The world of cosmetic tattooing is rife with misconceptions and stigma, but Perth’s own Ashleigh Jones is totally rethinking the way these treatments are used. Not only can she sculpt and paint the perfect brow from her cosmetic artistry studio Belle Sorelle, she can totally reinvent an areola after the trauma of a mastectomy.
We chatted with Jones about everything from how she first became interested in cosmetic tattooing to the lives she’s transformed via her cutting-edge treatments.
What are your earliest memories of cosmetics, beauty and tattoos growing up?
My earliest memory is how well my mum would dress and do her hair and make-up when I was growing up. She always made sure that she looked great. And she really instilled in my sister and I that if you take care of yourself, you will always feel good. There were many stages I remember going through growing up with make-up. I remember when purple and blue mascara were in (were they ever in?!). Sometimes I couldn’t decide whether I would want to wear purple or blue, so I would wear a different colour on each eye.
When did your interest in the beauty and cosmetic industries begin to grow, and why?
I was interested in the beauty and cosmetic industry from a young age because I grew up in an all-girl household. Beauty and cosmetics were a big part of our childhood. I do really like the creative and artistic side to the industry—it is always evolving, and I love that!
Growing up I didn’t have a lot of confidence. So for me, putting on make-up and looking after my skin was something that helped to build my confidence. I wanted to get more involved in the industry and help others feel more confident as well. I do feel very strongly about women feeling good about themselves. Not only do I want every woman to know that they are beautiful, I want them to feel it. I believe that if we feel good, we start lifting our standards and that flows on to being treated better in all aspects of our lives. It all starts with how we feel about ourselves.
When did you decide to take the plunge and open your own studio?
I grew up in a single parent household that struggled financially. I saw the impact that it had on my Mum, not only financially, but mentally. We eventually lost our family home and had to move around a lot, and it was really hard. So after years of seeing my Mum work really hard to try to build us another family home on her own, I realised first hand that no matter what happened in life, I could do anything. I just knew that I wanted to be in a position in life where I had something of my own, for myself. Something that I built.
This was my main focus. And everything else was put on the back burner until eventually when I was 25, I went and built this studio; my home away from home.
You’ve travelled the world training and developing your skill set. What treatment did you find the most challenging to learn?
Definitely 3D Areola Tattooing! When I first travelled to Hong Kong to learn this technique, I felt that I hadn’t learnt enough to be able to perform this treatment on people who had undergone mastectomies from breast cancer. So I then travelled to Orlando in the United States to get the best training from another wonderful trainer who I had been following for a while.
What made you realise that you could use these cosmetic treatments to enhance the lives of people physically impacted by injury or disease?
Every day I hear women talk about what they are dealing with in their life whether it be to do with marriage, children, or physical and mental health. When someone with a physical injury tells you their story it really pulls on your heartstrings—the first thing you think about is how can I help them? It’s the stories of my clients and what I see them going through that made me realise these cosmetic treatments can really improve their lives not only on a physical level but emotionally too.
I once had a client come in who was told she had breast cancer and would need to start chemo as soon as possible. At that stage she had all her hair, she looked healthy and you would have no idea that she was about to have a mastectomy and begin the chemo process. She came to me to have her eyebrows tattooed before she lost her eyebrow hair. She said to me, “I have no control over what is happening to me right now, so I’m taking charge of the things I do have control over!” And for her, that meant she wanted to make sure she was always going to wake up with eyebrows.
It might seem like a small change, but for some people, it means a lot more than what you might think.
What has been the most transformational treatment of this kind that you’ve provided a client so far?
It’s hard to choose just one story, but the most transformational treatment we offer is definitely the 3D Areola Tattooing. This technique is often the final stage of a client’s breast cancer journey, after undergoing mastectomies.
To be able to give them the finishing touch to their recovery—the final stage in the process of making them feel feminine again—it really is incredibly important to get it right! Every person who undergoes mastectomies will end up with different skin on their breasts and different levels of scarring. This can be challenging and can alter the results of what we can achieve, but with my background as a skin technician working alongside cosmetic doctors and surgeons, I’m more able to assess how the skin will react with cosmetic tattooing and ultimately more able to achieve the best results for my clients.
We also do this treatment for women who have breastfed or who have irregularities in this area. This is such a personal treatment that can make many women feel more feminine, so it's a treatment that can be quite empowering to the client.
What are the common fears or hesitations clients are dealing with before receiving cosmetic tattooing, and what do you say to them?
The biggest hesitation people have about cosmetic tattooing is, “Will it look natural or will I look fake?” Or, “Am I too old for cosmetic tattooing?” Firstly, you are never too old! My oldest client is 87. You can look beautiful and natural at any age.
What we like to advise our clients is that less is more. What we stand by is that cosmetic tattooing should be natural. We tell our clients that cosmetic tattooing consists of two visits, so we can always add to their treatment on the second visit if they wish for a bolder look, but to start off with, our recommendation is that natural is best.
What’s one of the biggest misconceptions about your job, or about the industry in general?
I’d say the biggest misconception about the industry is that it must be for people who are materialistic and high maintenance, or that people will look fake if they get these treatments done. It can actually be the complete opposite if the treatments are done right. My daily routine is so simple now. The only make-up I wear is tinted moisturiser or a light foundation and a bronzer on my cheeks.
This industry isn’t about hiding and masking who you are with make-up or changing your appearance dramatically. It is about enhancing who you are and what you have in a natural way. To me, this industry is about feeling good about yourself and having less daily maintenance.
What does the future hold for Belle Sorelle?
I am so excited for the future of Belle Sorelle. We have so many exciting plans and hopes for the studio! We plan on taking Belle Sorelle over to the US and now that I have finished my study in Cosmetic Chemistry, I’m finalising some formulations so that we can plan to bring out our own cosmetic line this year as well.
We will also be bringing out some amazing new treatments, like contouring cosmetic tattooing. Now, who doesn’t love contouring?!
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Image credit: Emma Pegrum