It's a popular procedure for women who don't want to fuss with applying makeup every day. It's called "permanent" makeup. The colors are painted on with a tattoo needle and when it's done right, the results are very natural.
Nancy Erfan, a real estate agent from California, paid hundreds of dollars at a spa to have permanent eyeliner and lipstick tattoos applied.
Erfan's lips and both eyes developed painful sores that wouldn't heal. It took months before Erfan's allergic reaction was traced back to a tainted ink that had been used on her face. She's paid over $10,000 to correct the damage but will always bear white scars around her lips that are only covered by lipstick.
Expert John Hashey says reactions like Erfan's are rare. He teaches students at his Florida school how to do permanent makeup safely. But every day, he also sees people who were disfigured by technicians with a lack of proper training.
"To this day the better part of what I do is corrective," says Hashey.
26-year-old Abigail Thomas thought permanent eyebrows would make her life easier, but she ended up with big black tattoos nowhere near where her eyebrows should be. She's so embarrassed she's grown bangs to hide her eyebrows.
Every few months, Thomas goes through a painful procedure to gradually erase the tattoos. Hashey says since the industry is largely unregulated, there are few standards on training. And in some states, pretty much anyone can call themselves a permanent makeup artist.
INSIDE EDITION's Lisa Guerrero found out just how easy that is. She simply went online and orderd the supplies.
A week later, Guerrero received a permanent makeup tattoo kit straight from China, complete with 40 needles marked "sterilized," and three bottles of ink.
The kit looked professional but INSIDE EDITION wondered what was in it, so we decided to have the kit tested by a certified lab. The results were shocking. The needles had high levels of toxic metals including lead and copper. And they were filthy with bacteria.
The ink had high levels of lead. There were also bacteria and other metals like aluminum—all things experts say could cause a severe reaction if they're injected into your skin.
Heshe says when done properly, permanent makeup can be a godsend, but every woman needs to remember it's a permanent mark.
"There's a lot of people that aren't being done well," cautions Hashey.