Skin Structure & Permanent Makeup

Those saying our body is a temple are nothing but right. We are grateful to it for being the repository of the very essence of our life. And just like a temple has walls that protect what’s the most precious inside from the external dangers, so does our skin. It is the initial barrier to infection, environmental aggressiveness, sunlight, dehydration, chemicals and other challenges of everyday.

Any permanent makeup artist has to understand what happens in all the skin layers after pigment has been placed.

Our skin can broadly be divided into epidermis (the upper layer) and dermis (the lower layer). Still, epidermis consists of several layers itself:

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Stratum corneum, which is technically 15-20 layers of dead flattened cells surrounded by protein envelope and lipids.

Stratum lucidum, which is a thin layer of dead cells transparent under the microscope.

Stratum granulosum, a thin layer where cells are being prepared for the upper migration. It is in this layer that cells lose their organelles and nuclei (in other words, they die) and get a so-called “lipid envelope” that contributes to the barrier function of skin.

Stratum spinosum is the largest layer. It is in this layer that the microscopic channel produced by the needle fills up with residual pigment the most.

Stratum basale is the layer where cells are mitotically active (simply put, they divide). From this layer the upward cell migration starts.

The dermis is separated from the stratum basale by a thin basement membrane.

It is vital to learn about skin layers to prevent excessive pigment fading. The key factor for pigment stability turns out to be the depth of placement. The epidermis cannot retain tattoo pigment since the epidermal cells are prone to migration. As they move towards the surface the residual pigment that they contain will naturally exfoliate with the outer layer of the dead cells. Eventually all epidermal layers will get rid of pigment particles in about 2-3 months, but the speed of pigment turnout will vary in each individual. Under this time the patient will still be noticing changes in the appearance of their permanent makeup due to a number of pigment particles being on their way to the stratum corneum.

The best results are achieved when pigment is placed in the upper third of the dermis. If the needle is injected deeper, the pigment will appear bluish/greenish because of the wrong light refraction or not be visible at all due to the fact that light waves cannot penetrate this depth. The only difficulty is presented by the application technique. It is problematic for the beginner artist to control the depth of pigment placement manually, by the feel of skin’s resistance. It becomes even more complicated since the thickness of epidermis varies in different parts of the body and even alongside the same area. Thus, compared to other parts, eyelids have one of the thinnest epidermises, next come eyebrows and temples. It should also be noticed that the epithelium of the lip mucosa is thicker than that of the skin. Finally, scars and contractions are much thicker than undamaged skin.

The way the needle is inserted and is retracted from the skin affects the efficiency of tattooing as it creates a so-called skin penetration opening. Some artists believe that in order to minimize the leaking of pigment onto the surface, the needle should penetrate the skin on 45˚ angle. This way, the skin penetration opening closes tighter and retains more pigment in comparison to when the needle enters on the angle of 80-90˚.

Pigment injection induces a strong defensive reaction in the body. Some soluble components of the pigment can be quickly absorbed and eliminated by the lymphatic system. Insoluble components are taken away by the phagocytic cells. Since the majority of them is concentrated on the epidermal-dermal border, the pigment particles from stratum basale tend to being taken away, as well as some pigment from the dermis, although its quantity is insignificant.

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