Sally Choi

Sally's extensive background in the dental industry has given her an in-depth knowledge of sanitation and sterilization best practices that can be applied to the Permanent Makeup industry.  In this interview, we talk with her about everything from disposable tools to autoclave sterilization equipment to proper training. 

Check out the full interview below!

TINA DAVIES: Hi, everyone. It’s Tina Davies here. I am here today with Sally Choi. Sally is a local Toronto permanent makeup artist, and I’m really lucky to have her here today because she has an amazing background, very different. So that’s why I invited her to come to the studio so she could share her story with you and we can learn more from her.

So Sally, welcome.

SALLY CHOI: Thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here. Thanks for having me.

TINA DAVIES: You’re welcome. Tell me a little about you, your background, and how did you get into microblading?

SALLY CHOI: So I’ve been in the dental industry for about 15 years and I’ve worked in private practice, I actually taught at George Brown College for a number of years, and then I went into sales and marketing for the corporate manufacturers in the dental industry.

TINA DAVIES: So very different industry, completely different.

SALLY CHOI: Very different yeah. And I loved it and I pretty much did anything and everything I could in that industry.

TINA DAVIES: But you look so young. How long were you in that industry?

SALLY CHOI: Fifteen years in total.


SALLY CHOI: Yeah. And I’ve always wanted and I always imagined myself to have my own business. And my passion has always been either in beauty or fashion. And so I thought, “You know what? I’m getting older and I don’t want to waste any more time and I don’t want to be so envious when I hear other people’s stories and keep saying ‘I wish, I wish, I wish.’”

So finally, I just decided I’m going to just do it and no looking back. And I started researching like the latest trends in Asia because they’re so far advanced compared to North America. And then I saw microblading and I thought, “That’s pretty cool.”

TINA DAVIES: And how long ago was this?

SALLY CHOI: Gosh, this was a year and a half ago.


SALLY CHOI: Or maybe two years ago, yeah. And so then I started looking for like who was training on this, and in Canada only two places popped up. And one was accredited, so I decided to go to that school. I was really disappointed in the quality of education because we found out while we were – actually, after we had just finished our course that the person who was training us just learned how to microblade four months before.

Yeah, and that was really disappointing because I felt like they neglected to teach so many important factors like the client’s medical history, possible medications that could affect microblading or permanent makeup, and infection control and sterilization, which they never covered, which to me is --

TINA DAVIES: That’s top of mind for you, right, from your background?

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, yeah. And it’s a huge component. And so many of the other girls who didn’t have a health background had so many questions, which the instructor could never answer. And that to me was so scary. And I was thinking, “These girls are going to go out to practice and they have no idea and no one’s educated them on what not to do and what to do and what sort of things to look out for.

And so then I just started doing a lot of research on my own because I felt I still needed more education on learning the skin. Because I’ve worked in this – like different types of skin in the mouth, but the face is totally different. And I invested a lot more money in training with other master artists and just learning different techniques. And everyone has like something new that you learn.


SALLY CHOI: Yeah. And I’ve never looked back and I love it. I’ve been working a lot with cancer survivors, people with alopecia, which I find so rewarding. And I think in the beginning, people were like, “You’re moving into such a superficial career. What are you really doing to help anyone?” And it’s amazing. Like permanent makeup is so transformative. And it’s not just physically. It’s like internally --


SALLY CHOI: -- like the confidence level in the women I see and just everything. Like to hear when --

TINA DAVIES: The freedom.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah. And to hear when someone says to me, “You gave me my life back,” that’s just such a amazing feeling.

TINA DAVIES: Yeah. And people are coming to you happy, right?

SALLY CHOI: Exactly.

TINA DAVIES: Yeah, they’re not scared or apprehensive.


TINA DAVIES: Let’s say, for example, if you’re going to the dentist, maybe a little scary.


TINA DAVIES: But like to see you it’s like, “Oh my God.”

SALLY CHOI: Exactly. And that’s the biggest difference, which I love. Because most people don’t like going to the dental office, whereas here people want to come to see you because they know they’re going to come for like a beautiful transformation and they’re so happy when they leave.

TINA DAVIES: Yes, that’s right.


TINA DAVIES: It’s like you’ve changed their life forever.

SALLY CHOI: Exactly, yeah.

TINA DAVIES: So how did you use your knowledge in dental, and how did you apply it towards your standards today?

SALLY CHOI: Well, since day one I’ve been using – I’ve always tried to use disposable. I looked into buying a sterilizer, but I found the instruments and the tools that were out there in terms of microblades – even if I bought a sterilizer, they weren’t the quality that I could actually put through an autoclave because I knew that they would either rust or corrode. They had all these little compartments that, no matter what, would never become clean or sterile.

TINA DAVIES: Like little grooves or divots.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah. And these little – I don’t know if you have any. We can talk about that, but like these things called lumens that you can never clean unless you have a dental washer.

TINA DAVIES: Like a – it’s like an ultrasonic?

SALLY CHOI: Yeah. Well, actually, ultrasonic is different because like some compartments and some handles have – it’s like the little tubing inside. And those are called – well, they’re classified into a lumen category, and ultrasonics can’t even clean in there. So you actually need like a dental instrument washer, which looks like a dishwasher. And there’s like compartment accessories that you put in that can actually go into all these places, and that’s so expensive, right.

TINA DAVIES: So it’s not enough just to put it into a chemical bath or to kind of rinse it in water? And what I mean is those aluminum handles.

SALLY CHOI: No. So the chemical baths were banned in dental for a long time now. And I noticed that when I was learning microblading that that’s what they were instructing us to do. 

And chemical baths are just terrible. They actually don’t do anything. And the chemicals are so strong that they actually end up corroding a lot of the instruments and discoloring them. And when you get corrosion on any sort of handles or instruments, it creates an environment or a surface area where more bacteria can harbor and fester. So that’s what you don’t want.


TINA DAVIES: How about like an ultrasonic and then followed by, let’s say, an autoclave?

SALLY CHOI: Right. So yeah, I mean, having an ultrasonic and then an autoclave – and your autoclave has to be a Class B autoclave – is ideal. But if you are using these handles that have all these different little compartments and cases, ultrasonic --

TINA DAVIES: Grooves and parts?

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, the ultrasonic is not enough. You need an instrument washer.

TINA DAVIES: What’s a Class B autoclave?

SALLY CHOI: So there are different sterilizers. Like you’ll see a lot of people posting a sterilizer that looks like a rice cooker and they’ll say, “This is what we’re using”; that doesn’t really do anything. Or they’ll post one that looks like a mini toaster oven; that also doesn’t really do anything either. But the Class B sterilizer reaches the maximum temperature required to achieve sterilization and for the steam to penetrate into the instruments itself.

TINA DAVIES: Is that what a dental office would use?

SALLY CHOI: Mm-hmm, yeah.

TINA DAVIES: Have you seen them outside dental offices?

SALLY CHOI: No, only in hospitals and medical institutions and things like that.

TINA DAVIES: Okay. How much do these cost?

SALLY CHOI: They’re very expensive. It could be anywhere from – gosh, from the smallest one, a little over $6,000 up to $10,000.


SALLY CHOI: Yeah, so they’re very costly. So as I was thinking of possibly using those pieces of equipment, I couldn’t find the types of handles and blades and instruments that I could put into these --

TINA DAVIES: That would hold up?

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, that would hold up or get cleaned and sterilized efficiently. So when I saw that you came out with the Harmony Microblades, I was so happy because I loved how seamless they were. And the fact that they were disposable just helps you save so much money on sterilization.

And disposable and sterile is just like so awesome because there’s no doubt that they’re’ going to be contaminating anything with the clients.

TINA DAVIES: Oh, and you brought some stuff with you?


TINA DAVIES: Okay, let’s have a look.

SALLY CHOI: So I brought some dental instruments and the different ways we use to sterilize. So in a regular dental clinic, you would either sterilize in a cassette with paper wrap like this or using pouches like this.

So when you’re using a pouch, you want to make sure that there is a chemical indicator just like this little plot here.

TINA DAVIES: What does that do?

SALLY CHOI: So this lets you know that steam has penetrated.


SALLY CHOI: And I don’t have one here, because this is actually open - but what you would insert into the pouch is a chemical integrator, and it also has a strip that should change color. And the chemical integrator, which is required now, shows that steam has penetrated inside.


SALLY CHOI: Right which indicates that steam has gone into the pouch and that the instrument is actually sterile. Whereas this chemical indicator on the pouch, which changes color, just shows that steam has gone into the sterilizer around the pouches.

TINA DAVIES: And so this basically gives you confirmation and peace of mind and meets regulation?

SALLY CHOI: Exactly.


SALLY CHOI: And then when you’re using the cassette, the same thing with – the blue paper wrap acts as the pouch, the tape with the stripes, which changes color, acts as a chemical indicator. Because normally, you wouldn’t even see this. And then after it goes through the autoclave, it turns black.

TINA DAVIES: Okay. So there’s a marking that shows the before and after.

SALLY CHOI: Exactly. And then inside your cassette, you would put one of those chemical integrators.

TINA DAVIES: So to do all this too, you would require a lot of training and knowhow.

SALLY CHOI: Absolutely, yeah. Like in a dental office, I always have said that the sterilization center is like the nucleus of a dental clinic because 80% of what goes on usually goes around the sterilization. And without that, your business just doesn’t work.

TINA DAVIES: Right. There’s no foundation --

SALLY CHOI: Exactly.

TINA DAVIES: -- yeah, to carry out safe practices.

SALLY CHOI: Right, yeah.

TINA DAVIES: Okay. Thank you for bringing those and sharing that with us.

SALLY CHOI: Oh, no problem.

TINA DAVIES: Yeah, the only time I can think of where I knew or I felt like the sterilization standards were high was a dental clinic.


TINA DAVIES: So when we designed the tools, we thought about like sterilization indicators, breathable pouches.


TINA DAVIES: So that’s what we’re aiming for too, and I’m glad that I’ve met your standards.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, that’s what I loved about your products, because like as I was thinking, “Oh my God. Well, how come there isn’t something like this that exists?” And then I saw your blades and then you started – you came out with the sterile kits. I was like – the timing is perfect and I felt like you were reading my mind like as to everything that I wanted, so it’s just amazing.

This here is actually a dental instrument. It’s not sterile. But I brought it so I could just show you the pieces of a dental instrument. 

TINA DAVIES: So pretty.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, they’re beautiful. And the most important thing about these is the quality of stainless steel is so high grade that no matter what sort of sterilizer you put them in that you’ll never get any corrosion or rusting. And that’s really important because the corrosion and rusting gives the surface a rough surface, and then a lot of bacteria can --

TINA DAVIES: I can imagine. Even like rust has little bits of rust that start to – basically start to break off.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah. And imagine putting rust inside someone’s mouth or even on their skin.


SALLY CHOI: Like who knows, right?


SALLY CHOI: And then also what you want to see in the instrument and the whole handle is that it’s seamless. Like it doesn’t have parts that come apart. Because when you have parts that come apart, because there are other dental instrument companies where they have like a screw-on tip, you always use the same handle and you screw on different tips. When you have that, those areas where you have breaks and gaps, that’s where a lot of bacteria and other people’s blood --

TINA DAVIES: Can hide.

SALLY CHOI: Exactly. And how do you clean those nooks and crannies? You can’t. And then you continue to use that same pen or that same handle on so many different clients, it’s not the most hygienic and definitely not the most – healthiest thing to do.

And so same thing with the microblading pens; like yours are all seamless. You don’t have any breaks or gaps. Whereas with other pens that are out there, they have a handle and then they have a blade that you need to insert, and then the pen just keeps being reused, right?



TINA DAVIES: That’s a big thing that we’re trying to champion others towards, is using not only disposable tools but tools that just make their job easier because microblading itself is so hard already. And the last thing you want is to have instruments that you have to fiddle with or instruments that you have to basically install and they change angles and they slip on you sometimes, so --

SALLY CHOI: Right, it just makes your life so much easier. Like say, for example, if 80% of a dental clinic is the sterilization center, 80% of their worries is gone just by using instruments and products that we know that are sterile and safe.

TINA DAVIES: So you’ve been doing this now for about a year and a half, right?


TINA DAVIES: How busy are you?

SALLY CHOI: So busy.

TINA DAVIES: Really? Awesome.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, and which is amazing. And sometimes I worry like there’ll be a lull and then all of a sudden it’ll just be – like all come in, which is so amazing. And yeah, and it just exploded really fast. And I don’t know how it all happened, but I worked really hard on all of my marketing, my website, and social media.

TINA DAVIES: Do you do it all yourself?

SALLY CHOI: I do do it all myself, yeah. And I have to be thankful for all of the experiences that I’ve had in my past career, because that all led me to be able to create the brand that I’ve created.

TINA DAVIES: Yeah. And what would be some tips for people that are just starting out, let’s say, just three months, six months? What would you say to do?

SALLY CHOI: For me, the biggest thing for me has been Instagram. And I was never an Instagram user before. I find Instagram to be so powerful because a lot of my clients come from Instagram.

TINA DAVIES: And that’s where they look for pictures, right?

SALLY CHOI: Exactly. Be very active on it, be consistent. And also try to be authentic because there’s a lot of businesses and accounts that are not so authentic. Like they’ll take photos from others and post it as their own, or they’ll filter and edit their photos so much that what you actually get when you go to see them isn’t really what you have seen on the account, right?

TINA DAVIES: Sure, it’s a little deceptive.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah. So --

TINA DAVIES: It’s such a personal service too, right?

SALLY CHOI: It totally is, yeah. So I think getting on social media is such a powerful thing for a new person coming into the business.

TINA DAVIES: And how about in regards to like skill or technique? People have heard me say things and sometimes I’m a broken record, but how about from you?

SALLY CHOI: Right, yeah. So definitely – my biggest tip would be: Do your research on who you’re getting your training from. Now there’s so much available out there and --

TINA DAVIES: Sure. I’m sure you’ve been asked by people to train them or teach for them.

SALLY CHOI: Right, yeah. And a lot – and it’s scary because there’s so much out there. You don’t know who’s legit and who’s not. So do your research, look at all of their before and afters, ask for references of past students; sometimes go meet with them even, right?


SALLY CHOI: Yeah. And for me when I had my training, one area where I was really upset was the products I got in my kit.

TINA DAVIES: Oh, okay.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, because we spent a lot of money on the training and that training usually involves our kit. And to have products that aren’t high quality and you end up just dumping it all because none of it really works --

TINA DAVIES: Well, yeah, and then you have to start from scratch.

SALLY CHOI: Exactly. And it’s so great if you actually get a kit with good-quality materials, products that you’re actually going to use when you go into practice right from the get-go.

TINA DAVIES: Yeah, yeah, that’s really important. Yeah, those are really, really great points. And again, it’s saving you time, which then is just all part of that education; otherwise, you have to retake courses, relearn things, and then spend so much time just online researching all that, and it’s so confusing now. Before there wasn’t enough information; now there’s too much information.

SALLY CHOI: Sure, absolutely, totally agree. And also invest in learning from different artists because you always learn something new and different from a different person. And then find what works for you, right, and --

TINA DAVIES: Yeah, I would say that’s a great point. That’s why I like – let’s say next year you’ll find somebody that, “Oh, I really love her style, I took a class from her, I heard great things about this person,” take something from them. But do give it like a little time because you need to practice those skills before --

SALLY CHOI: Definitely.

TINA DAVIES: There’s people that are taking classes all the time, then maybe get a little too confused.

SALLY CHOI: Yeah, definitely.

TINA DAVIES: Yeah, yeah. Well, that’s awesome. Thank you so much for sharing such invaluable information.

SALLY CHOI: Oh, thank you so much. I’m so happy to be here.

TINA DAVIES: Thank you, thank you, thank you.

SALLY CHOI: Thank you.

Reach out to Sally at HRH Beauty: 

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Website: HERE

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“I set out to design a microblade that I knew would put our needs first as artists.”

- Tina Davies