could now move her jaw and open her mouth wider. She was amazed at what had transpired with her skin. Many other burn survivors that underwent this procedure noticed the same results. The next year, in 1991, I lectured on Skin Needling™ and Scar Relaxation – the terms we developed for the procedure – at our first SPC conference and showed photos of these patients and their results.

I have continued to lecture every year since 1991 at the SPCP conferences, as a guest on the ‘Panel of Experts’ at medical conferences, to cosmetology boards, colleges, state boards of health, burn foundations and other organizations and associations. Most of these lectures educate attendees on the proper use, sanitation and sterilization of permanent makeup machines and accessories and proper vs. illegal use of anesthesia.

I also took a fantastic paramedical class from Marvin Westmore, and was able to meet other burn patients that had experienced similar results from Skin Needling™ and Scar Relaxation treatments. Marvin is a very talented man and still teaches at his academy. Please visit his website at http://www.westmoreacademy.com. Much of what he taught me was in direct parallel to permanent cosmetics, and I continue to incorporate his knowledge into the curriculum at IIPC.

In addition to developing several permanent cosmetics procedural products for the industry, I have also produced two fantastic lines of permanent makeup pigment. One line is for Tri-Lab Products ‘Designer Series Colours’ – the line is 17 years young and is distributed in 20 different countries. The second line is called ‘Absolute Perfection,’ and is also used and distributed in many countries. Both color pigment lines have been medically tested, approved and used.

IIPC has helped to cultivate most of the Permanent Cosmetics Industry’s educators, providing their training, offering guidance and help in setting up their businesses, and answering client’s questions with technical answers. One of our educators shared a poignant fact with me recently: she has taken classes from many different educators at many different institutions, and came to the conclusion that most of today’s successful educators received their education at IIPC or were trained by technicians that have taken classes from IIPC. I find it a great honor that people have used the knowledge gained at IIPC, put their own twist on it and in turn experience great success in the industry.

IIPC has been called the ‘Pioneer’ in permanent makeup training and education. When it all started, I simply saw an opportunity to expand on a course of action that someone else had started. Students revere IIPC and companies are always trying to emulate us. This in itself speaks volumes.

IIPC was licensed by the Post-Secondary Board of Education, and Susan Church was named a licensed instructor for Makeup for the State of California. IIPC is still on the cutting edge of education 19 years later, and continues to develop new techniques and products to help technicians and other schools and instructors. IIPC’s curriculum has always set the industry’s standards, and we continually update our programs and teachings to exceed the principles that exist in the world of Permanent Cosmetics.

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