What is too deep and what is too shallow?

What is your target depth? Traditional training tells you to target the base of the epidermis and top of the dermis. Is this realistic?

Probably the biggest single technical issue with cosmetic tattooing is the depth of pigment placement. Too deep and the pigment will go blue-grey and migrate into a blurry mess. Too shallow and those beautiful brows or luscious lips will fade out in a matter of weeks.

How thick is the epidermis? Some of you may have been taught that it is 0.5mm thick, or even 1.5mm. It is that thick on the soles of the feet, but we’re not tattooing there. On the eyelids it is 0.05mm thick, and maybe thinner on a more mature client. What does that look like? Less than the thickness of a sheet of regular photocopy paper. The epidermis on the brows and lips is not much thicker (maybe up to 0.1mm; a sheet of photocopy paper). To try and place your pigment at just below 0.1mm would be almost impossible, and probably result in rapid pigment loss.

Cosmetic tattoo pigment placement, with skin layers

So where are we placing pigment? In the papillary dermis, at a depth of 0.5mm or so. The dermis is divided into two layers. The papillary dermis (upper layer), and the reticular dermis (lower layer). In the reticular dermis there are fatty cells, hair follicles and sweat glands, and more vasculature (blood and lymph vessels). You don’t want your pigment here, it will migrate.

The papillary dermis is a tougher layer than the reticular dermis, so it offers more resistance. Cosmetic tattooists will also recognise when they are in the ‘sweet spot’ for pigment placement by the sound of the machine, the colour of the pigment in the skin, and ques such as minimal blood and/or bruising.

P.S. The skin layers are not nice and even like the pictures in the textbooks! Dive deeper and take a look under the surface of the skin with educational opportunities like the Diploma of Cosmetic Tattooing.


This article has been put together in partnership with Registered Training Organisation, THink Aesthetics. Information discussed was extracted from THink Aesthetics' Diploma of Cosmetic Tattooing, Treatment Theory Module.

Want to keep learning about all things skin & technique? Take a look at the Diploma of Cosmetic Tattooing - the most comprehensive pmu education available.

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

February 09, 2023 — THink Aesthetics

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What is a 'tech talk'?

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.