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Color Theory: Part One

Updated: Jul 27, 2022

Color theory is the single most important thing for Permanent Makeup (PMU) artists to master. Regardless of your technique, your skill, your shaping- none of that matters if you choose the wrong pigment for your clients. This will lead to unwanted color change over time.

We have all seen those unfortunate clients who have funky colored brows. I have had brows changed to blue, purple, pink, red, orange, and everything in between come into my studio. Our priority as artists should always be the long-term healed results, as well as protecting the integrity of the client’s skin.

So I am going to do a two-part blog series on color theory to explain this mysterious subject for both clients and fellow artists. This first part will cover the basics of pigment ingredients, which is an important foundation to understand before all else. In the second part, I will go over color selection and color correction. Enjoy!

Organic vs Inorganic

When one hears the word “organic”, they tend to associate it with ingredients that are grown naturally from the earth with no chemicals or genetic modifications. This is generally preferred by many (myself included) when it comes to food we eat and products we buy.

However, when it comes to pigments, it must be understood that the words “organic” and “inorganic” have a significantly different meaning. Truly organic ingredients in a pigment would not be safe for humans or approved for use. This is due to the lack of control that comes with raw ingredients from natural sources like animals, plants and earth. As stated by Teryn Darling, the risk of contaminants can lead to allergic reactions and complications when used in our skin. In other words, you do NOT want to put anything unknown or risky inside of your skin! This is why ALL pigments used in tattooing are formulated synthetically in labs by expert chemists to remove any possible contaminants.

So when we use the term organic, it is specifically referring to the use of carbon as ingredient, since it is considered to be organic matter in chemistry.

Source: Huge thanks to Teryn Darling of Girlz Ink Las Vegas for sharing this knowledge. She has 22 years of experience with tattooing and is a true leader in the cosmetic tattoo industry. I have learned so much from her and her color theory course, which I highly recommend!

Is Carbon Good or Bad?

There is much debate on this topic within the PMU industry. Organic pigments containing carbon such as Permablend are tested to be safe. In fact, that is what I have used in my own skin for my brows. Much of the body art industry uses pigments with carbon. It tends to stay in the skin longer and fade slower, which is a good thing for most people. However, it must be considered that carbon does tend to change color the longer is sits in the skin. For example you may notice that most body art tattoos tend to look more bluish over the years.

Brows done with carbon pigments tend to turn ashy over time. This can be mitigated by simply modifying the pigment during initial sessions and annual touch up sessions to warm it up and prevent gray tones.

Inorganic Pigments

Inorganic pigments such as LI Pigments use iron oxide ingredients instead of carbon. Therefore, they’re known to avoid the ashiness or cool-tone that comes with carbon pigments over time. However, these pigments tend to fade a lot sooner. Some prefer this, as allowing brows to fade provides the opportunity to change brows over time as we age and as brow trends change.

So What’s Better, Organic or Inorganic?

I do not believe one is better than the other. I enjoy working with both and get great results with both. I only use top of the line brands with high quality either way.

To me, it is a matter of preference by the Artist and the client. Some clients who have thicker, oilier skin tend to fade sooner and therefore, organic pigments are best for them. Other clients who are a little apprehensive about their brows may prefer them to fade sooner. If you are worried about brows turning ashy over time, I would recommend inorganic. But most of us do not mind this, as it’s barely noticeable to those who are not trained professionals. Also when brows begin to look ashy, it is a good indicator that it’s time for a touch up where the color will be modified and neutralized.

During my appointments, I will explain this to each client, recommend what I think is best for their skin, and allow them to provide their input so that we can decide together.

Thanks for reading babes! Be sure to comment below if you have any questions or feedback. And stay tuned for part 2 coming soon! ♥︎

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