Updated: Nov 20, 2020

Permanent Makeup pigments are colored liquid concoctions that the skin retains for a period of time, and the body eventually breaks down and absorbes. This is the main difference between permanent makeup pigments and tattoo ink; ink cannot be broken down, so it remains in the skin forever, although its color might change.

I would like to introduce you with types of pigments. Basically, there are THREE types of permanent makeup pigments: Iron Oxide Pigments, Inorganic Pigments, Organic Pigments.


This type of pigment is not recommended by me but is still widely used in the Permanent Makeup industry. My research in this, brought me to the following finding:

Iron oxide is the most widely used pigment.

Some iron oxide pigments are unstable, not stay true to its color when inserted under the skin.

Companies supplying iron oxide pigments developed rectifying color to treat pigment that changed color.

Permanent makeup companies teach rectifying techniques to counter pigment color change and migration.

Reports have appeared from people having undergone an MRI and experiencing burning pain in the area where Permanent Makeup were implanted. The iron oxides in the pigment react to the magnetic fields and radio waves used in an MRI, causing this pain.


Inorganic pigments are derived from ores and it is also the best tolerated, BUT not all colors can be obtained from this substance and other metals have to be used. Inorganic pigment is thus a combination of organic and iron oxide elements to create an inorganic pigment that is more commonly used these days.


Organic pigments used to be made from living organisms, vegetable or animal, and are essentially carbon derivatives. Some organic pigments are made of plant extract. Carbon is the base of organic chemistry. This is not the safest option, as vegetable dyes can cause severe allergic reactions.

Nowadays, all available colors are made in the lab by combining carbon with different substances, most often nitrogen, hydrogen, and oxygen. By changing the ratios, the colors are modified.

Another common ingredient of organic pigments for permanent makeup is the hydroxide of alumina. This substance is not soluble, which helps color retention and makes the pigment heavier so it can set into the skin better.

Today’s formulation of organic pigments is hypo-allergenic, also due to the alumina hydroxide, which “shrouds” the pigment molecules and prevents it from reacting with the tissue directly.

A final note

Permanent makeup is still very much a gray area when it comes to regulations in most states, so you should be careful when choosing a PMU artist. As a client, you have every right to inquire about the brand of pigments used and its ingredients.

Please don't hesitate to ask your questions before the procedure!

Best regards,

Kristina Shumakovich | Permanent Makeup Artist

Your Beauty Is My Passion

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