CHRISTIANSBURG, Va. (WFXR)– Making a difference in the lives of breast cancer survivors. That is the goal of shop Primped 365, located in the Uptown Mall in the New River Valley.
Owner and para-medical tattoo artist Jeneen Wilson shares how her work helps women and men regain their confidence after battling the disease.
She says it all started after she learned “three-dimensional areola tattooing” in 2017 when she became an apprentice for a cosmetic tattoo artist.
“I spent about a year and a half working with him before I ventured out on my own,” said Wilson.
After that, the store “Primped 365” was born, and clients began flying through the doors.
“I do something called hyper-realism, and I want it to look so authentic and realistic that a person standing in front of them can’t tell that it’s not their actual areola and nipples,” said Wilson.
She uses a traditional rotary tattooing machine, various needles, and different styles of shading to get that realistic look.
So, how does the process work?
Wilson says if you have reconstructive surgery, she wants her clients to wait 6 months until the scars heal so she can work on the skin.
From there, she has to look past the scars to place the areolas and nipples in the correct place, using the clavicles and going straight down.
After the placement, the cosmetic artist blocks out three hours to measure, consult, and figure out which colors mix best to make it real for the clients.
“It’s called color packing. I want to pack in as much color in that skin,” said Wilson.
However, she says the skin does not want to absorb the color, so after eight to 10 weeks she does another round of tattooing to add more detail.
Once she is finished she adds Tegaderm to allow it to heal.
A clinical specialist at Carilion Breast Care Center, Catherine Hagan-Aylor says the restorative process is an emotional experience for survivors of the disease.
“Some women can have a bilateral mastectomy and not look back, and other women do have more of a focus on body image and want to have reconstruction,” said Hagan-Aylor.
She adds support is a must.
“You know — family members, friends, church. Some people are very private and others aren’t,” said Hagan-Aylor.
If cosmetic tattooing is what they desire, she says it’s a great way for breast cancer survivors to feel more confident about their bodies.
However, Wilson also recognizes the emotional toll that comes with this type of work — especially with her clients.
Wilson spoke about one of her clients who came in before having the 3-D areola tattooing done.
She says, the client never allowed her husband to see her breast because of the way they looked. After she did her tattooing, Wilson says she and the client stood in front of the mirror and cried.
“She said ‘I don’t see cancer anymore’, and she fell in my arms and we just held each other,” said Wilson.
One of the shop owner’s goals is to teach younger women how to do this style of para-medical tattooing.
The tattoo artist also does other works at her shop including scar camouflaging and selling wigs for women with alopecia and women who lose their hair through cancer treatment.