Listen in on a conversation between two permanent makeup pros, Crista Nicole and Lulu Siciliano. They talk on the differences between the Microbeau machines, including the Xion S, the lightweight Bellar, the Apollo and the brand new Flux S.
They also offer invaluable insights and experience on:
- dealing with clients' expectations
- circumstances where they've declined to work on a client
- a unique needle feature you didn't realize you absolutely need
- how to determine which voltage you should use
- how to approach color correction work with varying degrees of blue faded results
Crista Nicole has been doing her friends' and family's brows since she was a teenager and now works in permanent makeup full time. Her detailed work and impressive color-matching with her clients' skin has earned her place as an Elite artist within the Microbeau brand. Lulu Siciliano, founder of Microbeau, has a background in fine arts, mastered cosmetic tattooing in Europe and now resides and offers procedures in Miami.
Lulu specializes in powder brows, but has been concentrating on lip blushing and lip color correction as of late.
When buying a machine, Lulu's first piece of advice is:
"PMU machines are like a dress. You have to try it on first. Go to any tattoo or PMU shop or instructors who have a bunch of machines to try, and then you’ll find yours."
Should I Buy the Flux S, Xion S, Bellar or Apollo?
Crista Nicole: "Right away the Spektra Xion S is so consistent, I've never had an issue with it. I fell in love with it it right away, although I do love my Flux S. Both run so well, they are very similar with the results.
I was actually a little nervous about the Flux S because it is so much thicker, but you know what? I actually find it good because when you’re working long days- which happens a lot to me - the smaller your hand is closed, the harder it is on your hand. So I’m actually fine because this is so full [holding the Flux S], it kinda keeps your hand a little more relaxed, if that makes sense. Sometimes I run it for nine hours and I'm like "noooo!" So you can get an extra battery. But I find that it charges really quickly.
I like the thickness, like I said, I find it’s good for my hand, I’m less sore at the end of the day, my knuckles, my wrists because I haven’t had such a tight grip.
And actually I was pleasantly surprised that the flow was there right away for me and, obviously, the fact that it’s cordless is amazing instead of running over my cords. They both run amazing, I just think that the power pack that’s included is amazing.
The Bellar is also amazing. You can’t go wrong with any of the products, to be honest. It's the perfect selection for someone to discover what works for them.
Lulu Siciliano: The Xion S is so popular. From 2016, when the Xion S came out and we launched the Microbeau company, artists are still using it. It’s a very popular machine for the adjustment and also you can change how hard it hits the skin.
About the Apollo, which was designed for scalp micropigmentation, you can use it for any cosmetic tattooing. It has a similar system as the Bellar, but it has a longer stroke. For those artists who love a long stroke and long needle depth, you can also use it because it’s really lightweight and perfect for hair stroke, powder eyebrows, lip blush.
For artists who are used with a slim grip and very light weight, the Bellar is the best choice for them. In Eastern Europe and Russia they love the Bellar. There, many have very thin, light skin, so you need a soft machine and the Bellar is just perfect. And they love the slimmer grip.
But I noticed that for dark lip correction you have to have a little bit more power and I found that the Flux S is just the best, it creates less trauma, speeds up the process and can leave these perfect pixels, even at the beginning or the end of the shading stroke, it’s the same pixels. Some artists are scared of the size because it’s bulky, but it really helps, because the weight is just perfect; the weight is at the bottom and, therefore, it helps you. With any lightweight machine you have to put pressure. I prefer a little weight in the machine. It's like the Xion S, it weighs 170 grams (about 7 ounces).
With the Flux S I sometimes forget to charge it, and it can last up to three days, depending on the speed that you use. Of course, it's good to always charge it!
Their Preferred Voltage and How to Find Yours
CN: Gaston recommended to go all the way soft [turn the Xion S to it's softest setting] and go three or four clicks to hard. What I find is that I change my speed and depth of needle. For some, I find their skin is a little bouncier, so I feel like I have to pull my needle out a little further.
I usually run my Xion S down to a 7.0 and if I'm stippling maybe a 6.5.
LS: The beauty of these machines is that you can run on very low voltage and you still can have very good pigmentation [Crista chimes in: 100%]. And there’s no trauma.
For lip blush I use single needle .33 or .35. Voltage is something very personal. We need to see your hand movement. You need to find your speed. For me, it’s 7.3 or 7.5.
But you need to play on latex and try.
I see some artists with very slow movements. It depends on your temperament. It's very personal. There are no specific numbers, because we are all different. Different pressure, different speed, different hands.
Needle Preferences for PMU Techniques
CN: I only use single needle. One point. The Nano, Vertix. I really love those needles because their head is so long and thin and I find I can really really see where I’m working. You don’t realize until you start using them, they are so precise and because the cartridge becomes so slim at the end, I can see when when I’m looking down over the brow. You don’t realize how crucial that is until you’re working.
LS: Vertix Nano's are addictive. Once you try you can’t switch to another one. It should be a perfect machine and perfect cartridge. If you have a cartridge with a tight membrane, that’s going to create more vibration in your machine and you won’t be able to feel the benefits of your machine. With Vertix you can draw so much pigment. With one cartridge you can do half a brow. If you keep turning to get more ink you’ll take an hour!
CN: For powder brows I always use "one." Obviously, a three can be done as well. But with the one I feel like I have control and nice pixelation.
Tips for the Right Needles for the Right Pigments
LS: I also found that if you use a thicker or more mineral-based pigment that you need to use a round shader or a round liner because it's going to take more time and you will just need to implant thirty percent more if you will you use an organic base. With an organic base it's better to use a round needle and also not too deep, because if you will go too deep you will have problems. The color is going to heal darker and with mineral-based pigments you need to pack a lot.
CN: I just use Perma Blend. I like Mallard, darkest brown. If I really need a dark brow, I use blackish brown and a little bit of Tina's [Tina Davies] gold to make sure it doesn't ash-out. If I'm doing a lighter brow, I use taupe, maybe a little bit of gold mixed in.
LS: I love Tina's gold color, it's such a beautiful modifier. I used to add it everywhere just to make sure and make it prettier.
Advice for Starting Your Career in Permanent Makeup
CN: The training you choose. There’s a lot of training out there that’s not quite where it should be. You have to think about a long serious career in permanent makeup and you want to invest in a proper instructor, proper equipment, like Microbeau.
Don’t cheap out! Do what you have to do to get started. What you can charge for procedures coming out of training is pretty amazing, there’s not a lot of industries that you can do that.
Make the right choice when it comes to training and keep going from there, watching people that you think are amazing, ask questions and get more training from them.
LS: I’m amazed by the numbers of people who came to this industry for the easy money. How they think: “easy money.” Ninety percent of our industry came into the industry just for the money, unfortunately. Then they understood it’s not that easy when you start working with the skin and you have to learn about the chemistry of the pigments, the medical aspects, everything about the skin and equipment.
Spotting Difficult Clients and How to Approach Challenging Corrections
LS: Some artists even after 10 years in this industry still struggle to explain how the color will heal to their clients.
CN: I remember when I was starting out and only doing microblading and people would be like: "the hair strokes came off and there's no color!" "ahhh!" I wasn't really told that that was part of the process, so I was thinking "oh my gosh, what's going on!?" So really getting a strong foundation starting out and having strong support, also, from wherever you’re getting the training from I think is really important.
LS: Yes, sometimes you can tell them "this red will heal in a soft, natural color," and they're like, "oh my God, no, I can't go with the red, but I can go with something natural and usually they come back and ask for something brighter and stronger! But you can't do this because you will do a touch-up for free. You will lose this time.
CN: You know that it won't heal brighter, and you know also that when they come back that it is going to be so much extra work on their lips. And you don't want to be doing an actual treatment, you want to be doing an actual touch-up. It's hard on them [your client], too because it's a very delicate area.
LS: The eyebrows, too. I declined some clients who wanted very dramatic shape, like devil eyebrows. And the person was so young, and it was going to stay for a long time and their face is changing. How do you deal with this type of client?
CN: You just have to turn them away, or reason with them. But I can never do something that I don’t agree with. But because what we're doing is, obviously, not going to be wiped off at the end of the day, I have to feel super comfortable with what I'm doing. If they want a little more of an arch, longer or shorter, as long as I'm comfortable with it, that's ok. If they want something extreme, I just say, “sorry, I’m not comfortable with that. I'm sure you can find someone who can do it for you, but I wouldn't recommend it.” A lot of the times people are looking to get these things done, but it's a trend. Like the misty brow, or the super dark brow, thick brow and they think right then and there that they want this forever but realistically in a year they probably won't want that and in a year they're going to call you and say "umm... I hate this, what can you do?"
LS: Yes, and this is like your signature on their face. This is your name. This is going to be a long time, maybe forever, depending on the age of your client. The whole process takes so much time, first you’re creating the shape, you’re trying to convince them and they want some changes and [before you know it] it's been one hour!"
CN: When the drawing process takes too long, we can say “look, we need to reschedule, you need to think more about what you want” and then it gets to the point where they don’t know what you want. It’s stressful for everyone and at that point I tell people: “you need to be 100% ok with the drawing.” I like to do an outline and soft shade for them, I say: “it’s not going to be as thick or as boxy as the drawing, but this is what the shape is going to look like. Are you 100% comfortable?" It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, it is so worth sending the client home and not having the stress because that client that doesn't really know what they want you're going to get a phone call or email the next day of them panicking, so it's best to just avoid it. You'll sleep so much better!
LS: The procedure is not only stressful for the client, it's a lot of stress but for the artist. too.
Is she going to follow aftercare? Will she come back happy? Some clients won’t understand that the shape was right. And obviously, if the color is blue, green, pink, they will have some concerns and we will need to explain what happened!
How to Correct Blue Eyebrows
CN: I don’t do a lot of corrections, maybe if it was a light blue, super faded that I could completely cover, but otherwise I'll send them to removal.
LS: If it’s very saturated, like you can see the color is very dense, with a lot of pigment. I will do a pigment removal, but not laser. I don’t do the laser personally, maybe after a couple of removal sessions I will send them to laser.
If you send them to laser right away there’s a risk that they turn funky colors, like very orange, red orange, bright color, even hard to cover with makeup, so it’s better to do removal [first] and then laser.
We are working on our new product [pigment remover], it’s going to be a game-changer.
For the ones that are very light, with little amount of pigment, some leftovers, yes, I'm sure you can cover. I would use Neutralizer, because it's a very light, concentrated pigment. In some cases I will dilute because it is very strong. Or just one pass and then a nice, beautiful brown color on top.
Laying down the pigment on the layer of the skin, it’s not just like perfect coverage, it’s chaotic. They think it’s a perfect layer. It’s not. It’s going to be scattered and dotty.
CN: I've seen on forums [with a picture] of really dark blue brows and the question "should I take this on?" And I'm like "noooo!" If there’s a very strong color, very light gray-blue, it’s better to do removal first. To cover these eyebrows you will see this client come back in 3 months and she will need to do some correction again.
You really need to know what you’re doing with correction. Don't take it on unless you think you can because once you do that client's brows they are going to rely on you to finish what they expect their brows to look like.
Unless you are so confident, it will become such a headache. Don’t take it on.
LS: I see a lot of bad work and my DM is flooded with "help, help."
Maybe there’s nothing wrong with the shape, but our skull is not symmetrical. Some heal more bulky, some more flat, it's ok, we just need to try to create a balanced shape.
1. one sign that the client will not be happy with the work is if the drawing process takes a long time; send them home to think about it before they commit to the design
3. try to educate the client about how colors change when healed because they will usually come back to try to brighten the color
4. don't do work you're not comfortable with
5. invest in your training and tools
6. the "perfect voltage" is all about your working speed, your comfort and your client's skin; practice a lot on latex
7. test out machines with a trainer, at a convention or PMU artist who will allow you to to try-before-you-buy
8. all Microbeau machines are quality-made, you just have to see which one suits you best: the Flux S is being hailed for its wireless technology, flexibility in technique, strength and ease of use; the Bellar for thinner skin and if you only like very slim machines; the Xion S has withstood the test of time as a favorite among PMU pros and can do anything!
Enjoy shopping for top quality products for your PMU empire at Microbeau.com!
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