Skin Type and PMU: How to Determine Clients’ Skin Types & How They Affect Brow Tattoos

By Emily M.| Last updated on May 26, 2022
Skin Type and PMU: How Different Skin Types Affect Brow Tattoos
⏱️ 6 min read

Skin type is a factor that affects the results of eyebrow PMU to a great extent. It determines how easily the pigments will be implanted into the skin, how well they’ll be retained, how the strokes will turn out (in case of hair stroke brows), and how long the effects will last.

That’s why it’s very important for PMU artists to know skin types through and through, and for clients to be informed about the correlation between skin type and PMU so they choose the right treatment and be realistic with their expectations.

Here’s everything you need to know about how skin type is determined and why PMU can be problematic for certain skin types.

How Are Skin Type and PMU Connected?

With all brow PMU procedures, the pigments are deposited into the dermis, the second layer of the skin. This is where pigments look their best and fade the way they’re supposed to.

The perfect implementation depth, so-called sweet spot, is quite close to the surface of the skin, and the natural processes of skin regeneration and sebum production and secretion that go on in the dermis and epidermis affect the results.

PMU Implementation Depth in the Skin

What Skin Types Are There?

The skin type is primarily determined by the amount of sebum the skin produces, so we distinguish between 3 skin types:

  • Dry skin
  • Normal skin
  • Combination skin
  • Oily skin.

Let’s go through the properties of each skin type (but bear in mind that skin type is more like a scale – each person’s skin is unique and may not fall neatly into the basic categories):

Dry Skin

Dry skin doesn’t produce enough sebum to create a protective barrier. The lipids found in sebum are crucial to retaining moisture in the deeper layers, and if they’re lacking, the skin looks and feels dry, and can be flaky. Tightness and itching are common for dry skin. Fine lines and wrinkles are more prominent.

It’s usually sensitive and can get irritated easily when it comes in contact with various products.

Normal Skin

Normal skin is well balanced. Its pores aren’t prominent so it looks smooth, and it produces just enough sebum to maintain a healthy skin barrier. It’s not as prone to blemishes or acne as oily skin.

Combination Skin

With combination skin, the T zone – the chin, nose, and forehead – are oilier than the rest of the face, which can be normal to dry. The oiliness of the area varies, but it’s recognized by larger pores and shininess halfway through the day. The size of the T zone can also vary, from very localized oiliness, to a wider area.

Oily Skin

The main property of oily skin is sebum overproduction. The skin produces so much sebum it gets shiny very quickly and evenly in all areas of the face. The pores are large and visible. It’s prone to comedones (blackhead and whitehead) formation and acne, as the excessive sebum clogs the pores.

Different Skin Types - Dry Skin, Sensitive Skin, Combination Skin, Oily Skin

How Is Skin Type Determined?

The first thing to look out for is the size and the visibility of the pores. Large pores usually signal combination to oily skin.

A very easy test for determining the skin type is to wash the face with a mild cleanser, and leave it be without any products for a few hours. Then, assess it:

  • If it feels tight and looks reddish and irritated, it’s dry.
  • If it gets shiny in the T zone, it’s combination.
  • If it gets shiny everywhere, it’s oily.
  • If it doesn’t show any of those signs, but rather looks relatively matte and soft, it’s likely normal.

PMUHub Tip – Consult the Fitzpatrick Scale

The Fitzpatrick Scale categorizes different skin into 6 types based primarily on how they react to sunlight exposure, but it’s a useful shortcut for PMU artists to give an educated guess on other properties of the skin. Darker skin tones encompassed by Fitz categories 5 and 6 are often on the oilier side.

Fitzpatrick Scale - Different Skin Types

Why Is Oily Skin Type Problematic for PMU?

While dry and normal skin are perfect for microblading and other PMU procedures, combination and oily skin types can be challenging.

Oily skin affects the implementation process, the look of the results, and the longevity of the effects. How? Let’s explain each point.

The Implementation Process

If the client’s skin produces a lot of sebum, it is harder to implement pigments into it. The sebum pushes the pigments out, and it can significantly diminish the retention during healing. That’s why oily skin may need more than the standard 2 sessions to achieve the desired color intensity.

This issue is more prominent with microblading than with machine PMU, as the wide incisions made produce more lymph than the punctures made with a machine, and that, combined with excessive sebum, means less pigment can stay in the skin – more of it will be lifted during healing.

Why Is Oily Skin Type Problematic for PMU?Image source: Instagram @phimaster_hayleymcgowan

The Crispness of the Results

Oily skin has large pores, so it’s not exactly a smooth surface. The pores give the skin texture, and this texture can sort of blur the pigments.

This too is a bigger issue with microblading than it is for machine PMU. As the blade opens up the skin, the pigments sort of bleed into the pores, and the strokes end up looking wider and not as defined as you’d want them. The bleeding out may not happen immediately – pigments often move around over time in oily skin.

The Longevity of the Results

Even after the pigments settle into the skin, the sebum keeps pushing them out over time. The more sebum is produced, the faster the pigments are pushed out, and as a result, the effects fade away faster.

It won’t come as a surprise to note that this too is more prominent with microblading than machine brows. Microblading can fade away as fast as 9 months after the treatment from oily skin.

This is not that big a problem, but it does mean more frequent touch ups for the client.

Also Important – Skin Thickness

The thickness of the skin in the brow area is also important and it varies from client to client. It can even vary in different parts of the brow on the same client. For example, the skin of the brow tails is often thinner than the skin of the heads.

Skin thickness determines how deep the PMU tool should go in order to deposit pigments at the proper depth. Unfortunately, there’s no shortcut to determining thickness at a glance. Mature skin tends to be thinner, but this is not a rule.

That’s why it’s important to start slow. In the case of microblading, the first strokes should be light. The right depth can be recognized by pinpoint bleeding and good pigment retention between the passes.

So, If Microblading Isn’t a Great Option, What Works Better?

For combination to oily skin, any style of machine brows works better:

Nano Brows

Nano brows are strokes made with a machine. The stroke is actually a series of tiny dots rather than a line made by dragging the blade through the skin.

Nano Brows Are Strokes Made With A MachineImage source: Instagram @zeynepsarii_phiacademy

Combo Brows

Combo brows combine strokes made with a blade or a machine with shading between them. The shade camouflages the blurring of the strokes, and even if the strokes fade away quickly, the shading remains.

Combo Brows Combine Strokes Made With A Blade Or A Machine With Shading Between ThemImage source: Instagram @patrycjakaskow.pmu

Powder Ombre Brows

Powder brows or ombre brows imply shading only. They last longer and there’s no visible pigment migration.

Powder Brows Or Ombre Brows Imply Shading OnlyImage source: Instagram @thedoctorbrow

What About Other Skin Types?

Any style of brow PMU works for dry and normal skin. Retention is usually very good. It’s important to know, though, that dry skin is often sensitive, so patch testing all products that will be used is very important. It might also give a more dramatic reaction to the treatment.

Final Note

Clients with all skin types often come to artists asking for microblading not knowing that there are other options available. Communication is key in this business, and artists need to educate their clients, explain the correlation between skin type and PMU, and point them towards treatments that will work better.

So if there are any potential clients reading this text – definitely take your artist’s input into consideration!

But if a client is stone-set on microblading, you can find tips on how microblading on oily skin should be done in this guide.

Cover image source: Freepik



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