Interview with a Permanent Makeup Artist

Amy Kernahan

Have you been curious about permanent makeup techniques? Tired of applying your liner and lipstick each morning? Well… meet Amy Kernahan who has the answers to all your prayers. A licensed permanent cosmetic specialist and professional makeup artist, Amy took a few minutes out of her busy schedule to give us all some great advice in an another exclusive LoveToKnow interview.

About Amy Kernahan

Amy has over ten years experience as a professional makeup artist in photo shoots, runway shows, commercials and also as a National Makeup Artist for Estee Lauder. Through these efforts she earned quite a reputation for a clean and classic approach to beauty, along with specialties in Eyebrow Shaping and Permanent Makeup. Her expertise has been recognized in a variety of publications including Allure Magazine. Based in the busy city of New York, she is a licensed Cosmetologist and certified micro-pigmentation artist in New York State. Amy is a member of the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals and was trained under the direction of Susan Church at the International Institute of Permanent Cosmetics.


For more information on Amy's services, visit her extensive website at She is also available in the New York City area: Amy Kernahan Makeup Studio, 3 East 66th Street, Suite 2B, New York , New York 10065, (212)772-2501.

Interview Questions

Please share some of your experience at Estee Lauder.

I was a national makeup Artist exclusive to Nordstrom. So, I would travel to different locations nationwide and train the resident makeup artists on what we were going to do for our event. The idea was to have a national makeup artist come in to show the artists the current trends and get them excited about different looks for the season. The Estte Lauder makeup artists are very well trained, I was just there to give them some direction and tips for the national event.As a makeup company, Estee Lauder is amazing. Their research alone, including the time and money they spend on it, is great. The textures are beautiful, the colors are unparallel, and you just can't find anything that is similar to their product.

Describe your "Classic Approach to Beauty."

I really love a natural look. I think that when you see a beautiful woman and you can't tell where she is wearing makeup, that is a classic look. In particular, I think of the 40s with the porcelain skin, defined eyeliner and a red lipstick. It's glamourous yet not overdone. Wearing makeup is great, just make sure it is placed precisely to keep that clean and natural look.

What is the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Artists?

It is an organization that really keeps practitioners in the permanent cosmetic field kosher, so to speak. They define a code of ethics to go on. Unfortunately there are a lot of practitioners out there doing permanent cosmetics that don't have the best training. So, this organization was created for that. They frequently have ongoing classes and events to keep professionals informed and educated. They want to make it a very recognized industry and to help make the customers feel more comfortable with whom they choose as their practitioner.

What should a client consider before deciding to try permanent makeup?

Definitely select someone who has a background in makeup artistry. Having an artist background really helps the permanent makeup specialist in her skill. Always look at the before and after pictures of clients that they have done. Find out what the specialist will be doing and how it will look before and after. Maybe even talk to some other clients and get their feedback. You should feel like you trust your practitioner completely before having any procedure done.


What is semi-permanent makeup?

Although it is called permanent makeup, the machine used can be adjusted so that it determines how long the effects will last. The depth of the pigment in the skin will depend on the type of machine used and will ultimately effect how long the permanent cosmetics will last. My technique will only last two to three years. A coil machine, like the tattoo artists use, will definitely insert the pigment deeper and it will last up to ten years or longer.My preference is for the semi-permanent, as then you can readjust every couple of years. It also fades beautifully and gives you a trial run, so to speak, so then if you really want to go deeper into the skin with the pigment you can then do it more permanently later.

How do you remove permanent cosmetics?

It has to be removed with a laser, similar to the process used with body tattoos.

What are common side effects with permanent cosmetics?

It depends on the area where you are applying the pigments, but generally speaking you should experience:

  • Some redness
  • Initially very dark pigment that will fade to a more natural tone

Really be prepared that the procedure area will be about three shades darker than the color it will be when it heals. The pigment will fade after about 7 days. I always remind my clients of that so they realize it really does fade.

What are the top things to look for when choosing a permanent cosmetics specialist?

  • Make sure they have the best training and education
  • Look for someone that you feel is a true artist
  • Find someone who is easily accessible as touch ups are inevitable.

Are there special schools known for training?

The school I went to was the International Institute of Permanent Cosmetics in California. I studied under the direction of Susan Church. She has been in the business for over 20 years working with and training plastic surgeons, dermatologists and other professionals. When I was looking for instructors there was no doubt she was it: She lives, eats, and breathes permanent makeup. She has a true passion for the business. So look for that in your education and also make sure the school is accredited to be sure you get your own proper accreditation.

Why did you decide to get into permanent cosmetics?

I have been a makeup artist for over ten years and I also specialize in eyebrow shaping. The reason I got into the permanent makeup was because many of my clients complained of sparse eyebrows. I would be shaping their brows and I'd realize that they just needed a few extra hairs to have the perfect brow. Well I can't give them more hair, I can make it look like they have a lot more of it! After starting with eyebrows, I was addicted. I then went on to eyeliner and lip procedures. At first, I was hesitant. I had seen some bad permanent makeup procedures so I thought that there was no way to make this procedure look natural, then when I learned more about it, I realized it could be applied to look so much more natural than what I had seen. I knew it could be amazing for my clients because they could look great without the effort of applying makeup everyday.

What are the best customers for permanent makeup?

  • Clients with sparse eyebrows or eyelashes.
  • Anyone with alopecia, or other conditions where their hair may not grow or is falling out.
  • Overly busy people, who want to cut the makeup step in half. As with permanent makeup you can still add additional makeup to enhance your look at any time.
  • Senior clients who don't want to be bothered with makeup and can't see as well.

How do the lip colors work?

Permanent lip color is great for those that can't keep lipstick on. It gives the appearance of a color stained lip. You can add another lipstick to intensify the color or just wear a clear gloss for a more natural look. I always have my clients bring in their favorite lipstick and then I compare it to see what they are looking for. I also look at the undertone colors of the their natural lip color to decide which pigments I'll use.

What do you feel is the most important technique in permanent cosmetics?

Definitely eyebrows, but if you already have gorgeous eyebrows, then the eyeliner. A line in the upper lashline looks great. Just think about it when you are putting on eyeliner you are always trying to get as close the lashes as possible, and then this is already done for you. Now you can do more when you chose to.

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Interview with a Permanent Makeup Artist