There are two types of pigments used in cosmetic tattoo inks – organic and inorganic. Organic uses lakes pigments, while inorganic pigments use iron oxides. Most manufacturers of cosmetic tattoo ink use a mixture of both, but they do not use traditional tattoo inks.
Traditional tattoo inks are famous for their boldness and brightness, whereas cosmetic tattoo inks are called pigments, and are softer tertiary colours. You do not want your eyebrows or lips to stand out so much from your face that they appear to walk into a room before you. Subtly is key.
What are cosmetic tattoos?
The skin is pierced with single, or multiple, sterile needles that contain various pigments to create a long-lasting mark on the skin. This is most commonly used for eyeliner, eyebrows and lips.
Ingredients of cosmetic tattoo inks
Iron and zinc oxides (inorganic) are a critical component of cosmetic tattoo pigments because oxides are very stable, nontoxic, and there are many colours available. Iron oxides are used in plenty of makeup and cosmetics (like mineral makeup), food, medication, and are a common ingredient in sunscreens. Iron oxide is non-reactive and inactive. Most human beings do not seem to be allergic to iron oxide.
Pigments are ground into a very fine powder, then added to a binder to create a product you use all the time. The oxides provide opacity, so solid colours, making them great for foundations. These oxides are used in various combinations to make different colours in foundation, blusher, lipstick and eye shadow. Tone is obtained by changes in temperature and other factors, and inorganic pigments are less intense in colour than organic pigments (lakes).
Lakes (organic) are certified colours, also known as metal salts. These colours are more intense than iron and zinc oxides.
Why not regular tattoo ink?
Traditional tattoo ink is not used, nor are vegetable pigments that can cause food-related allergic reactions due to the permanence of these inks, and their safety profile around delicate areas like the eyes. Instead, cosmetic-grade iron oxides and lakes are used, which tend to fade over time, which is useful when applying to our faces, which change – and need changing eyebrows.
Iron oxide (inorganic) pigments are more stable and less likely to migrate (causing blurring of a tattoo). Using organic pigments for cosmetic tattoos makes the makeup temporary, because it will fade. Traditional inks barely fade, meaning that as the normal ageing of the skin occurs, the drooping will also apply to the tattooed makeup (like an eyebrow), whereas if you get the easier-fading option, you can get a ‘facelift’ by getting your eyebrows up higher next time.
Getting cosmetic tattoos removed
Removing them is much more difficult because these tattoos aren’t made of the same pigments as a regular tattoo. Talk to your cosmetic doctor about cosmetic tattoo removal and what your options could be.