Getting nipped, tucked, enhanced and tattooed is, to many, a way to build confidence and create what they see as the perfect body.
For those who perform the procedures, it’s a skill and an art form that has the power to completely transform someone’s life.
Pearl Meldrum is a cosmedical artist. As well as dermaplaning, lip enhancements, meso injections and microblading, this Portsmouth mum-of-two offers something special with no price tag attached: nipple (areola) tattoos for breast cancer survivors.
‘In 2018, I trained in cosmetic tattooing at the Clinical Academy, Lakeside, and the areola tattooing was one of the topics,’ says Pearl, 30.
‘I offer a free service that would normally be around £700/£800. I personally believe that it’s worth giving up a couple of hours of my time, especially after what that person has gone through.’
Pearl, who owns Pearl Cosmedical in Portsmouth, offers areola tattoos for women who have survived breast cancer, had a masectomy and breast reconstruction. While she says many ‘embrace their scars’, she believes its important to offer a service that enables survivors to feel like they have their breasts back.
Last year, Pearl attended a charity event held by Boots in Commercial Road, Portsmouth, which showcased different beauty practices in the area but she noticed there was no one representing cosmetic surgery.
Pearl says: ‘I decided to get involved. It was there I spoke to a couple of ladies from Breast of Friends from Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham. They’re wonderful and they invited me to host a talk on the treatments I had to offer.’
Breast of Friends is an inspirational support group for breast cancer survivors who were diagnosed and had treatment at QA.
After forming in 2001, the group hold meetings to discusses treatment and also offers support for the newly-diagnosed and those who have had treatment.
‘There are so many different types of breast cancer. Some women just embrace their scars whereas others want complete reconstruction. It’s completely individual and bespoke to that person,’ she says.
Pearl realised she could help by offering an areola tattoo.
Sitting in the audience at Breast of Friends while Pearl presented her talk areola tattooing was Bettina Brown, from Leigh Park.
Bettina, 68, was diagnosed with stage two breast cancer in December 2012 but grins: ‘I have just had my five years clearance.’
‘It was a shock. You become incredibly ill but you have so many people surrounding you who are helping you survive. Cancer is not a death sentence – you can survive it. And a sense of humour helps,’ she laughs.
Following a masectomy and breast reconstruction in 2013, Bettina had to have six bouts of chemotherapy and three weeks of radiotherapy.
‘Eighteen months later I went in for permanent reconstruction. But I had a condition called capsular contracture which meant I was in a lot of pain.
‘My plastic surgeon suggested that we took flesh from my tummy to reconstruct my breast instead. So I had a tummy tuck and new breast all in one,’ she laughs.
Afterwards, they constructed the nipple by cutting and re-shaping the skin. However, Bettina wanted to make it look more realistic.
‘Pearl was invited to one of our meetings and I knew I wanted to go for the areola tattoo – there was no hesitation.
‘Visually, it’s just what I wanted. It has given me my femininity back.’
Bettina has now finished treatment with Pearl but the pair still regularly see each other at Breast of Friends meetings.
The tattooing is not a simple process. ‘It can take four hours sometimes’ says Pearl. ‘But you can be working with someone for up to four months and initially may be breaking down scars.
‘I have lost access to my business’ Facebook page around 30 times because it recognises the areola tattoos as a sexual image and removes it.
‘I have had to appeal for it more than 10 times – it’s awful. Therefore, my business is a lot about word of mouth.
‘I have completed the areola tattooing on 10 people but I would like to do more. It’s a long process. I would like to train people in it and show what we can do for people,’ she smiles.
If you would like to know more about Pearl’s areola tattooing, find Pearl Cosmedical on Facebook or call 07342 966 447.
Women supporting women through cancer
Breast of Friends is a support group at Queen Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.
They meet on the first Tuesday of every month at the Macmillan Centre, QA Hospital.
It was formed in 2001 by those fighting breast cancer at the time, with help from the hospital’s breast cancer medical team. They welcome women who have been newly diagnosed and those recovering from the effects of breast cancer.
‘Breast of Friends is a brilliant support group,’ says member Bettina Brown. ‘All of us have good days and bad days – and we all understand that.’
One day a week, on results day, many members of Breast of Friends volunteer to offer refreshments for those who may have received bad news.
‘We’re there for a chat if they want it,’ smiles Bettina.
Pearl Meldrum also helps the support group.
She says: ‘I volunteer each month with teas and coffees. It’s a simple way to offer support for women who have just been diagnosed.’
If you would like to know more about the brilliant work by Breast of Friends or get involved, contact Sandy Williams by emailing admin@ portsmouthbreastfriends.co.uk.