Myths of Permanent Cosmetic Tattooing

Myths of Permanent Cosmetic Tattooing

Myths of Permanent Cosmetic Tattooing

Pigment myths debunked by Micro-Pigmentation Centre Inc.


As featured in the Summer 2019 SPCP Quarterly Newsletter, Myths of Permanent Makeup


1. There are specific pigments that do not fade and stay true to color.


In the cosmetic tattooing industry, we are reliant on blends of browns for our eyebrow colorants. We all know that brown and black are not a part of the color wheel and are actually various blends of many colors. Because of this fact, when someone makes a claim that their tattoo pigments or inks stay true to color once healed in the skin, we know that this is not true. Any brown blends and tertiary blends will have an undertone leaning towards more yellow, more red, or more grey/ash. Depending on the blends, each brown blend will result and appear in the skin as different shades. The other factor that must always be considered is the client’s skin undertone. This coupled with blends of browns will always present pigment differently and definitely not present a pigment as true to color.


50 shades of black = 50 shades of grey. 50 shades of brown = 50 shades of grey, which in turn will all have a bias color leaning towards more grey or more red or more mauve.


Pigment degradation and transformation depends entirely on the client. While, of course, the quality of pigment affects the results, there is no way to guarantee truly permanent makeup within this industry. The number of factors that affect retention and saturation levels are endless. Other factors are needle size, technicians’ application of technique of speed, pressure and depth into the skin.


All pigments will fade in and through the skin and will present a blend of colors that will not stay true to what you see in the bottle.


2. Pigment, dye, and ink are interchangeable terms for the same product.


Contrary to marketing and misinformation, we do not tattoo with ink or dye. We tattoo with pigment: colorants that are obtained from the FDA’s, F,D &C and D & C Color Additives list. It is a conclusive list that is compiled of synthetic organic and synthetic iron oxide colorants that are approved for applications for the purposes of coloring food, drug and cosmetic products.



The term ink is somewhat misunderstood in the tattooing industry, particularly in the permanent makeup and cosmetic segment of tattooing. Ink is carbon-based, rendering it vulnerable to migration and must be used with caution when using black carbon for cosmetic eyeliner procedures. Most tattoo inks technically are not inks. Once the color additive comes from the approved list of FD&C ingredients, they are no longer considered as ink. With an abundance of safely regulated pigments, inks are not technically used in the tattooing industry, but are widely used in the printing ink industry for cartridges.



Dyes are water-soluble and do not mix well with oils. They have incredible color power and are available in powder and liquid. Dyes are considered the most natural however we do not tattoo with dyes because they are soluble. Dyes are not UV-stable whereas pigments are. The major difference between dyes and pigments is that dyes are soluble and pigments are insoluble.



Because pigments are insoluble, they rest on top of the compound rather than in it. Although not as concentrated as dyes, pigments are resistant to smears, staining and dilution. They are also more resistant to stress and shear forces, which makes them the ideal choice for procedures such as scalp micropigmentation. Pigments are colored particles that are classed as Synthetic Organic or Inorganic Oxides. It is these dry color additives which are ground into a fine powder that give us a full range of consistent and unique shades. They are used in a variety of applications. They have excellent light, weather fastness and high tinting strength.


3. Organic pigments are the best pigments because they are ‘natural’.


Are organic pigments safer than inorganic or iron oxide permanent makeup pigments? Aren’t “organic” pigments natural?


Society thinks of the terms natural or organic in relation to the way agricultural products such as food and fibre are grown and processed. Where you hear the word “organic”, you probably think of delicious fresh fruits and vegetables or even packaged organic snacks. You look to buy these products to limit your exposure to toxic chemicals and to support businesses that work in sync with the environment. To many technicians’ surprise in the cosmetic tattooing industry, organic pigments are not an indication of superior, safer, or healthier. There is nothing natural or organic about tattoo pigment – it is not an agricultural farmed product and the terms have been misused, often sending the wrong message to unaware technicians.


In the world of colorants and tattoo formulation, “organic” refers to the chemical composition and not the origin of the pigment formulations. Manufacturers may boast that they include vegetable dyes as an alternative to iron oxide but in reality, these dyes are not derived from vegetables at all. They are typically the synthetic dyes used to enhance the color of vegetables. Inorganic pigments do not come from dirt and dust and therefore we eliminate harmful toxic metals of the iron oxides we find in nature.


With that said, natural does not always mean safer. Synthetically lab manufactured oxides eliminate the inclusion of ferrous or ferric oxides, impurities that are normally found in naturally occurring iron oxides. Most PMU pigment manufacturers use synthetic iron oxides to abide by the FDA ingredient standards. This, however, does not mean that iron oxide inorganic pigment is FDA approved. No pigment has the FDA approval stamp to this day. It means that responsible manufacturers abide by FDA suggestions to eliminate toxins and magnetic particles with the use of synthetic iron oxide. Iron oxides are tried and true. They have been around for ages and have been safely used by tattoo artists on millions of people.


4. Individuals who have PMU cannot get an MRI.


At some point in our lives, we will likely be faced with the need of an MRI scan. Tattooed individuals are no exception, often hearing over the years that a tattoo would impede on their ability to do so. Is this true? What is involved with an MRI scan and permanent makeup?


Using only “organic” colorants for the purposes of an MRI and the theory that it is unsafe to use inorganic iron oxide is a myth. Organic colorants also have concerns with MRI treatments. MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) produces images of the insides of our bodies using powerful radio frequency and magnetic field pulses. A computer creates an image out of the data from these pulses. The main cause of concern is the incredible strength of the magnetic force, for both tattooed persons and those with implants or pacemakers or any other metal object in the body. There are a few theories as to why a tingling or burning sensation has been sometimes associated with decorative tattoos containing iron oxide, mainly dark tattoos. However, the risk and intensity of this side effect has been excessively exaggerated over the years. There are studies that show the majority of patients with a cosmetic tattoo do not notice any side effects, with reports of only 1.5% of tattooed patients (2 of 135) experiencing dysesthesia (tingling or burning sensation). It is by no means a life-threatening concern or reason for denial of treatment.



Micro-Pigmentation Centre is a proud supporter of the The Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP). Membership represents professionals in the industry who are dedicated to promoting the ethics and standards of the SPCP, offering cosmetic tattooing that is conducted in accordance with safety standards specific to the permanent cosmetic process, and those who stay abreast of and participate in industry activities. Access to the entire newsletter is granted complimentary to each SPCP member. For more information on registration and membership, please visit the SPCP website.



Micro-Pigmentation Centre Inc.
5155 Spectrum Way, Unit 24,
Mississauga, ON, L4W 5A1

t.  (905) 625-5155

Toll Free: (888) 737-6268
For information please visit our website!

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