Tattoo Removal of Carbon Black

Technicians must be cautious when attempting the removal of Carbon Black. The following information will explain carbon black and also help understand what will occur.

Why Carbon Black can be a Bad Choice for Permanent Makeup Applications

Many years ago, the FDA banned the use of Carbon Black pigment for Makeup applications. The pigment could not pass FD&C standards because of heavy metal content and the carcinogen levels exceeded safety standards.

Technicians often wonder why they see deep black eyeliner from clients that have traveled to Indian and other countries, such a Columbia. The pigments in these countries are not regulated and the micron size of the Carbon Black particles are much larger than in those pigments now manufactured in the United States.

The MRI issues came about many years ago where clients received eyeliner before the US ban on the old larger particle Carbon pigment, the larger particle size in the pigment healed into the tattooed tissue and will not migrate throughout the body because it adheres to the dermis tissue. Unfortunately, these unregulated pigments pose a large risk to the client due to the high carcinogen levels. It may also be possible, but not conclusive or even consistent, that Iron Oxide added to the Black Carbon pigment have a metal content that is so high that during the MRI these larger particles react in such a way as to cause a tingling and burning sensation at the tattoo site. Personally, I have Iron Oxide and Carbon Black tattooed all over my body and have been the recipient of over 50 MIR’s, but I have never had any issue with tingling or burning during or after my MRI’s. It’s also my opinion that the few documented cases reflecting this concern may have been due to inadequate or faulty equipment or the skill level of the technician operating the MRI machine.

Black 1Carbon Black is one of the most important types of pigments having major industrial applications. The various types of production of Carbon Black prove that there are numerous processes available. The majority of all Carbon Black is made by employing the furnace process. Almost all types of Carbon Black contain oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen and sulfur.


Characteristics of Carbon Black

  • Average particle diameter: In most of the commercially-produced Carbon Blacks the range is from 0.01 to 0.4 micrometers (µm)
  • Average aggregate diameters: Ranges from 0.1- 0.8µm
  • Percentage of Elemental Carbon: Between 97 to 99
  • Particle size: The following graph shows the particle size of some Carbon Black pigments.

Over the years, manufactures needed to resolve the FD&C issue as Carbon Black pigment was essential in the beauty field and used in most all topical powders and pencils for eyeliner applications. Today, United States pigment manufacturers use FD&C powders for Permanent Makeup pigment. It is widely known that any type of pigment manufactured in the United States is not and has never been FDA approved to do any type of tattooing, therefore the safest scenario was to manufacture based upon pigment approved for the outside of the body. (FD&C Powders)

The manufacturers of the pigment decided that what they needed to do was to grind the particles small enough so as to reduce the heavy metals and carcinogens to a level that would pass the FDA standards. Once this was accomplished, we finally had our new Carbon Black to reintroduce into the market.

Keep in mind, the safety factor was resolved and the new Carbon Black was great for the outside of the body. Inside the body, however, the pigment micron size was now so small that the human tissue did not respond any longer as it does with Carbon Black made outside the United States. For example, one issue with a pigment some have nick-named “Indian Ink” is that it stays put but is near impossible to remove.

With the smaller micron size now on the market we have seen disastrous consequences from improper use regarding eyeliner procedures. The Carbon Black moves almost immediately in the human tissue and begins to migrate. If the pigment is inserted into the tissue at the wrong angle, it will migrate into surrounding tissue.

If the artist enters into the outer canthus of the eye, migration will bleed in a circle on the corner of the junction of the outer eye. Alternatively, if the pigment enters any part of the subcutaneous tissue, (subcutaneous tissue from Latin subcutaneous, meaning “beneath the skin”), the pigment will run completely under the skin and stain much of the surrounding tissue gray or blue. In many cases, this can never be repaired and is catastrophic and ruin the client’s face permanently. The outer canthus has very thin skin and the levels of tissue in some cases can be like rice paper, therefore the outer corners of the eye should never be connected with any type pigment. There is also the possibility to enter the Lacrimal Gland. Tattooing what is called “wings” is also a mistake due to all of these risks and the future condition of the tissue as the person ages.

The technician must be aware that the hypertonic action of a correctly preformed removal session will release the pigment from microscopic scar tissue. This can and in most cases cause some migration. The issue will be if the artist can truly target the black and contain movement.

Directly after the removal session ice packs should be applied to help shrink the tissue and help contain the pigment. This photo shows after an attempt to do some removal on the outer edge of the eye and the migration from the carbon black increased because the technician failed to follow protocol.

EYE1Carbon Black can only be removed by well trained technicians and only round shader needle configurations should be used. If the technician uses a liner configuration it will cause damage to the tissue and release the carbon black into the surround tissue.

John Hashey
A+Ocean LLC