PENINSULA WOMAN: Permanent-makeup artist gives women — and men — fresh starts

Tonni Mansfield understands what it means to begin again — and how a slim line of definition here, a blush of color there, can make all the difference.

Mansfield, born and raised in Port Angeles, launched a new life and a new career in 2010. It’s the career of her own choice, after years of working in other people’s industries.

It may, however, sound to an outsider like an occupation based on vanity, on surface prettiness.

But women such as Mansfield — and her daughter, Meagan Myrick — know better. They believe permanent cosmetics and professional hair and skin care provide the confidence that can help propel a woman forward in her life.

And Mansfield hasn’t merely completed the requirements to practice as an esthetician, cosmetologist and permanent-makeup artist. This past summer, she finished the years-long program required for her license as a permanent-cosmetics instructor, and is now one of the few licensed teachers in Washington state.

She’s been busy applying permanent lip color, eye liner and eyebrow color, and camouflaging scars and tattoos until they’re all but invisible.

And Mansfield has also donated her time, and her steady hand, to give makeovers to women who have survived abusive relationships.

“I know there are a lot of battered women out there,” she says; Mansfield is herself a survivor of domestic violence.

Wanted to volunteer

For a long time, she’s wanted to volunteer at the Rose House, Healthy Families of Clallam County’s shelter for women and children who have come out of abusive households.

So this fall, Mansfield got in touch with Leslie Bond, Healthy Families’ domestic violence program manager, and the two worked out a plan. Mansfield, with help from Meagan, would give makeovers to women not only living at Rose House, but also to other Healthy Families clients embarking on new beginnings.

“These would be clients who are going on job interviews, starting a new job, moving out of the shelter or just turning a new leaf in their life,” Bond said.

She expressed gratitude for Meagan and Mansfield’s gifts — which, as it turned out, they gave on a Sunday shortly before Christmas. “I got to see one of the women,” Bond said. “She looked fabulous.”

Mansfield, for her part, is delighted to be using her skills to help women. But she’s more than a makeup artist; as a licensed permanent-cosmetics practitioner, she also uses intradermal pigment to cover unwanted marks and to repair “beauty treatments” that have deteriorated.

“A lot of people don’t realize that permanent cosmetics have been created to help men and women with scars and tattoo removal,” Mansfield says.

She uses colors, meticulously matched to her client’s natural skin tone, to conceal tattoos. One client, a 67-year-old man, recently had her cover up a small teardrop he’d had inked onto his cheek.

“He’s pretty tickled,” to have it gone, she said.

Mansfield also has many clients whose permanent-makeup eyebrows or eyeliner has migrated or turned an unnatural color. To repair them, she uses organic pigments: the type that don’t change color.

And for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures that changed the appearance of their breasts, she can use permanent cosmetics to re-create a natural look.

You’re not stuck

The message from Mansfield to those with tattoos or scarring: You are not stuck with this. And to those who have been burned by glycolic acid in attempts to remove a tattoo, she offers a gentler alternative: camouflaging it.

Permanent cosmetics are themselves like tattoos, as they use needles and pigment. But in Mansfield’s hands, they blend in, rather than make a big statement.

“I’m conservative,” she says. “I don’t want people looking ‘decorated.’ I start out with the smallest amount of pigment, and then maybe add more in a second session,” to define brows, eyes or lips.

There will be no Groucho Marx or Tammy Faye Bakker looks coming from her salon, Mansfield added with a smile.

The treatments stimulate the body’s natural collagen, she adds. This brightens the skin, which Mansfield says can give it an effect similar to that of a laser treatment or even a face lift.

Aside from the fact that permanent makeup is easier than plastic surgery, it’s considerably less costly: Eyeliner ranges from $200 to $375, lip liner $325 to $425, cheeks with blush are $350 and eyebrow design is $275.

Prices are lower for corrective work on existing eyeliner or eyebrows. Concealing a scar or other mark starts at $50 per session, depending on the size of the mark.

“I’ve seen a lot of people with scarring from laser treatments,” Mansfield says.

“Seventy percent of what I do is corrective work,” as in fixing the effects of the old-style pigments containing iron oxide.

Iron-oxide free

Mansfield uses only iron oxide-free pigments; they last three to five years before needing a touch-up, she said.

Yet giving a woman the look she wants — enhancing rather than changing her natural features — takes more than just the right color. It takes careful design and focus, Mansfield says.

“You really need to be confident,” she says. Which is why she chose to earn her instructor’s certification.

Shara Smith, owner of the Hair School in Port Angeles for the past 30 years, has long been impressed by Mansfield’s work ethic.

After attending the Hair School, “she went for every advanced certification that’s available,” Smith said. “She just has really high standards. What I admire about her most is she just doesn’t take any short cuts. That’s outstanding in this business.”

Mansfield is a woman of integrity who believes in sharing her talents with others who have had a rough time, Smith adds.

Random kindness

Every spring at the Hair School, Smith holds a “random acts of kindness” day, in which stylists give free haircuts all day to women from the Rose House and homeless youth from the Dream Center — an average of 200 people on the one day, for the past 12 years.

Mansfield jumped at the chance to take part, Smith said.

Construction, casinos

Mansfield, 46, has worked in many industries, starting with construction when she was a teenager. Her family moved from Port Angeles to South Lake Tahoe, Calif., before she could finish high school, and she spent the next 17 years putting together blueprints and house plans for building projects. She also worked as a waitress in the gambling casino industry just across the Nevada border.

Divorce disrupted her life and the life of her daughter, Meagan; they moved together back to Mansfield’s home town.

While Meagan was still a teenager, she and her mother enrolled in the Hair School, and then went on to the Hair Academy in Port Hadlock.

Once licensed, both women started out cutting hair at Patti’s Hair Design at Peabody and Front streets in Port Angeles.

For Mansfield, this was a new experience. She’d always worked with men and had male bosses. “I thought, how am I going to work with a bunch of women,” in the close quarters of a hair salon?

“It worked out really well,” Mansfield said, adding that she and Meagan complemented each other at Patti’s.

“She’s a better hair cutter than I am,” Mansfield said. “I would refer my long-haired clients to her, and she would send her short-haired clients to me, since I did more short-and-sassy cuts.”

Meagan, 21, still works at Patti’s, and has built up a clientele in her three years at the salon.

Mansfield, meanwhile, was interested in skin treatments as well as haircuts and color. She’s also earned her esthetician certification along with her cosmetology license.

“I’m artistic, and I’m meticulous; that’s a good thing in this business,” she says.

All of it came together when Mansfield realized she could also earn a teaching certificate from the American Institute of Intradermal Cosmetics.

The Arlington, Texas, institute offers a two-year program for cosmetologists who want to add permanent makeup to their repertoires — and Mansfield knew this was the program for her.

Variety of clients

Permanent makeup allows her to work with a variety of clients: men who want their tattoos gone; older women who have trouble seeing well enough to apply cosmetics; cancer survivors for whom a little color enhancement lifts the spirits.

Camille Frazier of Port Angeles is one such client who came to Mansfield where she now works at Hair Connections, 2937 E. U.S. Highway 101 in Port Angeles. Frazier had Mansfield apply permanent eyeliner: just a thin line, after she lost her eyelashes during treatment for breast cancer.

“She was really patient with me; she went real slow,” Frazier said.

With the new look, “I get compliments all the time.”

And Mansfield “is really good at explaining everything,” as she designs the line and then applies it. “It’s not that it hurts,” Frazier said. The sensation, instead, is “just annoying.”

Pain threshold

Everyone’s pain threshold is different, Mansfield said: She did her own eyebrows without anesthetic, while Meagan needed plenty of the stuff for hers. Most people are at least a little fearful that it’s going to hurt, so they have trouble relaxing. All understandable, Mansfield says.

Then there are those who have no qualms at all. “I’ve had people fall asleep on my table,” she said.

For Mansfield, 2010 has been a year of new beginnings both personal and professional. She married Jim Mansfield in July — “that would be the No. 1 highlight” of the year — and she got her intradermal cosmetics instructor’s license in October.

Another high point came when she did a complete facial makeover for Donna Knifsend, herself in the midst of making a whole set of changes in her life.

“She is an artist,” Knifsend said of Mansfield, and “very dedicated.”

In the new year, Mansfield plans to organize classes for cosmetologists who want to learn permanent makeup, as well as one-on-one training. She already has two students planning to start their studies in February.

“When I do something, I give it my all,” Mansfield says. The artistic aspect of permanent cosmetics, combined with the opportunity to use her gifts to help people feel more self-confident, make this work her passion.

Meanwhile Meagan, over at Patti’s, also knows the effect her handiwork can have.

The best part about doing hair, she said, is simple: “Making people feel better.”

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