Did you know that stretching the skin properly is one of the most important yet most overlooked and under-taught skills in PMU?
Do you have skippy lines or blank and uneven spots? The lack of a great stretch may be a contributor! Unless you stretch properly and get the skin pinned down firmly, the quality of your deposit will be subpar and inefficient. This is the cause of one of the biggest frustrations and complaints heard from PMU artists - not being able to “get the colour in the skin”.
Unfortunately, this skill is under-taught because most of the focus is aimed at the tattooing technique but know that the final tattooing result largely depends on the effectiveness of the stretch of the opposing hand.
What is a good stretch? It’s when the skin is stretched taut like a drum and there is NO BOUNCE in the skin during tattooing.
When a good, taut, stretch is in place, it flattens the skin, allowing the needle to enter easily and create clean and smooth lines, pixels, and shading. What you get is a clean pigment deposit, less trauma, great retention, and shorter working times.
When your stretch is subpar, it causes you to press harder to implant the pigment which in turn, implants the pigment too deep, resulting in poor healed results.
Here’s an example of this theory in everyday life: imagine trying to write down a phone number on a loose napkin. Then, contrast that with writing on a napkin that you hold and pin down firmly. On the loose napkin, your pen will skip around, unable to form smooth numbers and curves while you retrace faint numbers, tugging at the napkin. You will press harder trying to write better but to no avail. Now, contrast that to writing on a flat napkin that you hold down firmly - you’re able to write smoothly and effortlessly, without having to press hard or retrace. Big difference right?
The goal of proper stretching is to create TENSION. Imagine an inflated balloon vs. a deflated balloon. If you were to pop these balloons using a needle, which balloon requires more force/pressure?
The inflated balloon’s “skin” is under a lot more tension, so it will pop as soon as it’s pricked. Only the tip of the needle needs to touch the surface of the inflated balloon, whereas the deflated balloon will require more force/pressure to pop.
The same theory can be applied to any PMU procedure. When you are stretching the skin in taut stretches, you are applying TENSION to the skin and less pressure is required to implant the pigment as only the tip of the needle needs to touch the skin.
When the skin is not fully stretched, more pressure is required to implant the pigment as there is less tension in the skin. As a result, needle insertion will be deeper and uneven. This will cause more pain and trauma to the skin and yield uneven healed results.
Here are the signs of good stretching:
Here are the signs of bad stretching:
Weak colour deposit from bad stretching
Uneven colour deposit from poor stretching
Here are some top PMU skin stretching techniques to flatten the skin to form a taut surface. Note that these techniques apply to the eyebrows, eyes, and lips universally.
3-point stretch while shading with The Collective Instructor Tina Davies
The quality of your stretching will determine the quality of your healed work. It is really important to develop or adapt your technique to encompass these stretching habits:
The 3 point stretch during microblading with The Collective Instructor, Tina Davies
The 3 point stretch during microblading with The Collective Instructor, Tina Davies
When the 3-point stretch is done properly with microblading, you can instantly see the strokes in the skin. Look for the proper depth into the upper dermis, which I call the “sweet spot”.
Pro Tip: The “sweet spot” looks like even-depth paper cuts that may have pinpoint bleeding like in the video above. You can pull open and close the skin to look for it.
3 point eyeliner stretching with The Collective Instructor, Tiffany Chen
Eyeliner is the hands-down THE hardest area to stretch. The skin is often lax, wrinkly, and crepe-y, plus it’s extremely intimating to work around a client’s eyes. 90% of problems with retention in this area are due to poor stretch as your needle will only deposit into the epidermis as your needle jumps around wrinkles and lax skin, unable to reach the upper dermis.
Your “working window” is the area where your fingers come together to flatten the skin. The smaller the window, the less movement in the skin.
If your working window is big with your finger wide apart, there will be more movement in the skin. Be aware of your window at all times, focusing on keeping to no greater than 1cm-2cm sections at all times.
Keeping the working window small during shading with The Collective Instructor, Tina Davies
Stretching with cotton with The Collective Instructor, Jasmine Diebelius
As soon as blood or fluids are introduced to the skin, it will add an element of slip to the working area, and before you know it, your fingers are slipping and your stretch is losing its effectiveness. To prevent this:
Poor stretch is usually THE biggest factor for lack of good pigment deposit in the lips. The lip tissue is an extremely soft and wrinkly tissue and one of the most challenging areas to stretch. Lack of good stretching will lead to little to no deposit even if the lips are worked on for hours on end. This is especially important in cases when the lip tissue is thin/lacking collagen.
Work smarter and not harder by using lip guards, lip rolls, or gauze in the mouth to provide additional “firm up” support. It’s also a lot less work on your stretching hand! Lip guards are a must when your client has uneven teeth. Remember that you want to optimize for a flat surface which will be very challenging if your client has uneven teeth.
Remember these handy tips in conjunction with the use of a mouthguard:
The “squeeze and pinch” stretch is done by gently pinching the skin together into a roll to create TENSION in the skin. This technique will “bunch” the skin together taut. It is mainly used when tattooing the lip liner when a taut stretch is difficult to achieve.
Squeeze and Pinch lip stretch technique with Collective Instructor Ramona Krusinskiene
As featured throughout this blog post, you’ll be able to find a wealth of knowledge to bring your skills to the next level led by our instructors on The Collective:
Applying these crucial stretching techniques during your next procedures will save you time and frustration, gain more control over the skin and better results.
Here’s a great tip from Beauté Academy’s, Ombré Brows Online Course on how you can practice your stretching techniques by using a cup and some saran wrap!
Or you can even practice your designs on a balloon, as shown by Elaine Campin, in The Perfect Brow course.
Let us know your questions and comments below!
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