A Small Tattoo with A Large Impact
By Shannon Eblen, @CP_ShannonEblen |
Posted: Sunday, October 18, 2015 6:30 am
(Photos: Chris LaChall/Staff Photographer)
Rose Marie Beauchemin had worked in salons doing hair and makeup for more than 20 years when a radiologist friend called her up.
“He said, ‘You need to go learn permanent makeup, because my women need you,’ ” Beauchemin said.
She learned the craft and founded The Beau Institute, offering permanent makeup services, including what Beauchemin might be best known for: areola tattooing, a final, convincing step in breast reconstruction for breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomies.
On Oct. 28, Beauchemin will have her fifth annual Beau National Day of Hope event, bringing former trainees and other professionals to her office to offer 3-D areola tattoos free of charge.
Areola tattooing has become an art form in recent decades. In the early days, Beauchemin said, surgeons would do tattoos following breast reconstruction, but the color was basically stamped on.
Breast cancer survivor Marcy Parker, right, speaks with Rose Marie Beauchemin, owner and founder of The Beau Institute in Mount Laurel, which offers permanent makeup services, including what Beauchemin might be best known for; Areola tattooing, a final, convincing step in breast reconstruction for breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomies. Parker visited Beauchemin at the Beau Institute recently for a check-up. 10.08.15
“They used one to two colors of this pinky, salmon ink, and it was really mediocre,” said Dr. Kristen Brill, director of breast surgery and program director for the Janet Knowles Breast Cancer Center at MD Anderson Cancer Center at Cooper. Brill said she has seen this change just in the past 15 to 20 years.
The old attitude, Brill said, used to be that you should be lucky to be cancer-free, but increasingly, concern is placed on aesthetics as well. And while some surgeons still offer to do the tattoos, Brill said, “Women recognize they can get a much better result if they go elsewhere.”
“It made me feel more like myself, or who I used to be,” Marcy Parker said about her areola tattoos.
Parker is a nurse at Virtua Voorhees, but, working in labor and delivery at the hospital, didn’t know anything about the reconstruction process before she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Temporary areola tattoos are displayed at The Beau Institute in Mount Laurel, which offers permanent makeup services, including areola tattooing, a final, convincing step in breast reconstruction for breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomies. 10.08.15
Breast reconstruction can be done a number of ways, depending on the individual woman. Autologous flap reconstruction, using a woman’s own tissue, most commonly from her belly, is one long procedure with a more natural result.
Some women receive implants, which first requires the remaining tissue in the chest to be stretched using extenders, which Parker had and described as feeling like a rigid balloon. The extenders are inflated over a period of weeks, or even months, to allow space for the implant.
“I don’t feel like they’re really mine,” Parker said about her breasts. “Sometimes I say, you kind of feel like an amputee.” But she is happy with the results.
“They look good,” Parker said. “My oncologist said to me that my surgeon is an artist.”
“Just the initial scarring from the mastectomy is much less than I saw 25 years ago,” Beauchemin said. “They were high, they were visible. Now they are lower, and once that areola is tattooed, they almost disappear.”
This, Brill said, is achieved by saving as much skin as possible during the mastectomy, working through a round incision that ideally, will become a small scar covered by the nipple.
Brill estimates that 40 percent of women choose not to get nipple reconstruction or tattooing. Nipple reconstruction creates the shape of the nipple using skin grafts, though some women find the procedure has drawbacks: The nipples tend to show through clothing, and the nipple graft surgery is one more in a series of traumatic surgeries.
With the rise of the 3-D tattoo, Brill finds more women passing on the nipple graft surgery.
Rose Marie Beauchemin, owner and founder of The Beau Institute in Mount Laurel, which offers permanent makeup services, including what Beauchemin might be best known for; Areola tattooing, displays a shirt that she includes in a gift bag for clients. 10.08.15
“I’ve seen women opting not to do nipple reconstruction and do the 3-D tattoo,” Brill said. Even though a woman might not want another surgery, she said, she does want a sense of a nipple. “Some women feel it’s the best of both worlds.”
“It’s something that is so life-changing, because before that, we’re Barbie dolls,” said Elizabeth Vivenzio, who runs the website breasthealing.com. “There is the mound, but there’s nothing on it.”
Vivenzio developed Rub-On Nipples (a registered trademark), following her own mastectomy in 2009, so women could try on the idea before committing to more permanent tattoos.
“I just had the light-bulb moment … If kids can have temporary tattoos, why can’t we?” Vivenzio said.
While the actual tattoos, done with permanent makeup pigments instead of tattoo ink, do fade over several years, Vivenzio’s product fades away after a week or two. Nine shades allow women to find their ideal color.
While developing the product, Vivenzio observed Beauchemin’s classes in areola tattooing.
Beauchemin now stocks the temporary tattoos in her office, as do many doctors, so women can try out different shades to help guide their decision. Parker found them through a blog by a cancer survivor in Australia and ordered them before she had her permanent areola tattoos done.
“It’s all about self-esteem,” Vivenzio said. “It’s all about looking in the mirror and feeling better about yourself.”
Many women put off the tattoos, Beauchemin said, because of the cost, which Brill estimated can be up to $500, depending on the tattoo artist, and Beauchemin said can be even more. Beauchemin didn’t want the women to have to worry about the money or insurance, so she started the Day of Hope to offer it for free.
Breast cancer survivor Marcy Parker, left, hugs Rose Marie Beauchemin, owner and founder of The Beau Institute in Mount Laurel, which offers permanent makeup services, including what Beauchemin might be best known for; Areola tattooing, a final, convincing step in breast reconstruction for breast cancer survivors who have had mastectomies. Parker visited Beauchemin at the Beau Institute recently for a check-up. 10.08.15
And because the Beau Institute offers permanent makeup and areola tattoo training, Beauchemin is able to use the tuition to offset the cost of the areola tattooing so she can offer the service to women for free year-round.
The Day of Hope event just brings in more help and creates a fun atmosphere, what Beauchemin hopes is the most enjoyable experience of the women’s long struggle. In a gift bag with sterile post-tattoo care items, including bandages, Beauchemin has added a T-shirt that reads “Guess where my tattoo is?”
“She’s so kind and giving and compassionate,” Vivenzio said of Beauchemin, adding the Beau Institute also offers eyebrow and eyeliner tattooing for women who lost their hair. “The Day of Hope exemplifies what she is all about.”
Even on Beauchemin’s day off, she still prioritized her clients.
As a woman came into the office and was shown to a private room, Beauchemin explained that she had lost her eyebrows and was going to be traveling soon, so Beauchemin squeezed her appointment in at the last minute.
“A lot of times, when a woman’s been through chemo, her brows don’t return,” Beauchemin said. “You can’t let people go on vacation without eyebrows.”
Shannon Eblen: (856) 486-2475; SEblen@gannettnj.com
The Beau National Day of Hope will take place from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 28 at the Beau Institute, 2000 Academy Drive, Suite 400 in Mount Laurel. For more information on the service, call (888) 763-2328 or visit www.beauinstitute.com.
For more information on Rub-On Nipples temporary areola tattoos, visit www.breasthealing.com.