Permanent makeup is always evolving. We had the chance to hear just how it happens from an artist who’s been in the industry for over 20 years. Jeanee Lusby of the NaturaLook Institute of Permanent Makeup shares with us why authenticity, conviction and humility matter so much in this industry and the lessons she’s learned along the way. Read on for tips from a PMU professional who does it all... trainer, pigment formulator, business woman and artist.
- Tell us about yourself! Your background, history & the nitty gritty of all things you!
I grew up in a large, Christian, athletic, and competitive family. I always thought of that as a good thing. Family and faith have always come first and that philosophy is practiced with us here at Naturalook. We work very well together as a team and make concessions to ensure our home and family lives are not neglected. Keeping this balance is critical to healthy working relationships in a small business and allows for happy staff and positive momentum and productivity. The competitive side of me sustains my drive and passion which has proven to serve me well over the years as long as I keep it in perspective.
I had my children early in life and put myself through nursing school while raising them on my own. My parents were heaven sent during this time and I am forever grateful for their love and support. I ended up working in ophthalmology, which was a blessing as I met an amazing man who just happened to be an ophthalmologist. We were both single parents raising our kids on our own (he had twins).
We blended our families in 1995 and became a strong team. We had 4 teenagers at one time in the home, 2 boys and 2 girls. I learned that if I could survive that, I can do anything!
- What does the word beauty mean to you? What makes you feel the most beautiful?
From an aesthetic point of view, I feel that the way a person presents themselves on the outside, strongly reflects how they feel on the inside. Finding harmony between the two, breeds confidence; it’s a gift and others can see and feel it. You see it in their posture, their smile, and how they treat others. They have found their inner and outer balance: they’re powerful yet humble and kind and they make you feel good and inspired when you’re around them. This, to me, is the definition of authentic beauty.
- How did you get into permanent makeup?
I had a friend in Orange County who was performing areola color restoration on breast cancer patients and it intrigued me. I thought it would be fun and fulfilling to learn it and provide it as a service in our San Diego medical practice. I completed my 1st 100 fundamental course and realized that PMU was fascinating as well. All of this proved to be much more of a challenge than I anticipated, which I feel that most new PMU artists realize in the beginning. Although my training was excellent as well as my trainer, I just did not have the confidence I felt I needed to alter one’s face, so I took yet another 100 hour course. I started my practice in an unused laser room and juggled between doing PMU procedures and the administrative, marketing and management responsibilities for the ophthalmology practice. The more procedures I did, the more I fell in love with the entire profession...after the 1st year, my business took on a life of its own and I never looked back.
- What is your take on how permanent makeup has evolved over the years? What is your advice to artists to keep up?
Today, artists have so many options regarding techniques, devices, needles, colors etc...not to mention a plethora of trainers and courses at their fingertips to elevate their skills. Learning and offering a variety of styles and techniques is critical to thrive in this industry today. Also, the marketing tools and opportunities available online are endless....what a difference 20 years has made. With the “review” options today, clients have a voice that can be far reaching. No one wants a below average review posted about them, but we should welcome honest reviews, even if it’s not a 5 star. It’s an opportunity to improve... I need to work on staying on schedule!
- Can you tell us about NaturaLook! How did it get its start?
I began my second career in life as a PMU artist in 1999, which was a very good time. Currently, the climate has changed and it’s more difficult to hit the ground running in this industry. Students tell me “I know I’m going to do great, I’ve watched a lot of Youtube videos/Instagram videos and I have so many women who are all ready to jump on my table.” This is when I think to myself “you are in for a big awakening.” Even with the two fundamental courses and a high volume of clients for a beginner, I was not comfortable and quite frankly, scared when I began. It took me 2 full years and a few “misses” before I felt my confidence level building.
We didn’t have the internet when I started so there were no web sites, Facebook, Instagram etc. The only way to market was through print ads and hitting the streets. I was fortunate I could market to my husband’s substantial database. I did 80 eyeliners in 3 months. I will be forever grateful to those brave cataract patients that volunteered to let me practice on them. We did the same thing with brows and soon the business grew and gained a solid forward movement.
Confidence comes from experience and with PMU, there is a HUGE learning curve. New artists can lose momentum when they first learn because they get scared. To gain confidence, artists need more than simply working on practice mediums, watching videos or through basic theory classes. Yes, these are extremely valuable and critical tools to learn and elevate skills and results, but nothing beats tattooing on real live skin!
- What is it like running a training academy, online store and doing procedures yourself? How do you balance all the things?
If you have a good team, you’ll be successful. I give my team a lot of credit for how well we’ve done. Everybody’s responsibilities are very well defined, but we can all cover for each other. Our patients come first. We give a lot of gratitude to existing clients. There’s no way to survive without it in this day and age. When I reach out to existing clients and let them know how much we appreciate them, that’s when the phone starts ringing. Humility goes a long way but gratitude goes further.
- Tell us about True Colors by NaturaLook! How it got its start, what the creation process was like and the why behind it!
We launched True Colors by NaturaLook in 2013. I didn’t want to produce a big pigment line as my practice was to use only the handful of colors that worked. We formulate a small number of quality colors that correspond with the Fitz scale and are sustainable, true-to-tone and perform. Most artists reach for the same 4 to 5 brow and liner colors that they are confident in the proven results. We make the colors that artists use 95% of the time.
When I began teaching theory, and customized color/pigment formulation, I realized that I needed to articulate a more simple concept in order for it to resonate with my new students. (I remembered how overwhelmed I was during the pigment and color portion of my basic training). I began working with a variety of labs and color labels. After years of trials, I found the product line that performed consistently and I formulated my custom colors. In 2014 I began blending both organic and in-organic colors naming them Fusions by True Colors. Today, this is common practice with many color lines.
- What has been the most surprising lesson you’ve learned in your business/PMU journey?
Regardless of what is seen on social media, this is not an easy industry. In the beginning, I thought this business was just color and tattooing. Boy was I wrong. There is so much to know and much more to learn. It seemed like the more experience I gained, the more complicated the business got. We wear so many hats:
Psychologist - Every client is different. We adjust our personality and cadence to our clients’. We have to be good listeners, learn about them, make good notes and know when to say “NO."
Business Woman - Marketing, branding, reports, spreadsheets, taxes, leases, employees, insurances, LLC -vs- incorporated, attorneys, expenses...the list goes on and on.
Medical professional - Health and history intakes, medications, health contraindications, bloodborne pathogens, reactions including allergies, again...the list goes on and on.
Artist - Balance, symmetry, design, morphology, color and undertone theories etc…
- What would be your number one piece of advice for new artists?
I’ll go one better than that... here are THREE pieces of advice…
- Practice Practice Practice
- Overpromising and under delivering is poison for your business. Leave your ego outside the door. Know what you can do, but more importantly, know what you can’t.
- It’s important to be in tune with what’s happening in the industry. On that note, it’s also good advice to keep that in perspective and don’t become obsessed with every chat group, Facebook, Instagram etc...out there. This can cause a lot of anxiety, self doubt and quite frankly, time away from your trade. Focus on you, your business and your results. Training is paramount, but don’t feel “behind the curve” if you choose not to attend a conference or take a class every month. The industry is saturated with self-proclaimed “trainers” who have very little experience yet are offering expensive classes. Be aware of this. We all should have a financial plan in place each year including a marketing and education expense allowance. Spend that money wisely and keep yourself in check. If you are struggling with a particular topic or feel you are ready to elevate your skills or expand your services, it’s probably time to take a class.
- What do you do when you’re not working?
Husband, family, friends, travel, tennis and baking will always keep me fulfilled. I recently started a new hobby and that is real estate investing and decorating. Like a lot of things in my life, I thought this would be easy, but it’s not and I have a lot to learn about design and decorating. Thank you Joanne, Chip and Fixer Upper!
- What’s next in your career?
I see myself never completely retiring as I am the happiest when I am tattooing. I’m also finding a lot of pleasure training and teaching existing artists. I’m so impressed by how knowledgeable they are. I am also currently working on a new color line but mostly, I’d like to help my daughter Kadee and my associate artist, Fabianna build their PMU businesses in 2020.