What is the difference between traditional tattooing and restorative tattooing? Who is a candidate for restorative tattooing? How do you find a specialist that can help you recreate nipples, cover scars and more?
I had the pleasure of speaking Jeanine Mctasney of Restorative Ink Specialists an expert in restorative tattooing, who had answers galore to my questions. Did you know that these two different types of tattooing require different skill sets and even different equipment? Nope – me neither. Did you know that most medical professionals are not properly trained in this unique skill set? (I did – my nipples were reconstructed by a Dr’s nurse and I have the poor results to prove it!)
Read on to learn more about this important and interesting aspect of tattooing.
Important Questions – Serious Answers
What do you feel is the main difference between restorative tattooing and traditional tattooing?
Traditional (decorative tattoos) set a place in time. The tattoo itself is a rite of passage on a personal level. The pain factor of the tattoo is also part of the journey. The main difference between the two is the emotional aspect of the tattoo. There are some crossover tattoos that are emotional. Those crossover tattoos are usually for a memorial, honoring someone who has passed, or honoring a survivor. The traditional tattoo is completed on a client or a customer. The restorative tattoo is performed on a patient.
The emotional aspect of a restorative tattoo has a different meaning.
95% of my patients would not be getting a tattoo. When the body has been reconstructed (whether a face or covered body part), we are restoring natural beauty, or the “new natural beauty” a survivor must deal with after a mastectomy. Not all reconstruction has a pretty outcome. I find it amazing that women who have a less than appealing outcome, are more than grateful just to be alive. The emotional component varies from the symmetry of the reconstruction site.
I worked briefly with a traditional tattoo artist and we had a discussion regarding numbing the area. He said “they are getting a tattoo and pain is part of the process”. I merely commented that these patients are not electing to have this tattoo, its part of the reconstruction.
To summarize, the emotional difference is the main difference.
The second difference is the portrait effect vs. the soft almost transparent nipple and areola complex. Some tattoo artists create a portrait. It is their style. To complete a restoration procedure, it should look soft and transparent from the tattoo to the skin. Simply fading the edges, not creating a hard border.
All artists have a certain style, there should be a standard that we as artists follow. That would be a standardized training program, which there is not one.
To summarize, the artistic result from artist to artist, portrait vs restorative.
Does the traditional tattoo community have something to learn from the restorative community? Should there be a collaboration?
Tattoo artists are a very unique group. After many years of trying to bridge the gap between tattoo artists and permanent makeup technicians, I feel that it will never happen.
Tattooing is an ancient art, and there are trade secrets that individual artists possess.
They are not willing to share these secrets, mostly because they do not know the answer to the questions we ask. Tattoo artists do not have the same color theory classes as permanent makeup technicians. They do not know what the undertone of skin means. As they color in a design and they want rose, they pick rose. For permanent makeup we need to know the undertone of the skin, so our healed design has a true color that is natural.
Traditional tattoo artists do not respect permanent makeup technicians. There cannot be a collaboration unless the tattoo artist wants to know information from the permanent makeup technician.
To summarize, the tattoo artist will not share the information. Collaboration will not exist.
Does the medical community have a clear understanding of what restorative tattooing is? What can be done to educate them?
No, they do not. Physicians spend months and even years with their patients. They meticulously put bodies back together as best as they can. Removing cancer and giving hope to the survivor. The final step in letting go (for the patient’s journey) is the tattoo. The doctor should want the tattoo to be a beautiful finish from the reconstruction they have completed. Some physicians complete the procedure themselves. They should not.
A proper training course or seminar based training education is necessary. (click for more info)
Does the equipment used in restorative tattooing differ from traditional tattooing? How so?
Great question. I am primarily medical based. I work for 10 different doctors. The physicians are offered a training course in areola re-pigmentation during residency. The most popular medical company sells machines, pigments and needles. The research I have done with the current companies is that they are antiquated. The 2-day training using substandard old equipment, pigments and supplies is only one of the programs that is available.
The medical community has not enough information to complete the procedure properly. I repair so many procedures for the patient that the physician has completed.
When the procedure became more popular medical device companies jumped on the bandwagon and created supplies and equipment for the physician. The start up fees run about 10,000. I just trained a nurse in a physicians office and the start up cost was less that 1500.
If a person is seeking restorative tattooing what are the most important things for them to consider?
To have the confidence in the technician.
This cancer journey is tremendous.
The tattoo is half of the closure, the experience of the closure is the other half.
I always recommend that the patient view websites. Look for the following:
5 years of experience
Affiliation with a local hospital
Affiliated with local cancer groups
Products are very important.
Body art ink companies vary in ingredients.
I always recommend asking what kind of ink the technician uses and then research the companies.
After cancer the purest products are most important for my patients.
This is truly an emotional career, but we must create awareness for the patients.
Thank you Jeanine for your honest, direct, and informative answers!
October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month
PS – This is NOT a paid advertisement or promotion – just me asking questions and getting some solid answers!