Tips for Better Pigment Retention

Tips for Better Pigment Retention

We frequently answer questions regarding difficulty with pigment retention and/or why pigment sometimes disappears almost completely. 

While this is a common complaint of newer artists and particular skin types are more prone than others to retention issues, we’ve all had that client who surprises us and returns with little to no pigment at all, for no obvious reason. Many artists are quick to blame their pigment brand and jump to another line in attempts to solve the issue, but this is rarely the cause if you're using a reputable brand. So, what can you do? 

Years ago we didn’t have permanent makeup forums or social media to help us trouble shoot, and we certainly didn’t have an instructor available for ongoing support. So we did what everyone did when they had an issue back then, we worked it out using logic combined with trial and error.

The logic half involves education and begins with a thorough understanding of the skin, the healing process, and what can affect the outcome. This is followed by understanding the equipment you're using and the technical differences in needles, machine types, machine settings and how all of this is affected by your personal technique, hand speed and pressure.

Lack of pigment retention is almost always one of two things and, contrary to what Facebook forums would have you believe, aftercare is NOT one of them. The two main issues are:

  1. overworked skin, or
  2. incorrect depth

and this can be quickly assessed by asking your client about their healing process. An excess of redness, scabbing or a longer healing process will usually indicate overworked skin, whereas a shorter healing time and pigment that quickly lifts generally indicates the work was too shallow. Although there are other factors involved, needle selection greatly affects both of these.

Understanding needles & techniques can help.

Single needles or nano (very small diameter) needles are the current trend in a variety of brow shading, eyeliner and lip techniques. Although at first it seems logical that a tinier needle would create less trauma, the fact is that the skin is much less resistant to smaller needles so they actually penetrate the skin deeper. If you tend to have a heavy hand or pass over the skin a few too many times during your procedure, it is very easy to overwork the skin. Correcting this issue requires lightening your pressure and speed.

Retention issues with single or nano needles can also be caused by the opposite. Hand pressure that is too light, a machine with too soft a "hit", or a needle not extended far enough might only implant pigment into the epidermis, where it will exfoliate during the normal healing process. Correcting this issue will require slightly more pressure, ensuring there is enough needle exposed to adequately penetrate the skin and good old-fashioned practice.

Larger groupings of needles, or shader needles with shorter tapers, seem that because they are larger they will create more trauma but the opposite is true. The skin resistance to these needles is greater, so penetration depth is often better controlled.

Next time you are struggling with retention:

  • If your work was too shallow, try a liner needle instead of a shader or a smaller needle needle size
  • If the skin was overworked, try using a larger needle or grouping, or a shader needle.

Go back to the education part of logic. Take the time to learn about needle options so you are equipped to deal with any problems that come your way.

Below are some of our courses that can offer a good understanding of needles and techniques for better retention. 

Our online Machines, Needles and More course offers a thorough breakdown of needle types and their uses plus we review a variety of skin types and how to adjust your needles accordingly.

Online Machine Brow Shading with Pointillism is a MUST for any technician who is struggling with retention for problem skin. This technique caters to all skin types and is our number one most popular course! 

Our Machine Brow Shading 2 Day hands-on course covers all 3 techniques for brow shading to ensure you can cater to all skin types. This intense 2 day education will cover everything you need to know about needles, pigment type and correct techniques to equip you for all clients. 


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