Fraud in the Permanent Makeup Industry

Caveat emptor. 

Latin for: “Let the buyer beware”. It means that the onus is placed on the purchaser to validate the product or service being purchased. We all know about knock-off products from China, purses claiming to be Gucci, watches that imposter Rolex, or imitation shoes that pretend they are Louboutin. The public knowingly purchases these items feeling they have walked away with the upper hand, but the truth is that they are simply supporting fraud. It takes away the business efforts, authenticity, and sales from the true manufacturer. 

So, what does this have to do with our Permanent Makeup industry?


We all like a deal but as the old saying goes – something that is too good to be true, is generally too good to be true. Take for example the Nouveau Contour Intelligent tattoo machine. This machine gained tremendous popularity when it was introduced into North America and had a long running sales window for many years before it was discontinued in 2018, but in its prime it became a target for Chinese counterfeit machines. Without having the Chinese units sitting side by side with the real machines, they looked close to identical. They had the Nouveau name on it, and a name plate on the back stating “Made in Germany” with a serial number attached. We actually had several clients who purchased them thinking they were OEM products but after a few weeks the machines stopped working. As the Canadian Distributor for Nouveau, we became aware of them when we were approached to have the machines repaired under warranty, which of course couldn’t happen. Interestingly, both fraudulent machines had the same serial number. These students had purchased these machines for a quarter of the price of the real products. Unfortunately they ended up without equipment and still paid hundreds of dollars to arrive at an upsetting truth: Too good to be true.  



Fraud is not relegated solely to the counterfeiting of an actual product. Training fraud is another area where the buyer must beware and be aware. There are many 2 and 3 day fundamental training courses being offered in the PMU industry that are taught by unqualified individuals who are in it for a fast dollar and who are not too concerned with what they teach. To any unknowing students who have not done enough due diligence and who are simply shopping price and quick training, this type of fraud is dangerous. It hurts the industry. These students are turned out into our market with minimal skills, if any, and perform procedures that are long-lasting on people’s faces. We have all seen the unbalanced eyebrows, the terrible color choices, and the clown mouth lips – this is a result of poor education. 

When an organization like the SPCP states that 100 hours of training is the minimum requirement for proper education, it is not a number that is arbitrarily pulled out of thin air. They have been an established leader in the PMU space for a very long time and they know what it takes to properly learn this business. This type of fraud has caused students to waste their money and go into their business feeling underprepared and unsupported. For those who wish to stay in the industry, they must now seek a professional school for proper education and put out more funds. For others, they simply drop out of the business, disenchanted and disillusioned.  

A very recent and very different type of fraud has happened to our company, Micro-Pigmentation Centre Inc. We are a 26 year-old organization and take pride in having an unblemished record in the industry and we have just experienced corporate identity theft. A company out of Turkey whom we once sold pigments to has put three products on the market and has branded them with our name, colors and logo. A tattoo remover, an eyebrow and lash “vitamin” and an anesthetic translated incorrectly as “Tropical” Anesthetic. They have also gone so far as to state the products are, as they incorrectly put it, “Made in Canadian”. Stealing an identity that has taken almost three decades of brand development to falsely promote their products is fraud at the highest degree, by treading on a recognized name that took many years of effort, dollars and love to mature. One must question a company’s ethics and moral compass when they feel entitled to steal another brand and reputation as a means to give credibility to their goods. 

This, as with unqualified trainers, is yet another dangerous category of fraud to our industry, as the buyer believes they are purchasing a reputable product and trusts what is written on the label as being honest, accurate and safe. In this instance the validity of the listed ingredients on these products would be questionable, based on the assumption that if they have no issue stealing a company’s identity then they would have no qualms about listing bogus ingredients. As a statement of fact, at this writing, we have been contacted by a pharmacy in Frankfurt Germany stating that one of their clients has had a reaction to the Tattoo Remover, instinctively requesting a list of the ingredients in the belief that the product is ours because of the branding. 

So how do you protect yourself and be an “aware” consumer? Do your homework before purchasing an unknown product or jumping for a deal that sounds “too good to be true”. Seek out reputable, transparent companies who are willing to share their knowledge, any product information, and who offer professional customer service. If you are looking for training, then thoroughly vet the school, scrutinize the teacher’s credentials and history, and shop for the best education, not the best price.

Written by Pat Gauthier