Stretch marks to survivor stories: Lafayette medical tattooist raises confidence and awareness

A woman holds up a needle used to apply products underneath the skin.
Tassnique Prudhomme prepares a needle to apply a solution underneath the skin at her studio in Lafayette, La., on Friday, February 16, 2024.

After having her son, Nitra Jones found it pretty easy to return to her pre-pregnancy body, with one exception: the stretch marks on her belly. After trying different creams and lotions, she decided to take it up a notch and booked an appointment with medical tattooist Tassnique Prudhomme.

“I just wanted to go back to my pre-kid body, not worry about stretch marks — and then he constantly reminds me,” Jones, 28, said of her now 6-year-old son, who was sitting a few feet away as Jones underwent her first treatment at Prudhomme’s “Officially Bougie” medical tattoo parlor.

In her studio in the basement of the Chase Tower, Prudhomme performs a variety of specialized tattoo services, from scar and stretch mark cover-ups to areola tattoos for people who lost their real areolas to mastectomies.

Being a part of the reconstructive process for breast cancer survivors is personal to the Eunice native, who has lost family members to breast cancer and once had a breast cancer scare of her own.

A woman uses a needle to apply a solution underneath the skin on the stomach of a another woman who's lying down.
Tassnique Prudhomme applies a custom solution to Nitra Jones’s stretch marks at her medical tattoo parlor in Lafayette, La., on Friday, February 16, 2024.

While in college at Southern University in Baton Rouge, Prudhomme’s sorority hosted a prevention event. When a nurse instructed them to conduct a self-exam, Prudhomme felt a lump the size of a golf ball in her breast. Luckily, the tumor, when removed, turned out to be benign. But the experience made a lasting impression, leading to conversations with family members that uncovered a history of breast cancer in the family and led her to monitor more vigilantly.

“I'm so glad I went to the program, so glad that someone was able to tell me and even initiate the conversation, because this is something that the community that I'm in, they don't talk about it much,” Prudhomme, who is Black, said. “Even in the family, we had a full history, years of history, and we didn't know.”

Through her work, she tries to raise awareness, especially among Black women. But marketing her services, especially those that deal with women’s breasts, comes with some unique challenges.

Spatulas, skin products and trays are laid out on a stainless steel rolling tray.
Tassnique Prudhomme organizes her tools prior to applying a solution to help lighten a clients stretch marks at her studio in Lafayette, La., on Friday, February 16, 2024.

Social media platforms like Instagram and Meta, formerly Facebook, heavily censor any content showing women’s breasts. “It's a free advertisement, this is what all small business owners are going into right now,” Prudhomme said. “And when you're in this type of field, it’s a very, very touchy topic.”

Images of her work regularly get flagged and deleted, which is why Prudhomme mostly posts them during breast cancer awareness month, when censors appear to be more lenient. “I like to post during the month of October; that's when we don't get banned. It gives us one free month of the entire year.”

But as the only business in the area — Prudhomme said that to the best of her knowledge there’s no other lone-standing provider offering 3D-areola tattoos in the state — she’s had no shortage of business. “I'm completely booked out,” she said.

A woman uses a needle to apply a solution underneath the skin on the stomach of a another woman who's lying down, with a ring light overhead.
Tassnique Prudhomme applies a custom solution to Nitra Jones’s stretch marks at her medical tattoo parlor in Lafayette, La., on Friday, February 16, 2024.

Consulting with clients who have survived breast cancer requires a different approach as well. “This is not a phone call consultation. It needs to be in person so that you can understand what they're going through,” she said. “They've been traumatized, they've gone through traumatic events.”

Prudhomme is currently training other artists to expand her hours of operation and take on more clients. “It's very, very new,” she said. “I'm happy to be one of the first and hopefully we get more. I'm trying to get more people in the building to actually do this form of work because there's a lot of people that can benefit from it.”