When it comes to tattoos, most people want to show them off, whether it’s the colorful Rubens lion on your shoulder or the stylized Margaret Atwood quote on your thigh. Tattoo art has become more and more mainstream, so in lots of places it’s now socially (and professionally) acceptable to have visible tattoos. But on your face?
The thing with cosmetic tattoos, according to Sarasota tattoo artist Ashley Holland, is that they should be visible but not necessarily noticeable. “Everything should look as natural as possible,” she says. “My work is meant to add to your natural aesthetic. Even if you want to do something a little more dramatic, it still looks like your natural face without makeup.”
Holland specializes in semi-permanent eyebrow and freckle tattoos at Oddity Tattoo Studio and Art Gallery on University Parkway. Her clients run the gamut from people with thinning or over-plucked brows to cancer patients seeking a return to normalcy after chemotherapy-related hair loss. Sometimes they bring in a picture to show Holland what their brows used to look like, or just describe what they want “in a perfect world.” In some cases, people have been drawing on their own eyebrows, every single day, and are tired of the routine.
Holland then takes into account the brow shape, existing growth pattern, skin tone, texture, face shape and more to map out where and how she’ll apply the ink. (She even uses a numbing treatment, so that the most discomfort most people feel is from the sound of her machine.)
“You never want to go outside of the existing hair-growth pattern, what looks natural on that person’s face,” she says. “You take into account what they already have going on and how you can build onto that. And you want your brows to be as symmetrical as possible.”
Brow tattoos last anywhere from a year to four years—which is good, says Holland, because your face changes. Still, she stays away from “fad” styles. “Everybody wants Kim Kardashian brows now, but are you really going to want that in two years? Back in the 90s, we all wanted Gwen Stefani brows,” she says.
Holland also offers freckle tattoos—a trend she credits in part to Snapchat and its dramatic, face-altering filters. “Snapchat started adding cosmetic things like winged eyeliner and bigger lips. The same thing goes with freckles,” she says. “Except with freckles, you don’t want them to be symmetrical at all.”
Holland maps out possible freckle designs with an eye for randomness and even distribution. She’s also careful not to go too far, too fast, she says. “You can always add more after we’re done.”