Everything you need to know before your first brow tattoo appointment.
Despite only just hitting the mainstream in the last few years, microblading AKA’ eyebrow embroidery’ was discovered thousands of years ago. It involves a super fine micro-blade etching lines into the skin that flow in the same direction as your own hairs, with a semi-permanent pigment added. Unlike a traditional tattoo, the pigment is placed into a higher layer of the skin, so the look is only semi-permanent, lasting from one to three years, fading over time. The treatment suits those who were victims of the 90s over-plucked look, people who may have lost hair due to illness, or those who just can’t be bothered to put makeup on their brows every morning. Rachael Bebe runs a Eyebrow tattoo salon in Mt Eliza
When you’ve tried every pencil, powder, pigment, gel, and stencil at the makeup counter and your brows are still sparse, there’s microblading, a more permanent fix for thin brows that promises to change your brow life. Microblading has grown steadily in popularity over the past couple of years, and now everyone’s mother knows about the once under-the-radar service. And with good reason: Nothing out there is as long-lasting nor natural-looking.
The face tattoo technique isn’t as scary as it sounds. Here, we catch up with New York City-based microblading guru Piret Aava, aka The Eyebrow Doctor, to find out everything you need to know about the treatment.
The ever-popular brow fix is your one-way ticket to thicker, fuller-looking arches
Gone are the days of super-thin, beautiful brows being thin. These days the trend is the thicker, the better. If you want to know how to get thicker brows, then read on, because along with the best brow products and brow lamination, microblading is one of the most popular ways to amp up your arches.
But unless you’re clued-in on the latest beauty treatments, you might not know exactly how the process works (or, more importantly, if it’s for you). That’s where we come in.
What Is Microblading?
‘Microblading is a new and updated semi-permanent makeup technique where, through manual process of inserting pigment into the upper layers of skin, we create the desired fullness and shape of the eyebrows,’ Cynthia explains.
‘The effects can last up to 12-24 months, depending on skin types, after which the pigment fades leaving the skin and your natural brows exactly as they were. The results are very natural and lifelike, giving the brows a natural, fuller look.’
Manual microblading is a form of semi-permanent tattooing that involves using tiny, fine-point needles (instead of a tattoo gun) that make up a small disposable blade and handle (think: a small rat-tail comb-looking tool) that helps scratch and deposit pigment simultaneously under your skin.
I’m not going to lie. I was kind of nervous about the whole semi-permanent part of this procedure (I’m a Libra. Hence I’m indecisive). Still, at the beginning of my appointment, Piret reassured me that she’d draw in my brows first to make sure I was into them. Plus, Julie’s looked amazing, so I knew I was in good hands.
The cool thing about microblading that I learned from Piret is that you can have zero brows, blonde ultra-faint brows, have lost your eyebrows due to alopecia, or just need a little help filling your arches in (me!). Either way, she has got you and will legit create the appearance of naturally full, timeless-looking brows. She even creates a custom colour that matches your natural brow colour and uses several shades, so they look multidimensional.
Step one: Analyse your natural brows.
You’re asked to arrive with your brows made up of how you usually have them, so your technician can see what you like. Your brows without makeup are then looked at and brushed back, so your technician can see what they’re working with. My eyebrows were already fairly thick, but there were sparse patches that needed filling in and a case of overplucking in the middle from a teenage fear of looking like Helga from Hey Arnold!
Rachael Bebe also performs Cosmetic lip tattoo services
Step two: Measure up your new brows
After donning a fetching hair net, you have a ruler stuck to your face, to show where your brows should start and end. My lovely technician Tilly has a chat with me about what I’m after (a natural look that won’t look out of place when I’m not wearing makeup) and assures me that I won’t leave with a ‘Scouse brow,’ which is something I’m afraid. I tell Tilly I want to add more shape to my brow arch, but she discourages it, as that would go against my natural brow shape. It turns out that to have undetectably amazing brows, you need to work with what you’ve already got. I trust her, which helps when you’re about to let someone tattoo your face.
To start, they asked me what I wanted to achieve with this experience. I told her I wanted my brows to be better and longer since eyebrows are my thing. She then began to outline my arches, creating the shape that she would eventually work within when she began microblading them.
Step three: Pencil in your new brows
The new brows are pencilled in, and it’s not done with an exact colour match, so it looks kind of weird. Tilly warns me that they will look heavier and more ‘blocky’ than the actual outcome, as the pencil fills the shape in, while the micro-needling is done with tiny feather strokes. Despite the warning, when I look in the mirror, I get a shock and wonder if I’ve made a mistake coming, but Tilly senses my fear and reassures me.
Step four: Tattoo them on.
After she explained what she was about to do, it was time to lie down on her very sterile, hospital-looking bed. She immediately started creating the tiny superficial cuts in and along my brow, and then deposited a pigment over my arches so it would seep into the hair-like wounds she had just created. The pigment differs from that of a Cosmetic tattoo as well, because 1) it’s only semi-permanent. After all, your body eventually ends up metabolizing it and 2) the dye particles are less concentrated than a tattoo’s ink. Note: I realize this all sounds super painful, but I promise it’s not. If you’ve ever gotten your eyebrows threaded, microblading feels pretty similar.
A bespoke pigment blend is made to match your current brows, and then tiny hair-like strokes are etched on using a microblade. Now, I didn’t expect it to hurt as much as it did, even though I was warned it would. It hurt more than a regular tattoo. (What I like about Tracie Giles is that they’re honest and never try to pretend that it doesn’t hurt. I’ve had treatments before where they lie and say it doesn’t hurt, and then you’re not prepared for the pain. The fact Tracie Giles doesn’t sugarcoat the pain makes me trust them. ) Microblading is done in layers and the first layer was quite painful, despite having a layer of numbing cream put on. Your skin is being cut, so it makes sense that it hurts. There’s a scratching sound, which makes the pain worse, and Tilly asked me if I wanted to put some music on, but I ploughed through the pain, curling my toes as my eyes watered. The next couple of layers hurt much less.
I asked if people have ever flinched while she’s doing it, and she says she’s always ready. She tells me about a time someone sat up while she was doing permanent eyeliner once, and it was fine, so I realize I’m in safe hands. While my eyebrows are being done, they do a great job of distracting me from the pain, and we chat about our mutual love of crisps, holistic therapy and conspiracy theories. The result directly after the session is up to 70% darker than the result, which I’m prepared for. I’d planned to choose some new glasses straight after and was genuinely ready to have to sack it off and hide in my room for a few days, but they weren’t as bad as expected, so I was relieved. No-one stared at me in the street, and my housemate and work colleagues even complimented my brows, thinking I’d just put makeup on them for a change. The words ‘on fleek’ were used. True story.
The whole procedure took about an hour, and it was finally time for me to stand up and take a look at the finished product. Here’s my reaction—you can decide whether or not I was immediately obsessed!
Step five: The healing process
My brows were quite sore and tender for a few days after the treatment, but not distractingly so. You’re not allowed to get them wet for two weeks after the procedure, and you have to avoid sweating, which is hard. I was given a little sachet of Vaseline-type cream to put a thin layer over my brows to protect them during the early days, as you’ve essentially got tiny wounds on your face, which can become infected.
The most important product you can use after a microblading treatment is sunscreen. Like with other tattoos, sunscreens help extend the longevity of your brows and prevent fading from the sun.
She also says to be of any Retin-A or retinol products about a week before an appointment and 30 days after getting your brows done, as those ingredients can cause pigments to fade prematurely. Don’t wet the brows for a week or two while they heal and don’t use any makeup on the area for at least a week. Once the skin is completely healed, she says it’s okay to go back to normal skin and makeup routine.
So those looking for a more permanent solution to improving the appearance of their brows and not afraid to use a needle to do, microblading is most certainly worth a shot.
Aftercare is essential
Aftercare means protecting freshly bladed brows from all moisture–no sweaty workouts, swimming, or washing your face with water for a whole week. “If you get them wet, the scab comes off too early, and you just lose the pigment,” Aava explains.
When you go to a trusted and experienced brow artist, there shouldn’t be any major side effects. Aava says the infection is possible if you don’t follow proper aftercare procedures.
A common misconception is that every microblading artist is the same. She warns that a lot of people only take a two-day course to get certified. “I make sure that I go to a few conventions and conferences every year to ensure I’m using the latest technology and techniques,” she says. Before your appointment, read reviews, look at images of before and afters, and choose your artist wisely.
‘For the next ten days after the procedure, you need to keep the brows as dry as possible. No water is allowed around the brow area, as this can result in the ink being washed out of the skin.
‘In your first session, it’s very common for your body to try to reject the ink so that you may experience up to 60-80% rejection. After your ten days of healing, I would then suggest exfoliating over the area twice a week to help reduce the pigment.
‘We also suggest avoiding any hot holidays, which will cause you to over-sweat and push the ink out of the skin, as well as activities such as the gym or saunas.’
How long does microblading last?
Piret explained to me that microblading usually lasts around one to three years, but that I’d be coming back in four weeks for a touch-up/check-in to make sure I was happy with the result. After that, I wouldn’t need a touch-up for 12 months (these appointments also cost less than the initial price of microblading).
When should you get a microblading touch-up?
The brows’ pigment will change over time. While they will be long-lasting, Aava says clients should have realistic expectations and understand the eyebrows will naturally fade. “Your body might metabolize pigment faster, or if your skin is oilier, the pigment breaks down faster,” she says. “Strokes soften and blur a bit. If you think it’ll stay looking exactly like hairs forever and stay sharp, that’s not going to happen. I find I don’t need to do ‘shading’ technique because the body does it on its own.”
Top-ups depend entirely on your personal preference. ‘If you’ve had just one session, we will encourage you to re-book between six to eight weeks to ensure all lines and colour have taken, as well as giving you a chance to make minor changes such as extra strokes,’ advises Cynthia.
‘Once both sessions are complete, clients can re-book anywhere between three months to two years. It all comes down to preference when needing a top-up.’
Results last up to three years .Depending on the skin and lifestyle, Aava’s clients come back for touch-ups once every six months.