The Illusion of Protrusion

In Uncategorized on November 11, 2011 at 1:05 pm

For many women, feeling better about themselves involves cosmetics, hair color, a new dress.  For others, it involves a bit more.  For cancer patients, it takes on a whole different meaning. The last thing a breast cancer survivor wants is to be reminded of the tragic ordeal they’ve been through.  Those who have had to endure a mastectomy, whose nipples are either removed or left asymmetrical or changed, are often saddened by looking down or in the mirror. Beauty may be in the eye of the beholder; but when cancer survivors look at themselves in the mirror, they focus on the scarred tissue from cancer surgery, the doughy flesh of reconstructed breasts and the baldness left by chemotherapy. The person they see in the mirror is unfamiliar, ugly, and unfeminine. Yes, cancer survivors will agree, they’re lucky to be alive, but it’s not enough. They long to look attractive and feminine again, to feel whole. Physicians may be able to restore the body, but artistically-applied paramedical tattoos and permanent cosmetics can help to revive the soul, restoring the natural beauty and self-assurance that cancer stripped away.

Quality of life is important to me, and is a critical part of my blog content, so I spoke to two incredible permanent make-up artists about this issue.  The First was Vicki Maierle. While working with a plastic surgeon that specializes in breast reconstruction, Vicki saw the devastation that cancer can bring to a woman’s body and confidence. As a permanent makeup artist, she creates new eyebrows, eyeliner and lips. When she saw the scars and the lack of any color in the areola and nipple of the reconstructed breasts, she knew that she could help.  She expanded her focus to restore the color back into the areola and nipple and to camouflage the scars to make these women feel whole again. For those women who cannot or prefer not to have the nipples, a hand tool can be used to create shading with different colors to make it appear as though they have a nipple, it’s an optical illusion! She also creates eyebrows for patients who have lost the hair from treatments, as well as eyeliner.

Vicki travels to many different cities so that the patient does not have to travel to have this done. She then return a couple months later to follow up, as this is not a one-time procedure; the color softens and each individual holds the color differently. She calls this visit “Fine tuning” as she works on making the breasts as symmetrical as possible.

For Vicki, it’s an amazing feeling to see women get all excited about their breasts again.  The smiles and comments she gets are priceless, but for her, the important thing is knowing that what she does helps to improves the lives of cancer patients. 

I then spoke with artist Melany Whitney at the Whitney Center for Permanent Cosmetics.  In working with breast cancer survivors who had undergone mastectomy, Melany was struck by the importance women placed on having a normal-looking breast. Blank breast mounds were a daily reminder of their struggle with cancer, preventing them from moving forward with their lives. The absence of a natural-looking areola and nipple intensified their loss, making women feel unfeminine and incomplete. Doctors’ offices, spas and tattoo shops have begun offering cosmetic tattooing. A nurse or ink tech may be able to tattoo a bull’s eye on a breast mound, but that won’t make it look like a real breast.

 Melany explained how she uses her three-dimensional cosmetic tattooing technique to create what she calls “the illusion of protrusion” that makes breasts look completely normal and natural. The signature Whitney technique combines a decade of microdermal training and experience with her unique understanding of scale, proportion, shading and color theory…that truly only a fine artist has, and is her company’s logo. “Only an artist makes science so beautiful, ever since I saw that first woman without a ‘face’ on her breast, I knew I had to do this. The completion of the areola complex through tattooing provides an opportunity for women to move forward with their lives.” They can begin to put the trauma behind them and move forward with confidence again.

Melany’s artistry is also exhibited in her technique of single hair line stroke brows, expertly positioned to take advantage of the strength of a woman’s facial morphology and to create symmetry and balance that often women are not born with but can now have if they have lost the brows to Chemo. Many thanks to Melany for the use of her beautiful paintings; they really pay tribute to her work! 

Many people who could benefit from paramedical tattooing do not realize that, in many cases, it is covered under their medical insurance plan. Paramedical tattooing is often performed to complete breast restoration after mastectomy or hide scar damage from accidents or surgery. In 1998 Congress passed the Women’s Health and Cancer Rights Act that forced traditional health insurance companies to cover reconstructive surgery and related services associated with breast cancer reconstruction when those services are recommended by the patient’s attending physician. Elected medical ancillary services, including paramedical tattooing to complete breast restoration after mastectomy, provided by qualified providers are covered by most insurance plans. This gives breast cancer survivors the freedom to select a paramedical tattoo professional based not on cost but on the quality of the services provided. Too often recovering breast cancer patients are unaware of their legal rights and believe their only option is to return to the hospital to have the final step in the reconstruction of their breast performed by a physician or nurse without the practiced experience and artistic eye of a permanent make-up artist.

Vicki Maierle-Foss is President and CEO of “The Pink Icing on the Cake”. Vicki provides permanent make-up creating beautiful eyebrows, eyeliner, and lips and restores the color in the breasts. Her passion is to educate all women that this is part of the reconstruction and that most insurance companies are now paying a portion of this procedure. Vicki has recently been honored with the Cambridge Who’s Who award for Achievements in Permanent Make Up. For more information about Vicki, please visit: http://www.thepinkicingonthecake.com/ 

Melany Whitney, CPCP, DAAM, CMI is President of the Whitney Center. She has been named “the voice of permanent cosmetics” by the largest professional industry society, the Society for Permanent Cosmetic Professionals, due to her expertise and her prominence in the NYC media arena. Melany practices in medical offices in New York City, New Jersey and So. Florida where she sees clients from all over the world, and is the preferred artist for referrals from the top reconstructive physicians in the New York metropolitan area. For more information about Melany and the Whitney Center, please visit: www.permanentmkup.com

For more information on permanent makeup for cancer patients, please visit: http://plasticsurgery.ucla.edu/body.cfm?id=91

Elyn Jacobs




Elyn Jacobs is Executive Director and the Director of Grants for the Emerald Heart Cancer Foundation, a certified cancer coach and a breast cancer survivor.  Elyn helps women diagnosed with cancer to navigate the process of treatment and care, and she educates about how to prevent recurrence and new cancers.  She is passionate about helping others get past their cancer and into a cancer-free life.

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