First things first: NAOHOA does not tattoo above the neck (except for the nape of the neck). This is a personal choice and clients will need to find another artist who is willing to work on that area.
The only exception I’ll make is for tattoos that represent the client’s ethnic tribe and are a key marker of their culture. Due to my lack of knowledge in indigenous symbolism, I’d feel more comfortable if the client provided the design.
I’ve occasionally made exceptions to pieces that alter existing tattoos or scars for the sake of the client’s wellbeing, which are taken on a case-by-case basis.
We’re all aware that face tattoos are a thing, though lately there’s been a growing trend of cosmetic facial augmentation via tattooed freckles, beauty spots and even contouring. These have been made popular via the video app, TikTok.
I’ve been aware of this for a few months and have started getting requests, hence writing this post to save time in the long run.
Disclaimer: What you do with your body is totally up to you – I just want people to be aware of what they’re getting into so they can make an informed decision. My concern is that viral videos make things appealing without necessarily showing the full story or educating viewers on health risks that apply to these choices.
I’m not here to judge. Choosing not to tattoo the face is due to a bunch of added factors I simply don’t want to work with as an artist. I’m just conscious that the desire for face tattoos has shifted from rebellion to ‘keeping up with the Jones’s’ – heavily influenced by viral trends that are often targeted at a younger audience. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to proceed with caution in either case.
I’ll probably end up angering a bunch of people with this post, but hey ho.
Let’s State The Obvious
With traditional tattoos (i.e. illustrative pieces), a big concern would be whether this would affect the wearer’s job prospects and general quality of life. There’s also an unspoken rule in the industry that most wouldn’t ink their face or hands unless they ran out of space everywhere else. Attitudes are changing, however, with people choosing to have dainty tattoos on their fingers in place of jewellery, and more recently, cosmetic tattoos. As with languages, the world of tattooing is forever evolving with each generation’s taste and values.
Ultimately, it’s up to the wearer to decide how to live their life and accept the consequences of their actions – good or bad.
As the COVID-19 Pandemic has made clear, we have a tendency to touch our face far more often than we realise. This is an issue with aftercare, as tattoos are essentially an open wound, vulnerable to infection. Not looking after your tattoo on an area as sensitive as the face can result in scars that may affect the wearer psychologically, as well as physically, than if it were on any other body part. It’ll also need to be kept out of the sun for at least 2 (ideally 4) weeks whilst healing.
As an Asian woman living in the West, I’m hyper aware of how a lot of beauty trends are suddenly glamourising features that belong to groups that were previously mocked and shamed for having, whilst glazing over the hurt that caused. A prime example is ‘Fox Eyes’, where people stretch their eyes to make them look more of an almond shape – or even go as far as having this done permanently via cosmetic surgery (a la Ariana Grande). This is problematic. For decades, those of us of Asian decent were mocked for our born appearances, yet now it’s acceptable because it’s a trend being set by another race? No. This is not okay.
Although I cannot speak for those with natural freckles, moles or beauty spots, given the derision people get for having naturally red hair (in the UK, at least), I wouldn’t be surprised if this were an issue with those groups too.
Update: Multiple clients with natural freckles have confirmed this to be the case and aren’t happy with the trend either.
Our naturally-born features are not a frivolous beauty trend.
Seek A Specialist
Cosmetic tattoos more often than not involve semi-permanent ink and different machines to ones we traditional tattoo artists use. They undergo different training, certification and use specialist products to safely numb the skin on sensitive areas such as the face. This isn’t something you waltz into. Please do your research if going down this route, so you can get the best possible care. Although I’ll be politely turning down clients who expect cosmetic tattoos at a regular studio, you never know how many chancers there are out there who wouldn’t give the same courtesy. Most tattoo studios are trained professionals who take their jobs very seriously, but as with any industry, there are always a few bad eggs willing to put their customers at risk for a quick buck.
That’s all I’m going to say on this topic for now. If I think of anything else, I’ll update this post accordingly. This post is out of love, not scorn. 💗
Look after yourselves,