What were your first steps in the beauty industry?
As a child, I always loved to draw and was fascinated by my mum’s magazines that contained images of ladies that had been completely transformed by a new hair style or the application of makeup, I used to sit for hours drawing people and creating hair and makeup styles for them. At 16 I trained to be a hairdresser and makeup artist and offered a mobile service as soon as I got my driving licence.
I always knew I would work for myself, from a young age I imagined running my own successful hair and beauty salon and worked hard to make this a reality. In 1993, aged 26 I opened Chaplin’s Hair, Nail and Beauty Salon, at the time of opening the salon I had never even heard of permanent cosmetics, the skill I am now known worldwide for.
What excites you the most about what you do?
What really matters to me is advancing techniques, equipment and pigments because I’ve seen how much permanent cosmetics and microblading can change people’s lives when performed correctly.
What was that breakthrough moment when you knew that you made it?
The turning point came in 2012 when I was appointed the official consultant and medical tattoo artist for The Katie Piper Foundation. Despite having started my journey into permanent makeup to help a friend restore the eyebrows she lost after treatment for breast cancer, very few people were aware of the remedial benefits. Suddenly, Katie Piper was telling anyone that would listen I had recreated her eyebrows and given her a more symmetrical lip line after her acid attack left her facial features unrecognisable. Both Katie and I wanted to make this service available to others who had been burnt, scarred or disfigured as a result of an accident, illness or it saddens me to say an act of violence. Katie and I began to promote my services and those of my elite team of artists through her charitable organisation and continue to do so today.
Immediately, the media wanted to know all about permanent makeup and medical tattooing in acute detail. What should a student look for in a training programme, what should a client look for when selecting a technician. That in turn led to TV appearances and much needed positive exposure for the thousands of talented permanent makeup artists in the UK.
How do you balance your work and private lives?
It was always my plan from a very young age to be in a position to retire at the age of fifty but it is clear that that is not going to happen (I turn 50 next February) so I have invented my own version of retirement which is that I will only work eight hours a day and five days per week and take a holiday every couple of months. I had dinner with Rosemary Conley at an awards presentation once and her advice to me was never to take my eye off the ball and the first time I did it, I found one of my companies was quickly in difficulty so I will find this hard. I have very good and loyal staff now so I think my version of retirement is just around the corner.
Do you ever have ‘off’ days when all you want to do is stay in bed and watch TV? If you do, what motivates you to pull through?
Honestly, no. As Managing Director of Karen Betts Professional, K.B Pro Permanent Cosmetics Training, High Definition Beauty, the award-winning beauty brand previously known as HD Brows and the award-winning eyelash extensions specialist Nouveau Lashes – the pioneer of the LVL Lash Lift, I relish in the challenges each day brings.
As a permanent cosmetics artist, I also feel privileged every day that I have a skill that can help rebuild so many people’s confidence and nothing I have achieved beats the look on a client’s face when I have restored a feature that they have lost through illness or an accident.
Tell us a bit about your charity work. Why is it important to you to give back?
I find it is important to give back because it teaches humility and the personal enrichment I get from being a part of the lives of such courageous and inspiring people will last so much longer than any cash rewards I receive as a successful business owner.
My most recent affiliation is with Alex Lewis (Alex Lewis Trust), who was tragically left disabled and disfigured by a Strep A infection which caused him to lose all four of his limbs and half of his face. After a 3.5-year journey involving over 20 operations 7 of which were on his mouth, Alex is visiting me once a month so I can create him the illusion of lips and stubble and give him back in his own words ‘a more normal looking face’ so he can draw a line under what he has been through and move on.
If you had one piece of advice for someone just starting out, what would it be?
In direct relation to starting a career in permanent cosmetics the most important thing is to do your research on the training provider. Ask if they hold an open day – this is a great opportunity for you to look at the training facilities, meet the training team and look at the quality of work by past students. How long is the course and what does it cover – be sure to get the detail. Also, what are people saying about the company, look at Trust Pilot Reviews, social media platforms and be very cautious if a course seems too cheap to be true. Permanent cosmetics is an exacting skill that requires specialist training the price point of training should be reflective of this.