Color Theory Explained, Inside and Out!


Color corrections have become a huge part of our practices, especially with the increase of 2-day classes in permanent makeup. This is not enough time to learn and understand how colors heal in the skin.

The book Blue and Yellow Don’t Make Green, by Michael Wilcox, was first published in 1987. He was far ahead of his time. Little did he know it would become our greatest resource for understanding the intra-dermal color theory of permanent makeup.  Although, there was no reference to permanent makeup, Mr. Wilcox clearly points out that knowing the base of a color is critical when attempting to identify, create, or correct a color. If we attempt a correction using what we believe is a corrective color, but it has the wrong base, we will not get the color result we were looking for, thus the title of Mr. Wilcox’s book. If we take a blue eyebrow and attempt to correct it with a green based yellow as opposed to a warm based yellow, we will not see the expected result.

Let’s first touch on how and why some eyebrows change color. What happens to the initial color we tattooed into them?

I use hair color as a metaphor. Skin is not much different than hair when it comes to color fading out. If we were to color our hair, just once, and allow it to fade out, it would change color several times. Initially, the cuticle layers of the hairs would hold the color, then they would begin to let it go and it would eventually wear off. The initial color would morph into various shades, unrecognizable from the original color, if not touched-up.The same process happens when tattooing the face. Some of the color is carried away from the bottom of the tattoo by the lymphatic system and some fades and exfoliates from the surface. If the color is not touched-up, it can often morph into a very different color than we initially tattooed.

Why doesn’t this occur with body art tattoos? The face is a very different cellular composition or canvas than the rest of the body. The sebaceous activity is tremendous, and the regeneration of cells is, as well. The face is the most unforgiving area of the body when it comes to removing layers of skin via lasers, dermabrasion, etc. When it comes to resurfacing this canvas ends right at the jaw line. Therefore, we often see women whose faces appear years younger than their necks and décolletage.  The skin on the entire rest of the body is a very different cellular structure than the face. Also, with body art, primary ink colors are generally used and simply fade out a lighter version of themselves. Browns, taupe and blonde shades are not typically used in body art.  

There are many factors that can alter the initial color. Most importantly, the degree of melanin in the skin and the undertone of the skin.

Additional factors that create residual colors may be the result of:

  • Simply having the wrong color tattooed, initially.
  • Your client’s ethnicity (yes, even the ethnicity you can’t see in your client can affect their healed result as well as their residuals)
  • Climate– how much sun exposure they experience throughout the year. 
  • Medications– some medications may not have initial color distortion, but their residual color may be impacted.
  • Skin-care products– especially anti-aging which can grossly affect color, either immediately and often further out. Sun screens, Retinols, glycolic & hyaluronic acids, salicylic, and lactic products are now in every major brand, which is wonderful for anti-aging. However, they may affect our pigments.  
  • Skin conditions– such as rosacea and eczema leave skin red which affect the color.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

The most important pieces of information are to understand the base or undertone of the pigment color we are using as well as undertone of one’s skin.

To determine the undertone of the pigment, apply the pigment or formula you have selected onto white paper and run it under water. The pigment will wash away and there, you will see the stain or undertone of the pigment color.

To determine the undertone of one’s skin, it is best to purchase some pieces of fabric in both cool and warm tones and cut them into approximately 12”x25”. I often purchase suit lining since it is inexpensive and comes in several shades.


Cool Tone Fabric                                              Warm Tone Fabric

Silver                                           vs                   Gold (or you can use Steel Gray vs Gold)

Black                                           vs                   Warm Chocolate Brown

Bright White                                 vs                   Ivory (or Straw Color)

Pink                                             vs                  Peach

Fuchsia                                        vs                  Pumpkin Orange

Burgundy                                     vs                  Rust

Forest Green                               vs                  Granny Apple Green

Select at least 6 of these pairs (you can attach them if it’s easier to handle them) and place them across your client’s chest, right under their chin, one pair at a time. You will be able to see if they are responding to the cool color (on the left) or the warm color (on the right). There will always be one dominant side. No one is both! Sometimes, it shows up quickly and sometimes, you will repeat the process until the dominant side shows up. Just trust that it will show up.

What do you look for? Working as a make-over artist, for several years, I always found myself intrigued by the power of color. The right color will appear to be harmonious with their SKIN and the wrong or dissonant color will cast shadows, separate features, and ultimately bring forward any imperfections, such as sun spots, etc. In the right color, your eyes will go directly to their eyes, although the right color has nothing to do with their eye color. Their eyes will brighten and the whites of their eyes will become whiter while their complexion will take on an overall creamy appearance. The right colors will appear elegant and the wrong colors will appear garish.

Your clients will love this! It will answer so many of their questions about themselves and not trying to mimic the person in the magazine whose lipstick they are admiring. Knowing if they are warm or cool tone, allows them to clean out their makeup bags and sets them on an entirely new path with shopping for their wardrobes and this doesn’t take much longer than 10-minutes.  

Now, let’s look at the colors we typically see that require correction.

Remember, smear the formula over the brow, allow it to dry and wipe lightly with a dry Q-tip.  Look to see if this is the color you are trying to achieve. Adjust if necessary, smear again and wipe until you see the color you want to achieve.  

I always use a 5-Round needle for color corrections and move more quickly than if I were doing hair strokes or placing color in initially. Do not place color too deeply or you will not see the benefit of the color correction. 

Brow Colors

  • Black
  • Steel Gray
  • Light Gray
  • Purple/Shades of Mauve
  • Occasional Green
  • Pink
  • Red
  • Salmon
  • Coral

Black to Dark Brown

Face Inks Blue/Black Corrector (warm base) and if needed lighter, add New Pumpkin (warm base).  

I generally begin with a ½ and ½ formula so I can repeat it, easily, if necessary.

Black to Medium Brown

Face Inks Blue/Black Corrector (warm base) and Henna (warm base)

Steel Blue/Gray to Dark-Warm Brown

Face Inks Henna (warm base) and Butterscotch (warm base)

Steel Blue/Gray to Medium, Warm Brown

Face Inks Butterscotch (warm base) and Butternut (warm base) with more Butterscotch. If more red is needed add a drop or more of Henna.

Steel Blue/Gray to Light Brown or Dark Blonde

Face Inks Butternut (warm base) and a little Butterscotch (warm base)

Light Gray to Blonde

Face Inks Butternut and very little Butterscotch

Light Gray to Brown

If the gray tone is mostly faded, I would just add more Butterscotch (warm base) or Sunflower (warm base) to the formula I choose.

Purple/Shades of Mauve

Face Inks Purple Corrector will squelch purple and add Goldfinch (cool base) if you wish to lighten it, even more. Reddish, oily complexions with large pores can tend to pull mauve tones. We add Goldfinch (cool base) to our browns for these clients.

Occasional Green

Yes, it happens, from turquoise to shamrock. Face Inks Henna (warm base) is a great corrector for green. Depending on how intense the green is, Henna can either be added to your formula if the green is faded or used straight if the green is intense. Do not attempt this correction with a red lip pigment as it will not be effective.

Pink, Red, Salmon and Coral

These residuals are merely a cover-up in my practice. Pigment colors like, Face Inks Bamboo Blonde (cool base), Soft Ash (cool base), Milk Chocolate (neutral base) and Chocolate Fudge (cool base) are great to use over any warm tone.


I do not perform pigment removal if the color is within the design of the new eyebrow. I will ONLY remove what is outside that design. Color correction is much less traumatic than color removal. It is a quick deposit of color with a larger needle configuration that keeps the skin in a much more receptive state than skin that has been through a removal. This is just my experience and I can tell you, first hand, that color correction works!

Color correction for me, 28 years ago, was the most frightening thing I had ever done. Colors that had the ability to correct had to be mixed from what we had at that time. There was much more to this than merely understanding a color wheel. The right pigment formulas were not developed at this time. I remember practitioners experimenting with corrections using primary colors that mimicked the exact colors in a color wheel and created horrid results. Then, of course, we had and still have the attempts to correct and cover with white or light skin tones containing titanium dioxide. To correct color in permanent makeup, it requires a much more refined pigment application and today, we have it. Corrective colors are at your fingertips. They are merely a phone call or an email away from Face Inks.

you don’t have to allow your client to leave your office with a corrective color sitting on the surface of her eyebrows. Select a pigment shade that you want her to have following her correction and place it on top with a Q-tip. It will dry and can remain there for a few days while her corrective color is healing, assuming you can allow her to heal dry.

Color Correction

I just returned from a wonderful AAM Convention. Conversations always seem to lead to color corrections and asking how I would correct certain residuals. Every practitioner is faced with corrections, since there is so much work out there that requires it, today. We actually teach this in our Primary Training at Beau, for this very reason.

Black brows that need to be corrected to brown, gray brows that need to be corrected to a mid-range, warm brown, blondes that have dark brows that need to be made lighter and warmer, purple brows and even several shades of pink and coral are common. Although, green and turquoise eyebrows are rare, they may still present themselves to you.
Although correction may seem overwhelming, let’s break it into 3 categories to correct: Warm, Cool or Purple.

Correcting Warm
In my mind, warm is not a correction. To me, it’s a simple cover-up with a cool or taupe shade. I refer to taupes as being cool shades that range from light blondes, such as Face Inks Sandy Blonde to dark brunettes, such as Coffee Bean. Taupe has no warmth in it…no red or orange and may range from light to dark beiges through brows. It is safe to consider all taupe shades as being cool.

To cool down a warm shade, take a cool color and tattoo over the warmth. I generally use a 3-Slope or 3-Micro and with this cooler or taupe shade, I will create hair strokes through the warmth. If I see too much warmth showing through, I will shade in between the hair strokes with either the same color or a lighter version of it. I generally use the same color with a dilution and swipe the 3-Slope side to side to shade between the hairs. If you don’t use a Slope, use a 5 or 7 round or a 5-Magnum to shade. Move quickly, to avoid a solid eyebrow unless that is what your client is looking for. It’s that easy!

Now, let’s discuss the intensity of the orange or warm residual. If it is just a hint of warmth that may present itself due to a long overdue touch-up, I will ignore it. I will still add a small drop of warmth the taupe, especially, if I am using Face Inks Soft Ash. I may choose Butternut or Butterscotch for this small drop for my light to medium brunettes. I like to see a little gold in my taupes when they heal as opposed to tones that are too cool.

If the warm residual is very orange, red, pink or coral, I may choose to leave out any additional warmth. I let the residual work for me.

If I am using a darker brunette shade, I will warm it up since the darker taupe shades tend to be much cooler. I may choose a drop or two of henna or cocoa.

~ With all corrections….Smear your correcting color over the area you intend to correct. Allow it to dry! You should be able to see a preview of your outcome right then and there. If you cannot, adjust your formula until you do.

Correcting Cool
As I said, above, I don’t see warm residuals as a correction. They are a cover-up. However, cool tones are a different story. They must be corrected.

Let’s start with blondes with gray eyebrows. This cool residual appears harsh and lacking harmony with their skin tones and you will find that your eyes will continue to bounce back to these disturbing brows as much as you wish they wouldn’t. All they need is some warmth and voilà…you will suddenly see this person’s eyes and no longer see her brows first.

I generally correct them with Face Inks Butternut and Butterscotch, starting with half and half for simplicity, in the event I need to repeat this process. I smear it over, allow it to dry to see if it dries to my desired color, stamping out the gray.

If not, I will adjust it. Perhaps, I need more Butterscotch for more orange or more Butternut to lighten and warm. Once I see the correction I am looking for, I proceed with a 5-round and lightly go over just the area I wish to correct. If this client wants a fuller brow, I will add once I get her color corrected and not before. If she has areas of her eyebrow that are unflattering, such as; a low tail or a low front, I will perform a salt removal at the same time on these areas.

I do not apply the same pressure on a correction as I would an initial procedure. This would make the correction less effective. The idea is to place the corrective color over the color to be corrected and not get down into it.

The salt removal is the opposite. You want to get under the color you wish to lift out so there is more depth required for this procedure.

Brunettes that present gray eyebrows may need gold if they have medium brown hair or they may want or need red tones if they are more auburn.

For the gold, I will use Butterscotch and a small amount of Butternut. For Auburn or warmer hair that is naturally warm, I will choose, Cocoa and Butterscotch, or Henna and Butterscotch. I recommend trying them both to see the effect you are looking for.

To correct black eyebrows, I generally select Pumpkin and Henna and sometimes a drop of New Pumpkin. This eradicates the black and you will see this as you allow it to dry over the black area.

Correcting Purple
This is easy! Goldfinch straight or mixed with Milk Chocolate or try our new Purple Corrector. The difference in correcting purple tones as opposed to gray tones is purple already has red in it. Red and blue make purple. Avoid any corrector with red. It must be a green-yellow and not an orange yellow since orange is red and yellow. Our Purple Corrector has the green-yellow in it for an effective correction or use the goldfinch and a brown with no red. Soft ash and Goldfinch is another great purple corrector.

Correcting the Occasional Turquoise or Green
The opposite of green is red so although this is shocking when it presents itself, it is not difficult to correct. Adding Face Inks Henna to a warm brown generally does the trick. Do not use Taupe shades as this may bring you a deeper green tone. Be sure your selection is warm and smear it over the area and allow it to dry. It may not be as intense as you think and you don’t want to over-compensate the red tones. You surely don’t want to give her red brows if she needs a neutral shade.

Please Say NO to Mucosal Tattooing!

It is disturbing to see how many permanent makeup educators are still teaching mucosal tattooing or wet-line tattooing. I was fortunate enough to have Dr. Charles Zwerling, an ophthalmic surgeon, as my mentor when I began my career in permanent makeup. He warned the American Academy members of the dangers and contraindications of performing this procedure. He explained that each blink that we blink is assisted by a lacrimal system, which is our tears and a sebaceous system which is provided by the Meibomian Glands that line this mucosa or wet-line. 

There are approximately 35 Meibomian Glands that line each eyelid. They spread a sheath of oil across the globe of the eye with each blink. Once tattooed, they are scarred over and ultimately can produce dry eyes. They will never recover. As women mature, oils lessen, overall, especially in the eyes. The Meibomian Glands tend to dry up so any production of these precious oils become more necessary. 

I urge my fellow practitioners and my fellow trainers not to perform or teach this. Once I explain to my clients that request this procedure what can and will occur, they are over it. Sometimes, women want what they want and I find I must place some degree of fear in them and I do. I explain how necessary these glands are and how miserable women are that can no longer wear contact lenses or watch a movie without requiring eye drops. I tell them how dry eyes itch and burn and the discomfort is constant.

Pacemaker ALERT

Pacemaker ALERT

I recently had a client that came in for a unilateral areola tattoo, following her mastectomy and had pacemaker placed under his skin, approximately 5 inches from where the tattoo needed to be placed.  

Fortunately, we require medical clearance prior to areola tattooing and her cardiologist called to speak to me to explain that he was concerned that there could be interference from the machine so close to her pacemaker and called a medical supply company to deliver a magnetic donut that was to be placed over the pacemaker while I performed the tattoo procedure.

I had never come across this before. I feel compelled to share this information since this presents a significant risk. The medical clearance we require was a blessing. I would not have been able to proceed without getting such clearance.

Medical Clearance happens to be the law in NJ but I encourage everyone to do so. It is so simple. I just ask my client to bring one sentence from their doctor or surgeon on letterhead or prescription pad stating they are cleared for areola tattooing.


Rose Marie Beauchemin

The Hidden Power Of Color

The Hidden Power of Color

I love color! I love testing my eyes to color and even staring, not obviously at someone, but noticing what is so right about the colors they are wearing along with their jewelry, nail polish and hair color, or what is wrong. What my eyes are seeking is harmony, color harmony, seeing if the colors they are wearing are in harmony with their skin. 

We can look at someone and immediately notice they appear to be glowing. What is it that makes them glow? Their hair style may not be extraordinary, their clothing may not be outstanding but there is no denying they are simply glowing. 

We may look at the next person and notice they appear sallow, pale, bland or even worse yet, barely visible. What is it that is making them appear this way? They may be wearing a trendy and attractive outfit but why doesn’t it make them glow? 

What we are seeing is the profound effect of their color undertone.  The glowing woman got it right and happens to be wearing colors that have the same undertone as her skin or complexion and the sallow one did just the opposite. She wore colors with the opposite undertone and missed the boat entirely. 

When you bottom line color, there are only two undertones that encompass every color…Warm (Golden) and Cool (Blue).

Understanding and recognizing warm and cool colors is all the information we need to be able b to begin duplicating that glow, every single day.

How does that pertain to us and our practices?  Recognizing and selecting the correct undertone when we select our pigment colors for our client’s permanent eyebrows and permanent lip color is critical. 

Another great example is when you first see the color of the eyebrows or lips on a woman as opposed to seeing her entire face or eyes. We should always notice someone’s eyes first.  We may think it has everything to do with the brightness or the depth of the color but it is basically the undertone. Have you noticed your eyes keep going back to that color that is not in harmony? Now that I said this, you will notice it even more. 

If her eyebrows are too warm or too cool for her complexion and in the opposite undertone, that feature becomes dominant and keeps your eyes bouncing back to it. You cannot help it. This also occurs when a woman is wearing a lipstick that has the wrong undertone. Your eyes will be pulled to her lips even during a conversation and you can’t stop! Nothing is more frightful than a blue based burgundy or plum lipstick on a woman with a warm complexion. It is like nails scraping on a blackboard. Once your eyes become keen, it will actually almost hurt your eyes. Yes, I am exaggerating but you get point.  

This is not a judgmental exercise! This is simply how you sharpen your eyes so you can select the right PERMANENT eyebrows and the right lip color for your client. Our clients are entrusting us to know better than they know what looks well on them. We are the artists!!!   

To figure this out, it is simple, Take yourself to the nearest fabric store or you can even order small amounts (1/2 yd.) of the following colors online. Look for polyester that doesn’t fray on the edges or need to be hemmed. 

These following colors are considered Determinant Colors. These may not be what your client will run out to buy but they are extremely effective in figuring out if your client is Warm or Cool.  Your client will love this exercise! 

You will be amazed how many people make random purchases and countless, expensive makeup and wardrobe mistakes. This information is life-long! We are born with an undertone and it never, ever changes. We may respond to the lighter and brighter colors of our spectrum but it remains the same. Oh, and no one is both!!!!  One will always be dominant. It’s either Warm or Cool. So, you can see how valuable this information will be for your client.  

It only takes a few minutes! It’s quick and fun and often surprising to your client and even you. It happens to me, all the time. We can never make a guess! I always want the fabrics spread from shoulder to shoulder, across their chests to show me their skin response. Then, we can proceed with the most flattering of pigment color selection and have our clients invested in this decision. 

Work these sets of colors, one at a time across your client’s chest, shoulder to shoulder, right under their chin.  Take each set and one at a time compare the set of colors. Where does their complexion glow? Where do they get shadows and or dark circles? Is it Black or Brown? If you can’t tell, just move on. There will be a set that will quickly indicate whether your client is Warm or Cool. 

Cool vs. Warm

  • Jet Black vs. Chocolate Brown (be sure the brown is warm as opposed to a dark taupe) 
  • Light Pink vs. Light Peach
  • Stark White vs. Yellowish Ivory
  • Hot Pink vs. Pumpkin
  • Banana Yellow vs. Buttercup
  • Blue Red vs. Orange Red
  • Burgundy vs. Rust

If you happen to carry a makeup line in your salon or practice, ask your clients to return with all of their makeup and have a Dump Your Makeup Bag event. It is a great wine and cheese event and you will sell them the correct makeup. They will love you, forever. This is simple yet life changing since they now have direction when they shop. 

I hope you have fun with this tidbit of information. We would love to hear your comments!!!! 

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy New Year!!!

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