How to perform semi-permanent brow treatments on skin of colour

Semi-permanent make-up (SPMU) has been helping people enhance their natural beauty for decades, but over the past few years it has become easier for SPMU artists to specialise in melanated skin. For years, artists were told by instructors that they could not perform permanent cosmetic services on skin of colour because they believed it healed poorly on darker skin.

Fortunately, this myth has been dispelled and artists around the world are now showing off beautifully healed results on skin of colour. However, if you want to perform eyebrow processes on clients with deeper skin tones then there are a few things you should keep in mind to ensure optimal healing.

Melanated skin tends to produce greater amounts of sebum and oil, which can encourage pigment migration, so to counteract the risk, artists should be careful not to oversaturate the skin with pigment. When too much pigment is deposited, the skin is overworked, and then brows could end up with an ashy or cool tone when healed. Regardless of skin tone, overworked skin can also become scarred or hyperpigmented.

Skin of colour can also have a severe inflammatory reaction to trauma, known as post-inflammatory hyperpigmentation (PIH), which results in skin discolouration. To minimise risk to clients, you should not jump around or work randomly – filling in one section at a time ensures that skin is evenly saturated and the end design is preserved.

You also need to pay attention to the visual cues. When working with lighter skin tones, artists will notice visual cues such as redness and bruising (which are signs of trauma). However, the cues can look different when working on skin of colour, making it easy for uninformed artists to accidentally overwork the skin.

When working with melanated skin, keep an eye out for blood, swelling and excessive lymph. If you see any of these, give your client’s skin a break and then switch to a slower speed. Adjust the needle so that it doesn’t snag, and ensure you’re applying gentle pressure. Also, be patient and take your time, as the slower pace allows the pigment to oxidise, making it easier to see the level of saturation. If you work too aggressively, this could result in hypopigmentation – loss of skin colour due to trauma – which can be permanent if the melanocytes are destroyed completely.

When performing the hair stroke technique, keep ample space between each stroke until the skin is healed. At that point, you can see which lines should be added during the follow-up appointment to complete the design. The best eyebrow techniques for skin of colour are machine stroke and powder eyebrows because they cause less trauma and allow the artist to increase definition. Microblading is not recommended on melanin-rich skin since
it is more likely to scar, discolour or result in keloid scarring.

When working on skin of colour, you can also choose from a wide variety of pigments – black and orange modifiers are not the only options. In fact, all-black pigment can lead to poor results when healed. So, to understand the science behind different pigments and how they affect healed results; artists must be knowledgeable in colour theory. Once you’ve mastered this, you’ll achieve brows that retain their warmth even when healed.


Dior Davenport

Dior Davenport is co-founder of the Black Micropigmentation Association. See her talk “Performing SPMU treatments on skin of colour” on the Skin & Advanced Treatments Stage at PB London on Monday, April 4, at 11am.