Pigment types: A fusion of confusion

It used to be simple. Pigments were just pigments, right? Some gave vibrant colours that had amazing retention (red flag), some didn't hold and we were all just searching for that pigment that faded just right. To some extent it was simple, but also misunderstood. Even the simple term 'organic' was typically confusingly promoted on the basis of being environmentally friendly.

With the launch of the ‘new’ REACH regulations in the European Union, several pigment brands have changed their formulations, and with the new mixtures have come new terms to describe them. If you’re confused, here’s some simple words of explanation:

  • Organic: These pigments contain colours that are based on carbon chemicals (nothing to do with being environmentally friendly or ‘from the earth’).
  • Inorganic: These pigments (or specifically the colours in them) do no contain carbon. Mostly they are metal oxides, such as iron oxide and titanium dioxide.
  • Fusion: A mixture of inorganic and organic colours.
  • Hybrid: Same. A mixture of inorganic and organic colours. This is our preference to describe a mixture. Fusion in a scientific sense means to physically bond things together (different).


We have recently seen an increase in cosmetic tattoo technicians recognising and promoting the term 'hybrid' but in fact, most cosmetic tattoo pigments have been hybrids for several years! For example, titanium dioxide (white) is an inorganic colour that is in 70 to 80% of pigments because it makes the colour lighter, or the mixture opaque. Being opaque makes the tattoo look more solid and reduces the risk of skin undertone showing through. You won't find titanium dioxide in a true organic pigment.

With the 2022 REACH regulations, a lot of organic colours were restricted (banned, in a scientific way). This is because there were known to be either carcinogenic or otherwise a bit nasty, or they would break-down into something nasty. These organic colours had been used in a lot of popular pigment brands due to their retention power and vibrancy. Brands had to make changes, and several have chosen to use more inorganic colours in their mixtures.

Most pigments are now hybrid, more than ever. Of course, when things change marketing people look for the upside, hence new descriptions and titles appear. It is important now, more than ever, to build the knowledge and education to guide you through industry changes.


Found this deep dive interesting? Stay tuned to our Tech Talks for more in developments in pigments, or better still, do our diploma unit Apply knowledge of colour theory and pigmentology (new word, we didn’t invent it) to cosmetic tattooing.

Learn more about the Diploma and start your journey of better education today.

August 21, 2023 — THink Aesthetics


Chalatice Moody said:

Awesome read, thank you.

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THink Tech Talks is our informative blog series that discusses technical industry news, training advise and more! Written in partnership with THink Aesthetics, an industry-leading training school that specialises in all things cosmetic tattooing.