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[whitespace] permanent makeup

Metropolitan discovers the wonders of permanent makeup

By Dara Colwell

Nikelen Cosmetic Artistry shop in Mill Valley is what I imagine Barbra Streisand's bathroom would look like. With a creamy pink showroom decked out in ornate gold-framed mirrors and plush salon chairs, one with a live teacup Yorkshire terrier perched atop, the place screams "pampered starlet" and then some. Nikelen specializes in permanent makeup (tattoos really, darling) and medical cosmetic treatment, for those rare occasions when you want to camouflage recent laser surgery.

Now, admittedly, this is not the sort of place I would frequent. As a struggling beauty columnist, I am more disposed toward slapping cucumbers on my eyes and calling it a day, but for those seeking beauty at any cost, Nikelen would be the place to start. Permanent cosmetics are costly--ranging from $600 for finely drawn eyebrows to $800 for a lipstick-lined pout. The makeup is applied with a needle gun similar to a tattoo artist's, and if you have any qualms about pain, Nikelen coats the appropriate area with a topical anesthetic.

The day I was there, a friendly middle-aged lady with a sliver of gray just beginning to peek out of her black mane was having her eyebrows and lips drawn. "I don't want to think about makeup anymore," she said slowly through anesthetized lips. "I don't have the patience." (Although she looked oddly patient considering the drilling going on.) But yes, her eyebrows looked fabulous and striking--and now, they always will.

Owner Jeff Feinberg, a former showbiz flunky who used to dress rock stars ("everyone from Liza Minnelli to Twisted Sister"), confided to me in a salty voice that all the horror stories surrounding permanent cosmetics amounted to one thing. "You get what you pay for," he says. Nikelen is insured and even registered with the Environmental Health Services--not like some (unmentionable) places in (unmentionable) parts of the city.

Permanent cosmetics can also be used to cover scars and burn marks and to re-create the appearance of nipples after a mastectomy. I found this rather touching and much more pragmatic than mere vanity. And I'm sure it does wonders for women who have lost more than just their self-esteem.

But to each his or her own. If beauty really is only skin deep, and you don't mind paying to look perfectly made-up despite the time of day or the weather, then Nikelen offers an interesting option.

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From the May 10, 1999 issue of the Metropolitan.

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