No PMU artist can truly understand the trauma and emotions that a breast cancer survivor has experienced until they’ve been in their shoes.
Lena Gabrahana (@bluerosebeautyandbrow) knows this firsthand.
A woman of many talents, Lena is a Master Trainer in permanent cosmetics and brow artistry, and the owner of Blue Rose Beauty + Brow Artistry, BRB Brow Artistry, Beauty Ink Academy, and Restored Ink. She works in a variety of procedures from brows and lips to scar camouflage and areola reconstruction. She was also one of the organizers for WULOP USA 2023.
Lena shares how at the height of her career, she received news that would change the coarse of her life. Plus, she’s giving tips on how to get started in areola reconstruction, the importance of bedside manners, and product recommendations.
**If you live in Little Rock, Arkansas, Blue Rose Beauty + Brow Artistry is offering free consultations and 50% off all paramedical procedures in October. Learn more on her Instagram.**
Can you share your personal story?
It all started in May of 2021. I was preparing to compete in my very first championship, WULOP USA. One day, I was in the shower and felt a large lump in my left breast. I convinced myself it was most likely a cyst and nothing dangerous. I promised my family and teenage daughter that I would go for a mammogram as soon as I returned from the championship.
Fast forward to August of 2021, I won 1st place and was preparing to join Team USA in Turkey for the world championship. I went in for my mammogram appointment, and the mass found in my left breast was so concerning to the radiologist that my oncologist and breast surgeon immediately did a biopsy. I was terrified and felt so guilty for placing my wants, goals, and dreams before my own health.
The biopsy confirmed my worst fears. I had atypical ductal hyperplasia (aka baby breast cancer). Luckily, my doctor was amazing and quickly scheduled the surgery. I had a partial mastectomy and soon after, I was off to Turkey to compete in the WULOP World Championship 2021! Six months later, the radiologist found ANOTHER MASS! I had to undergo a second partial mastectomy, and now I get routine scans every 3 months. The last scans were clear!
Throughout this journey, I remain humble. There are so many people that have gone through far worse than what I experienced. I know that through our own individual journeys, we are all overcomers, we are all warriors and must remain hopeful that there is a cure for this horrible disease we call breast cancer.
What first inspired you to venture into areola reconstruction?
I was first inspired by the amazing Vicky Martin who I saw speak at a conference in Arizona 7 years ago. Her story and how she was changing women's lives made something inside of me light up. She had a way of empowering me to truly make a difference through our art. At this time, my career was taking off and my priority was not the paramedical side of our industry. It was not until approximately two years later I was able to train with Vicky and I knew I had found something I truly love. She made me feel unstoppable! The gift we give these women is so special and I wish I could give this gift every day in my career.
My personal journey with breast cancer made my love for this field even stronger. I am so happy that I was blessed with the gift to change these individuals' lives and give them back a little piece of what was lost.
What advice or tips would you give to artists who want to start doing this procedure?
My advice would be "Do it sooner! Jump into it!" You will know right away if it is for you. Once you train in the techniques and are confident in your skills, carve days out of your schedule dedicated to this side of the industry. I am actually investing and taking two more continuing education courses on areola and scar reconstruction over the next 60 days as I plan to refocus my career on my love for the paramedical industry. Remember we are always students, so never stop learning and investing in yourself through continued education.
What is the most important thing a PMU artist should say or do to make the client feel comfortable during your areola reconstruction procedure?
This procedure is a mind, body, and soul transformation. It's not just a beautiful work of art that we are placing on their bodies. Open your ears and hearts to them! I love to hear their stories while I am with them for hours completing 3D areola. This procedure is the icing on the cake. It is the final step of their long hard journey. Before their reveal, I remind each woman how special and beautiful they are! I thank them for allowing me the opportunity to give them back their areolas and then I let them stand in front of a large mirror and take it all in. It almost always ends in lots of tears and lovely hugs!
Which machine, needles or pigments would you recommend for areola reconstruction?
Our needles and machines are like paintbrushes, no two are the same. For years the original Bellar was my go-to! It was the Corvette of my machines. I loved how flawless and delicate it implanted into the skin. Now, I am very excited to do all the amazing work with my new Flux S! When it comes to needles for 3D areola, I typically prefer 5,7 and 9 RL MT and LT. I do love a 7 mag for light blending. The Perma Blend VMM Unstoppable kit is great, and I also work a lot with the World Famous pink ribbon areola set.