Updated: Feb 28, 2019
Permanent makeup pigments have been around for many years, but specialist microblading pigments are relatively new to the market and multiplying rapidly. As a microblading artist, should you be trying these new products? or should you stick with the established brands?
If you are new to SPMU, you may be asking.. What makes a pigment good for microblading?
Individual artists will have their own preference but most will agree on the following qualities.
Safety - obviously it's not good for you or your client to use products with harmful ingredients. Repackaged industrial pigments should not be used for microblading and permanent makeup as some of the ingredients could pose a significant health risk when implanted in the skin.
Consistency / Viscosity - the pigment should be creamy enough to cling to the blade, yet runny enough to flow into the skin.
Stability - the pigment must last the lifetime of the treatment without prematurely discolouring or fading.
Colour Density - for predictable results, you need every hairstroke to register cleanly.
Cost - as professionals, we're looking for value on a cost per treatment basis. Of course, this is not the same as buying the cheapest pigment available but we have to watch the bottom line.
In beauty, reputation is a key factor in the success of any business or technician, and the products we use play a major part in building or destroying that reputation.
So, how do we go about deciding on which of the ever growing list of microblading products is actually worth pinning our reputation on?
In Europe, this has been made easier by regulations controlling what ingredients can and can't be put into tattoo and permanent makeup colours. ResAP 2008 is a European Union resolution that sets standards for the content of pigments and products should be tested to show that they comply with these standards. Products that don't comply with these basic safety standards are still sold but; be aware, you use them at you and your client's risk. A register of pigments that match these standards is maintained in Germany by CTL (Cosmetic Technologies Laboratory) who certify pigments that are safe to use in tattooing and permanent makeup.
In the UK, some local licensing authorities now require salons to provide product information and evidence that the pigments they use are compliant with current regulations before issuing or renewing licences. In the case of a client having an adverse outcome to treatment, the salon may have to show that their products are ResAP compliant or CTL certified to avoid prosecution or revocation of their licence. We don't know if this will become standard practice in all areas of the UK but why put your livelihood at risk?
In the USA there is no specific legislation like ResAP 2008 but, if a pigment is classed as a cosmetic, there are regulations on the contents issued by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), a government body that is concerned with consumer safety. As far as I can tell, there are no such controls outside Europe and the United States. Australia has regulation on a State/Territory level but no national requirement for testing. The Far East and China have no legal standards on the content of pigments, it's up to the manufacturers themselves to decide whether or not to test for safety.
My advice would be; to only use European manufactured, CTL certified or FDA approved pigments that can demonstrate that they have undergone safety testing. You might save a few pounds on one of the cheap pigments you can find with a web search, but even the most expensive pigment brands will only cost a couple of pounds per treatment. Check the source of your products and don't assume that; because it's sold in a certain country, it complies with the legal requirements. Pigments that are perfectly safe to use for industrial purposes are not necessarily safe to use in the skin.
After working with pigments designed for machine based PMU treatments for many years, I had got used to the slightly runny consistency that these colours have. It's only after trying out a pigment designed specifically for microblading that I realised how much easier they make the treatment. Because microblading colours have a slightly thicker, creamy viscosity, they cling better to the needle, meaning less need to dip, less mess, less waste and the colour tends to stay where you implant it. The opacity, or covering power, is great, so there's less influence of the skin undertone. In fact, some machine based PMU artists are now starting to discover the benefits of a creamy viscosity in their treatment.
The stability of the products that you use pays off in the long term. Who wants to spend their time correcting dissatisfied clients? Remember, each client is a walking billboard for your salon or service, they can make or break your business. We can't enforce the after-care guidance that we give to our clients but at least we can ensure that their treatment wont fade or discolour due to substandard pigments. Inorganic pigments, while less vibrant, are generally considered to have better lasting properties and are less likely to fade or shift colour due to UV exposure or chemical interaction. I could go on for hours about organic versus inorganic pigments but, in reality, many products contain a combination of organic (carbon base) and inorganic (metallic salts) and, if manufactured to a high standard, whether the pigment is organic or inorganic should not be the major reason for choice.
Before talking about colour density and cost, I think I should explain exactly what a microblading pigment is. PMU Pigments are insoluble particles of colour suspended in a base liquid or, to give it the proper term, an excipient. When implanted into the skin, the excipient is absorbed leaving behind the solid particles of colour. The density of actual pigment colour within the product is something that is often overlooked. It should, however, be one of the main deciding factors in choice of pigment. Some brands contain less actual pigment and more liquid, making them cheaper to produce but much less effective. You'll end up working twice as hard for half the result, it's a false economy.
At Dermagraph, we sell both Goldeneye and KremaKroma microblading pigments. The colour density of Goldeneye pigments is much less than KremaKroma but the price is less per bottle. Having used both brands extensively, the overall cost per treatment of the thicker, high density, KremaKroma pigments is about the same (you only need one drop per treatment) but they are so much easier to use.
My advice, if you are considering switching to a specialist microblading pigment, is to only buy European brands from reputable suppliers that are CTL certified and ResAP compliant. You've then got the peace of mind that what you are using is safety tested and manufactured in a clean, controlled environment. This protects your client from harm and you from any comebacks.
If you would like to find out more about the Dermagraph range of microblading pigments, including Goldeneye and KremaKroma, have a look at our microblading products page.