Singapore

Tattoo artist helps breast surgery patients

For the past 10 years, Miss Sumithra Debi has been helping women who have gone through a mastectomy - the surgical removal of one or both breasts, partially or completely.

"Some women are in remission and they have healed from their surgeries, but they cannot get over what happened," says the 35-year-old.

As a tattoo artist, she uses her skill to create three-dimensional nipples for them after reconstructive surgery.

The owner of Exotic Tattoos and Piercings in Far East Plaza estimates there are only about 15 women tattoo artists here.

To create the nipples, Miss Debi first customises colour pigments to suit her customer's skin colour.

Then, she injects them into the skin just like a tattoo, creating a realistic 3D nipple.

"This little change that they have, it will take them closer to what they had before," she said.

"Males might not understand their pain because this is a problem for women."

Miss Debi has been certified by Biotouch, one of the leading manufactures of semi-permanent and permanent makeup, to specialise in paramedical tattooing - injecting ink into a person's skin in order to camouflage discolouration.

But even before she ventured into the field, she had already made a name for herself as the youngest women tattoo artist in Singapore.

Ms Debi is also the granddaughter of Johnny Two Thumbs, one of the pioneer tattoo artists here.

At the age of 16, Miss Debi officially started working for Exotic Tattoos and Piercings.

It was started by her uncle about 20 years ago, and Miss Debi took over five years ago.

She remembers how she used to get snide remarks from men who walked in.

'SHE'S A GIRL'

"When they see me, they don't bother asking me any questions because they would think, 'What does she know, she's a girl'."

Miss Debi says lack of family support and an irregular income mean women don't often venture into the industry.

"When we have children, we'll have to take long breaks," she said.

About 80 per cent of Miss Debi's clientele are women.

"There's nothing to worry about because there's no one to impress," she says.

"They know they'll get a woman's advice. A guy won't tell you if your handbag will block your tattoo, or what clothes to wear when you're getting a tattoo on your hip."

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