What is Really in That Scalp Micropigmentation Pigment?

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Tires, Rubber soles, Dry batteries and Inks

Scalp micropigmentation providers claim that their pigments/inks are natural, organic, hypo-allergenic, specially made, etc.  But the truth is that these companies don't really have a clue what is in the pigments they are putting under your scalp skin.  This article will tell you what they don't tell you.

NOTE:  Weston developed his vegan pigments in 1989 for the use in permanent cosmetics.  These same base pigments are used today under the Weston brand name of SMART Pigments.  All ingredients are completely safe with no carcinogens, heavy metals nor animal by-products.  Weston submitted his pigments to the FDA in 2012 for voluntary registration. 

What you will read here does NOT pertain to Weston’s pigments; but rather to most SMP-MS pigments that are used.

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Firstly, let’s clear the air.  There are no federal regulations in the USA on tattoo ink.  Technically, tattoo ink is not ink.  They are composed of pigments that are suspended in a carrier solution.  That while the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates substances people place on their skin, the FDA does not regulate pigments/inks that are placed under the skin. The FDA considers the pigments/inks used tattoos and permanent makeup, to be cosmetics.  That means you must trust the practitioner who is providing the scalp micropigmentation application to use safe pigments/inks.

The FDA also does not require the pigment/ink manufacturers to reveal all the ingredients in their products.   So don’t let any SMP-MS provider tell you differently that his inks/pigments are FDA approved.  Most SMP-MS companies themselves don’t have any idea what is really in their pigments that are applying to your scalp; only reading what is partially disclosed on the label.

Whether it is called SMP ink/pigment, permanent cosmetic pigment/ink, tattoo ink/pigment; it is all the same.  However, not all ink/pigment is created equal. In many cases, the color for your SMP-MS is an unscrupulous hiding place for animal products and other unsavory ingredients.  I am expecting that SMP-MS providers will now appropriate my information from this article and apply this to their own inks/pigments to appear educated on their ingredients.

These inks/pigments consist of two basic parts; carrier and pigment.


Let’s discuss the first component of inks/pigments.  The carrier is the liquid(s) that is added to the pigment to keep it evenly distributed in a fluid.   The carrier is also meant to inhibit the growth of pathogens, to prevent clumping of pigment, and to aid in application under the skin. Carrier ingredients can contain dangerous substances such as antifreeze, formaldehyde, methanol, denatured alcohols, and other aldehydes. Among the most popular application for these carriers are tattoo/SMP-MS inks.

NOTE:  The carriers in Weston’s pigments are all plant-based and none of the listed toxic carriers below are used:

Beware of these toxic ingredients that are used for carriers in most tattoo and scalp micropigmentation applications:

Ethyl alcohol (ethanol):

Ethyl alcohol is an industrial chemical; it is used as a solvent and as an additive to automotive gasoline.

Propylene glycol:

A petroleum derivative that act as a solvent, surfactant and wetting agents. This can easily penetrate the skin, and can weaken protein and cellular structure. In fact, PG penetrates the skin so quickly that the EPA warns factory workers to avoid skin contact, to prevent brain, liver, and kidney abnormalities.

Denatured alcohol:

Is used as a solvent and as fuel for alcohol burners and camping stoves.  Can burn the skin easily.

Methyl alcohol, methanol and isopropyl alcohol (rubbing alcohol):

This chemical is very closely related to the familiar substance ethanol or drinking alcohol, which is found in beer, wine, and hard liquor.  Most uses are common household uses as a cleaning agent.

Ethylene glycol:

A colorless, odorless, viscous dihydroxy alcohol. It has a sweet taste, but poisonous when ingested.  It is used as an antifreeze and coolant.


A colorless, flammable, strong-smelling chemical that is used in building materials and to produce many household products.  Also used as a laboratory preservative for animal specimens.


The second component are pigments that are very fine powders, many of which are derived from plastics.  But be aware that the so-called “organic” pigments can and do contain heavy metals.  So don’t be fooled by this term.  Heavy metals (including lead, antimony, beryllium, chromium, cobalt nickel and arsenic) are categorized as carcinogenic and can cause serious skin reactions in some people.

SMP Pigment
Most carbon black pigments are a form of elemental carbon that are also used in rubber products (mainly tires), paints, plastics, coatings, printer ink, pens and other printing applications.

Carbon Black:  The most common color used on the scalp are pigments in the carbon black category (including grey washes), most of which are carcinogenic.   Carbon black is a material produced by the incomplete combustion (soot) of heavy petroleum products such as FCC tar, coal tar and ethylene cracking tar.  Most are a form of elemental carbon that are also used in rubber products (mainly tires), paints, plastics, coatings, printer ink, pens and other printing applications.  Carbon-based black inks have levels of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), a series of chemicals known to be carcinogens.

There are different types of carbon black so you need to inquire what specific type of carbon black is in your practitioner’s ink/pigment.  It is highly unlikely that they even know other than what they may learn from this article.

NOTE:  The carbon black used in Weston’s pigments are all plant-based and none are derived from the carcinogenic materials covered above.

Pigments can also be made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene.

Colored Pigments:  Colored ink/pigments may be made from titanium dioxide, lead, chromium, nickel, iron oxides and ash. Other pigment powder colors can consist of barium, copper, mercury, amines and various colorants. However, pigments that have a metal base also can cause allergic reactions.

Pigments can also be made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), a type of heat-resistant plastic that is used to make luggage, pipe fittings and appliance parts.  People can experience allergic reactions to these plastic-based pigments.

NOTE:  The colored pigments used in Weston’s pigments are all plant-based and none are derived from carcinogenic plastics and heavy metals covered above.

THE BOTTOM LINE:  Every brand of tattoo ink/pigment has different ingredients and since the manufacturers don’t have to tell you what’s in their products, it is clearly a case of buyer beware. Regardless of what they claim, the well-known multi-session providers have not developed their own ink/pigments.  They have merely relabeled commercially-available products.  To learn more about Weston's SMART Pigments, click HERE.

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Post Author and Date: Weston System, April 26, 2018


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