Scarred at the salon

Julia's visit to the salon went horribly wrong...

Julia Theodosis, 52, Strathfield, NSW

For five long years I’d gone to the exact same place to have my beauty procedures done – the Laser & Beauty Centre in Burwood Plaza, NSW. I’d built up a bit of a rapport with the beautician there, Jenny Tran.

When I asked for cosmetic lip tattooing, three years ago, I felt totally confident I’d leave looking like a million dollars. It meant I could just roll out of bed and look like I’d already applied my lipstick. I’d had the semi-permanent procedure done at the salon twice before and always had great results.

Things started to unravel..

After numbing the area, Jenny got to work on my top lip. The electric needle whirred to life, and I was quite relaxed as she completed the hour-long procedure. But when I looked in the mirror, things started to unravel.

Instead of the natural look I was expecting, Jenny had drawn the colour above my lip line – which made my mouth resemble a clown’s. ‘What’s happened? I asked, trying to remain calm.

‘I was just contouring your top lip,’ she said.

I hadn’t asked her to do that. My heart sank as I tried to take it in, and after talking through it, Jenny gave me some cream and told me the colour would soon fade.

I hoped she was right. But three days later nothing had changed and I returned to see her. This time she suggested laser treatment to remove the colour, and I tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. But after 10 painful laser treatments in just under four months, the ugly mark had barely budged.

After treatment
After Jenny tried to ‘fix’ her mistake.

That’s when Jenny told me she had a new laser that could blast it away. What choice did I have? I couldn’t afford to pay for more treatments myself and I could only hope this one would clear up the tattoo for good.

Nervously lying on the table, I closed my eyes. My daughter Crystal had been waiting outside and came into the room for a peek at the results. ‘What have you done to my mother’s face?’ she screamed. ‘You’ve made her look ugly.’

There were now red welts and a dark black line of ink above my top lip. ‘It will fade,’ Jenny assured me – but I knew deep down the damage was permanent.

The next week I plucked up the courage to see a doctor. He referred me to a dermatologist. ‘When a high-level laser is used it can oxidise the ink and turn it black,’ he explained.

The ink had oxidised.
The laser oxidised the ink and turned the skin black.

I’d need to fork out thousands of dollars to correct the mistake and, even then, there was no guarantee I’d return to the way I used to look. But what choice did I have?

As I underwent treatment every five weeks, facing the world became very tough. I did my best to remain positive but people stared at me in the street and my confidence at work was affected.

Crystal was the light that kept me going. ‘You’re still beautiful, Mum,’ she’d tell me.

Looking for someone to report my case to, I was shocked to discover there’s no regulating body to ensure therapists are adequately trained. Three months into my corrective treatment and desperate for help, I approached The Salvation Army, who helped me find a lawyer to represent me in a compensation case.

Facing the world became very tough.

After a two-year process the District Court of NSW awarded me $233,533 in damages, but getting the money I deserved was harder than I thought and as yet I haven’t been paid a cent.

It’s now been nearly four years since my tattoo horror and the ink has almost completely faded. But after over $25,000 worth of treatments, I have still never got what I really wanted – an apology.

All I hope is that my story can be a warning to others. Always do research before any treatment, and don’t be afraid to ask to see examples of someone’s work.

Originally published in that’s life! Issue 12, 2013.

Related stories