By Richard Lewis
When Athena Karsant, a native of St Francis, was spending time in a gym near her home at Laguna Beach, south of Los Angeles, she met an actress from the TV series Baywatch. The young woman had a problem: how to keep her makeup looking beautiful as she ran from the waves onto the beach.
For Athena, a member of the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, the answer was easy - a cosmetic tattooing procedure. Pretty soon the actress and another Baywatch babe had been given the face treatment for eyebrows, eyes and lips.
Athena’s business is the Cosmetic Imaging Center (now at 450 Sutter St #2422 San Francisco, CA 94108 & 450 N Bedford Dr #202 Beverly Hills, CA 90210), and elegant salon that she has run for more than (now 20 years). It is not the sort of place where Popeye would seek an “I love Olive” tattoo, but more a focus for a blend of artistic inspiration and paramedical expertise.
We are in a category of our own,” says Athena with a smile. Apart from the Baywatch actresses, she did similar work for women working with Don Johnson’s team producing the TV series Nash Bridges in the Bay Area.
Demand for beauty services is rising, now that Baby Boomers have hit middle age and senior citizens are active into their later years. For many women, and even some men, permanent makeup is the right answer. It can also help people with allergies caused by conventional cosmetics, those who have physical difficulty in applying their own makeup, women who are active, sports minded, have hair loss or want to save time.
Athena also does work to complement the surgical reconstruction of damaged features. She can bring some normalcy to the appearance of faces of people injured by burns and animal bites, and to mastectomy and other cancer patients. She can redefine the drooping eyebrow of a stroke victim. Another skill is to correct the mistakes of other less precise operators, such as improving a lip outline.
“I was an art major, but no one wanted art teachers in the 70s.” She worked in stained glass, metals, jewelry, and clothing design, before turning to cosmetology. She worked with Dr. Peter Panagotacos... on hair transplants.
Accepted by the American Institute of Permanent Makeup, she started her venture: “I just got lucky when I worked on a couple of people had grown up with. My brothers (three of them, all dentists) were doing precision work, and I wonder if I inherited precision skills and an artistic eye.”
Tattoos go back at least 10,000 years - the Ice Man uncovered by melting ice on a European mountain had simple tattoos. There is a theory that Cleopatra had permanent makeup, and the Chinese were familiar with this form of body decoration.
“What has made it a new frontier is the introduction of color pigments into the skin, coupled with knowledge of body chemistry,” says Athena. She really loves the work.