At Worcester’s Beauty Avenue Aesthetics, owner Ale Przemielewski and artist Liz Grace have a passion project amplified by the fact that October is breast cancer awareness month.
Przemielewski and Grace want to help breast cancer survivors in their recovery. The beauty artists are trained to offer 3D areola tattoos, a service that they say can make a huge impact in self-image for women who have had a mastectomy.
“I feel like when women have lost their nipple, they have lost a sense of who they were in the past,” Przemielewski said.
Przemielewski met Grace when they were both in training to learn about the 3D breast cancer tattooing, which is also called micropigmentation. Przemielewski was drawn to the service because of family history with breast cancer and an opportunity to bring something remarkable to her studio, where she puts a focus on inner beauty.
Grace was drawn to the chance to help women close the door on cancer and open up to a new beginning.
“I just really wanted to make women feel whole again after their journey throughout breast cancer and make them feel beautiful inside and out,” Grace said.
What makes the tattoo 3D is coloring, shading and highlights. Visually, the tattoo looks like a realistic, raised areola and nipple. But to the touch, it’s just a flat tattoo.
While training together at Prettyology in Boston under artist Vicky Martin, Przemielewski and Grace learned that it’s hard to find breast cancer survivors who need the service. Though breast cancer is common – each year in the United States, about 250,000 cases of breast cancer are diagnosed in women and about 2,300 in men, according to the CDC – it seems that many don’t know that a 3D areola tattoo is an option for survivors, Przemielewski said.
Even in the age of social media, where information is accessible at the touch of a fingertip, artists run into roadblocks trying to advertise the service. Przemielewski has tried to post online, including images of a breast mold with an areola tattoo, but social media platforms often flag or block such images even though it is just a permanent makeup drawing and not an actual body part.
The challenge in connecting with survivors is frustrating to Przemielewski and Grace, who saw the significance the service had for women they tattooed during training. Grace said faces in the room would be filled with happy tears.
“In class when we got to tattoo, and they got to see themselves again, it was something like we never experienced before,” Przemielewski said. “They went back to their healthy self before they discovered the breast cancer. So that for me was very touching personally.”
Though they offer the 3D tattoo, so far, no one has come into Beauty Avenue Aesthetics for the service.
“We know that we can do this. We know that we can change people’s lives, but it’s just finding people to come in,” Przemielewski said. “I know there’s women out there that don’t know about this.”
Przemielewski opened Beauty Avenue Aesthetics at 1 Kelley Square in the Canal District earlier this year, offering services for men and women including hydro facials, lashes, permanent makeup and makeup for weddings and more.
The vision for Beauty Avenue, Przemielewski said, is not just about what’s on the outside, but helping women feel confident and beautiful on the inside. It’s part of the reason she’s so passionate about the breast tattoo.
“I would love if this service can be part of the recovery, the new chapter,” she said.
It takes about three hours to complete the tattoo and numbing cream is used to take away any sensation. Grace said the tattoo is usually painless for women and they can match all different skin tones.
“Working with the women who had a lot of big scars, the first thing they said was can you cover my scars,” Przemielewski recalled. “The second this went on, nobody looks at the scars.”
The service starts at $800 and depends on if women need a lateral or bi-lateral tattoo. Przemielewski said she believes some insurances may cover some of the cost, but that she is still researching what coverage or vouchers are available to survivors.
“People will drive, two, three hours, Jersey, New York, for this service, so why not be local. That, to me, is crucial,” Przemielewski said.