Debra Cobain began her career in the beauty industry more than 20 years ago.
She started out as a hairdresser but after a few years, wanted to expand the services she offered her customers. So when a friend from out of state told her about permanent makeup, she was very interested in learning more. Cobain, who owned a full-service salon in downtown Bellevue at the time, soon found someone in Redmond to teach her the craft.
“It was just very interesting to me. It was up and coming,” Cobain said. “I had a lot of inquiries (from clients).”
Permanent makeup, or cosmetic tattooing, is exactly as the name implies. Instead of tattooing words, pictures or a design onto the skin, the artist tattoos pigment onto a person’s eyebrow, eyelid or lips to give the appearance of makeup without needing to apply any.
When Cobain, who has had her lips and eyeliner tattooed, finished her training, she spent a few years commuting between Redmond and Bellevue, working with her permanent makeup instructor and at her salon in Bellevue. After a few years, her instructor moved out of state and Cobain took advantage, buying the business. Then about three yeas ago, Cobain sold her Bellevue salon to open Marbella Day Spa and Boutique at 16122 NE 87th St. in Redmond, which was the location of the spa she had been leasing space from previously.
Cobain chose to move her business to Redmond for a number of reasons: She wanted to get out of Bellevue and downsize her business to create a more personal experience for her clients. Cobain also just wanted to be in Redmond.
“I just really liked it here,” she said.
One of the first things Cobain did upon moving her business to Redmond was join the Greater Redmond Chamber of Commerce. She wanted to be more involved in the community and said the welcome she received from the chamber was unbelievable.
Cobain has been a chamber member for about as long as Marbella has been in town and she jumped in with both feet. She has been an ambassador and executive board member for the chamber and has served on a couple of the Chamber’s various committees.
Cobain’s commitment to the chamber and Redmond community was recognized Wednesday afternoon at the chamber’s annual awards luncheon.
She received the Champion of the Year award, which Chamber president and CEO Chris Hoffman said goes to an individual who encourages members to do business with one another.
In addition to Cobain, the awards luncheon recognized a number of other businesses and individuals in various categories including Rookie of the Year (Chris Grimmond, Kempf & Co.), Non-Profit Breakthrough Award (Rod Hochman, M.D., Swedish Medical Group) and Minority or Female Business of the Year Award (Sue Jarvis and Kathy Kinstler, Redmond Cable). See sidebar for all award recipients.
When she learned about the award, Cobain said she was honored, surprised and very thankful, adding that she has greatly benefitted from her involvement in the chamber.
“Everyone is into helping everyone else,” she said. “I’ll be a member as long as I am here.”
And helping people is something Cobain loves doing. Through her salon, which offers a number of services in addition to permanent makeup including hair and skin services and massages, Cobain said her favorite part of the job is seeing clients’ responses. Making people feel good about themselves makes her feel good.
Lisa Davies got her eyebrows tattooed about a year ago and said they have done more than shave off a few extra minutes off her morning routine.
“I didn’t feel like I was put together till I had my eyebrows done,” the Redmond resident said. “I love them. They’re just a great frame on my face.”
Davies, who works as a hairstylist at Marbella, said potential clients often ask about her experience and look to her to see how natural her eyebrows look.
This is because Cobain works with what the client already has — whether it’s the natural hair and arch of their eyebrows or their natural lip color. For lip work, she works with a dentist and uses novocaine to numb the area; for eyebrows and eyeliner, she uses a topical anesthetic.
In addition to permanent makeup, Cobain also works with people with scars and cancer survivors. With the former, she uses pigment as close to the client’s natural skin tone to blend the scar. But this only works with white scars and can be the most difficult part of her job, technically, as the structure and texture of each scar is different.
“It can be unpredictable but it can still leave some amazing results,” Cobain said.
With cancer survivors, she will do eyebrow work for individuals who have lost their hair during treatments such chemotherapy. Davies said this is a great service to offer people.
“You’re not doing anything to take away the cancer, but you’re on the healing end of it,” she said.
Cobain does all her work with cancer survivors on a pro bono basis and is physician referred.
“I love being able to do that,” she said. “Giving that back is huge.”