Color Undertones Finally Understood

Color Undertones Finally Understood

Color theory seems to be the most intimidating part of learning and practicing permanent makeup. It is so overwhelming to new practitioners, and I always vow to make color selection and color theory as simple as possible to everyone, new and not so new.

The first thing I have done as part of this commitment is develop a very concise line of pigments. We simply do not need much more than a handful of brow colors to achieve every shade possible, easily. We accomplished just that with Face Inks. 

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When you get to use the same great colors over and over, you will achieve the confidence and control you are searching for. If you have a line of 80 brow colors, you will never master them. You will be selecting different colors from this extended line, possibly mix combinations, and never gain control, because you are not repeating them to see how they heal. Or, worse yet, you will find a few of the 80 pigments that work for you and watch the rest expire on your shelf. 

Our trainees say to me, “now, we have undertones to learn: both the undertone of the client and the undertone of the pigment we are going to use. I am a nervous wreck about this.”

Let’s simplify that first. Golden brow shades are neutral! Everyonecan wear a golden shade, whether they are warm or cool, and it’s perfect. They can change their hair color to any color of the rainbow, and their brows will still work. Those of you who have trained with us have seen me pick up Milk Chocolate, (previously Hershey Kiss) very often. This is because it is a golden brown. It’s not red and it’s not taupe. Red is warm and taupe is cool, unless taupe is warmed up with Butternut or Butterscotch. Then the taupe shades will become golden which again, is neutral. 

In my 26 years of experience, I have learned that to err on the side of warm is much smarter than to err on the side of cool. Cool eyebrows can heal gray, even a steel gray – and that becomes a correction. 

If my client were to ever return too warm after her initial procedure, 6-weeks later, on her touch up visit I can simply leave out the warming color I added or use a cooler pigment. However, if she returns gray, I have to correct the color, which will surely lighten it, and then bring her back for the correct shade. This is a very different experience for my client and indicates I’ve made a mistake. Warm residuals are not a mistake. It simply means that too much insurance was added to the formula. Leave out the Butternut or Butterscotch and proceed over the warm undertone and you should have golden eyebrows.

Warm Residuals: 

Years after an eyebrow procedure has worn, there will be some residual. It may be warm or it may be cool. What you must understand is that the client’s skin and its undertone play a big part in this, as well as the undertone of the pigment that was used. Skin is a live organ and has a life of its own. Take into consideration: undertone of client’s skin, undertone of pigment or warming color, climate, lifestyle, sun exposure, skin care products, medications, etc. All of this plays a part in how color heals in the skin. We can’t possibly be held responsible for an eyebrow that was tattooed years prior and is showing a residual color. In my language, this simply means they need a touch-up visit!

We receive calls and emails asking if our colors change after years. The honest answer is some do and some don’t, and it has to do with all of the above! We can’t guarantee otherwise. 

What if our client was olive-toned – a Fitzpatrick 3, for example- and wanted a medium to dark eyebrow. I would have to warm it up, since her olive tone would cool it off and I need to avoid a gray eyebrow. In years down the road, she may show a warm or cool residual. However, she loved her brows for 3 years since they were perfect. When she calls to tell us that she is seeing this residual, we explain it’s time for a touch-up! Practitioners must stop owning what happens to permanent makeup over time. There will always be a residual! Sometimes, the color you tattooed simply fades and lightens, causing it to appear as a lighter version of what you initially tattooed and sometimes, the undertone of the color is all that remains.

The undertones of each of the Face Inks colors are listed on our color charts. They are detailed and describe exactly how I use them.

Remember, your needle selection will also affect the color and its residual. Smaller needles, Slopes and Microblading will cool your colors off dramatically. Be sure to add a significant amount of warmth to these needle selections.

The point is, there is no such thing as a line of pigments that can guarantee that they do not change after years of wear. That would be like a hair color company guaranteeing that if you colored your hair once, it won’t change color. Of course it will! Shampoos, conditioners, sun, lifestyle and climate will all affect how it oxidizes, and thus how it changes color. 

One last thing about color: the climate has a great deal to do with your selection. Debi Diorio in Florida, who does more eyebrows than anyone I know, uses Soft Ash as her staple with small needles, and she does not have an issue with gray residuals. Most of her clients are fair. Here in NJ, I would see more gray residuals if I didn’t warm Soft Ash up with a ½ drop of Butterscotch. So, please, consider where you are practicing and the amount of sun your clients are living in, day to day.

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