There are 2 types of pigments. Inorganic and Organic Lines and then we have carbon based blacks. We teach color theory in detail here at AZPMU because I believe every pmu or microblading artist should know those basics listed here in order to understand how the pigments act in the skin after pigmentation.


Iron oxides (Fe2O3 and Fe3O4) lack a carbon molecule and are therefore “inorganic”. Iron oxides in nature (dirt) are often combined with toxic metals like lead, arsenic, mercury, antimony and selenium. The FDA has regulated cosmetic colorants, so the level of toxic metal present are below certain percentages in order to be used safely.

Synthetic iron oxides are manufactured to eliminate the  contamination which is found in naturally occurring iron oxides. These metals are basically inert, although iron oxide blacks (magnetite) do have magnetic properties. Iron oxides are a softer metal than titanium dioxide. Iron oxide molecules are crystals and are in different shapes. Some are spherical, others are rhomboids and yet others look like a pencil shaped crystal (long and narrow). Ultraviolet light can affect the crystalline structure and result in loss of color activity. Light fastness or “reflectance” describes a particle's ability to reflect light at a certain wavelength. Most synthetic iron oxides are manufactured in the visible light spectrum and have maintained good reflectance. Iron oxides used in cave paintings have endured thousands of years because of no light exposure.


The average iron oxide particle size is less than one micron. However, the particles are attracted to each other and form “agglomerates”. When the particles are measured in a suspension, it is common to get a particle size measurement of 1- 20 microns because the agglomerates are being measured in addition to the individual particles. Although iron oxides are inorganic, they are often dispersed in glycerin or alcohol which are organic substances.


Common in inks used for tattooing, the carbon black particle is without shape or “amorphous” and the size is a tiny .03 microns. This means it is from 10-20 times smaller in size than an iron oxide pigment particle. This ultra-small size is the reason we see migration or “bleeding” of pigment into surrounding tissues when using carbon black based inks. An example of carbon black ink is Double Black Eyeliner Color from Permablend. Because lead is no longer legal in the U.S. as an additive to carbon black, you don't get anymore “black blackness”. Carbon black is illegal for use in cosmetics in the United States because of a case of blindness that resulted from its use in mascara. Carbon black is legal in other countries and is used widely in the US in eyeliner pigments. 


By definition, a pigment is a particle and NOT soluble in solution. If a colorant dissolve in solution, then it becomes a dye. Various dispersal agents such as glycerin, ethyl alcohol, Witch Hazel, water, castor oil, propylene glycol and others are used to keep the particles from forming clumps. Remember that these particles are weakly attracted to each other.


Many pigment molecules are organic because they contain a carbon molecule. Organic has nothing to do with foods or they don't imply that they are healthier than other pigment types. You can easily tell if a pigment is organic or not by simply checking the color. Usually they are bright and shiny and they stay in the skin longer than inorganic pigments. Therefore, whether a color is organic, or inorganic does not determine the safety of that color. Most pigment suppliers utilize both organic and inorganic pigments, including carmine. You cannot get “bright” colors unless they are organic in origin. Carmine is a naturally occurring red pigment from cochineal extract (beetles) in South America. It is “organic” and is an additive in some iron oxide pigment lip colors. Few pigment line used in permanent makeup are free of either organics or inorganics and we do not like to use those that we are not familiar with the origin. 

I personally use carbon based organic pigments for eyeliner and lip procedures and I like the soft, powdery effect of inorganic eyebrow colors.


The more you understand the ingredients in a pigment bottle, the better the result from pigmentation. 

The pigment is more translucent if the particulars are smaller. This is true of even the opaquest pigment, titanium dioxide. Science is making “nano particles” which are a thousand times smaller than “micron-sized” particles. The larger the particle size the lighter it will reflect and the opaquer it will become. 


In nature, iron oxides exist in reds, yellows, blacks, ochre, umber and burnt umber. Synthetic iron oxides come in several shades of red, yellow and black. A pigment has both a “top tone” and an “undertone”. So, in addition to dealing with the undertones in the client's skin, you must take into account the “undertone” in the pigment. We more  get in more detail on this one during the classes.


Compared to iron oxides, titanium dioxide is very opaque. How- ever, although white in appearance, it also has undertones (DuPont) which may be blue on the light spectrum in some cases. It is often mixed with blacks, reds and yellows to lighten (tint) the original hue (color) of the pigment.


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