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Odd Jobs: Micropigmentologist - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

Odd Jobs: Micropigmentologist

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RUTLAND, Vt. -

Lori Mesli never thought she'd get a tattoo.

"I'm going to feel a little bit prettier, a little bit better, you know, about myself," said Mesli.

The Rutland grandmother says she's not really the makeup type. But with age, she's progressively lost more pigment in her hair and says her brows are the biggest offenders.

"When I think of tattoos, I don't really think about eyebrows," said Mesli.

She turned to Judy Bourn for help. The micropigmentologist owns Bourn Beautiful, a Rutland salon specializing in permanent makeup.

"It's such an odd job people don't understand what it's all about. I think there's a stigma behind it. I think there's a scare factor with that, too," said Bourn.

Bourn uses tiny, disposable needles to tattoo eyeliner, lip liner, lipstick and eyebrows on her clients. These are non-surgical procedures done right in the salon. She blends colors for a natural look. And after it heals the makeup will not smudge, smear or run.

It's an appealing perk, but not one that eased the angst of putting a needle near Mesli's eye.

"Very nervous and I wrestled with it a lot at first. I didn't come down here because I needed this. I came here because I wanted this," said Mesli.

First, Bourn pencils in the shape with regular makeup. Mesli weighs in on her new look, then braces for the permanent part.

"Zzzzzzz. So that's the sound. I know. That's the sound of the needle. Zzzzz. Everybody's pain tolerance is different," said Bourn.

Bourn is not a doctor so she can only apply a topical anesthetic to ease her clients' discomfort. Mesli likens it to sandpaper rubbing against the same spot.

"It's very fine, tedious work. It takes a really skilled hand and a skilled eye," said Bourn.

Bourn has been in the beauty business for more than three decades. Making her clients feel beautiful with haircuts and color. Micropigmentology didn't pique her interest until the late 90s when she lost her own brows to a thyroid condition. Then she watched two sisters battle cancer and chemo.

"They were taking hair off the back of women's necks and implanting it in their eyebrows. And it was so unmanageable," said Bourn.

She says most of her clients are women between the ages of 40 and 70. Half come for purely cosmetic reasons. The other half seeks permanent makeup for medical conditions like camouflaging vitiligo, scar tissue, cleft palates and burns. Others are paralyzed and can't put on their own makeup or have had breast reconstruction surgery and need areolas tattooed back on.

"I tried other things, but nothing hit my passion like this does," said Bourn.

Bourn was Vermont's first permanent makeup artist and says even now there's only a few micropigmentologists in the state. She went to Michigan for her initial training and has been board certified for more than 13 years.

She's traveled to Vegas and the Big Apple to perfect her craft, but says convincing clients in the Green Mountains to go under the needle hasn't been easy.

"I had to travel to Burlington and get my reputation in a doctor's office because that's how people were seeing permanent makeup," said Bourn.

So what makes Bourn's work different from a more traditional tattoo artist?

"A tattoo artist could finish what I did in two minutes maybe," said Bourn.

Their needles are larger and more aggressive.

"You don't want that when you're working on somebody's face. I want to see every needle mark I make," said Bourn.

Bourn says over time the makeup can fade, but she hopes her Odd Job will leave a lasting mark on her clients' self-confidence.

"Actually, that's really great. I love them," said Mesli.

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