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.
- Steel Gray
- Light Gray
- Purple/Shades of Mauve
- Occasional Green
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.
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.