Skinny eyebrows were HOT in the '90s, but it's not the '90s now.
Every decade seems to have its own iconic look. Remember how popular Madonna's signature "Like a Virgin" look was in the 1980s? Drew Barrymore became a big deal in the 1990s. Everyone wanted brows like hers. And remember Pamela Anderson of Baywatch fame? She had really skinny eyebrows - that still are! See, there's the rub. Once you've tweezed, shaved or waxed your brows, they don't always grow back.
Now, thanks to Cara Delevingne, many of us are eyebrow obsessed. Back in June of 2015, Vogue published an article devoted almost exclusively to the model / actress's brows. With all this attention on her oversized, low, dark brows, it's my bet they'll become one of the signature looks this decade is known for.
Enter microblading. If you want perfect brows without all the work of brow makeup, this treatment might be for you. It's a more permanent answer for sparse brows.
What is microblading?
Microblading is a form of cosmetic tattooing. It uses a thin blade made up of tiny needles to create small, very precise cuts in the skin of your eyebrows. Then pigments are applied to the cuts to mimic the look of individual hairs. The result is very realistic and natural. The look lasts about 2 years with touch-ups.
Why doesn't microblading last as long as other kinds of eyebrow tattoos?
The Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals says microblading doesn't last as long because "a much smaller amount of pigment is inserted (tattooed) into the skin as compared to fully or solidly filled eyebrow tattoos." The skill of the brow artist will also affect how long your eyebrows last. Shallow strokes fade quickly, while deep microblading strokes can turn blurry with a blue tint.
Who is a good candidate for microblading?
“Microblading is ideal for clients with brows that are sparse, uneven or just desire a different shape,” said Kendra Bray, owner of Better Brows NYC. “I have microbladed clients with absolutely no brow hair to clients who have envy-worthy brows that just want a couple spots filled in to make them perfect.”
Is there anyone who should not have microblading done on their eyebrows?
- People younger than 18 years old
- Pregnant or breasfeeding women
- People with glaucoma
- People who have skin diseases like psoriasis or eczema
- People who have an infection, rash or blisters on or around their eyebrows
- People who are allergic to makeup or topical anesthetics
- People with a history of getting dark spots after a skin injury (post inflammatory hyperpigmentation or PIH)
- People with blood disorders like hemophilia - or people who are taking anticoagulants / blood thinners
- People with active skin cancer in or around their eyebrows
- People who have trouble healing or a history of keloid scarring
- People with epilepsy
- People taking Accutane or steroids
- If you've had an eye lift / blepharoplasty, you must be fully healed before microblading (3 - 6 months after surgery)
- People who have gotten Botox or fillers should wait 2 weeks after their injections to have microblading done
- People with uncontrolled high blood pressure
- People with a mitral valve disorder
- People with a hair pulling disorder called trichotillomania
- People who are sick should wait until they feel better to have microblading done
- People who take thyroid medication
- People who have shingles
- People who won't follow the aftercare instructions
- People with a mole in their brow area
Does microblading hurt?
Every person tolerates pain differently. So what's painful for one person, won't be painful for another. Most brow artists do use a topical anesthetic to numb the area prior to the treatment. Kendra Bray says most of her clients "rate the pain a 3 in a scale of 1 - 10, and compare it to having your brows threaded."
How much does it cost?
Expect to spend anywhere from $500 to $1500 depending on where you live.
Phibrows Microblading by Master Jade Petkov
Should my eyebrow artist have some sort of certification?
Certification for brow artists varies from state to state. Some states require a supervising medical doctor. Others don't. In California, microblading is considered body art, so brow artists must meet the same standards as tattoo artists. Brow artists must be at least 18 years old, registered with a local enforcement agency, and they must be properly trained on bloodborne pathogens. Brow artists there must also work in a body art facility that meets health and safety code standards and has a valid health permit. In contrast, the State of Illinois considers microblading a kind of cosmetic tattooing. Because of this classification, Illinois brow artists are regulated by the Illinois Department of Health.
So what should you look for in a brow artist?
- The brow artist should be licensed and trained in microblading.
- The brow artist should have training from a reputable institution. 3D Brows Academy, Occhi Lash & Brow Studio & Training and PhiBrows are just 3 of the organizations that provide microblading training.
- The brow artist should have first aid and bloodborne pathogen training.
- You should be offered a consultation prior to your treatment. While you're there, be sure to pay attention to the cleanliness of the salon / studio.
- The treatment room should look and smell clean. Artists should change their gloves frequently and disinfect surfaces between clients.
- The brow artist should ask health history questions in order to avoid any adverse reactions.
- Any clinic you choose should exclusively use single use blades. They should come in pre-sterilized, sealed packages.
- Sterile single use handles (that hold the blade) are best. If your artist says they reuse their microblading handle, then it should be sterilized using an autoclave BETWEEN clients.
- Brow artists should practice on latex skin and mannequins before practicing on family, friends or clients.
- Good brow artists will carry insurance.
- Look for healed results on the brow artist's website / Facebook / Instagram page. Most microblading looks great when newly done. However, healed results are a better indicator of skill. Look at the colors. Do they look nice with the client's hair and skin color? Are the brows a good shape and size for the client's face?
- Make sure that the brows the artist makes are the kind you like. Each artist will have his or her own style: manicured, messy, sparse and natural, dense, etc.
- Look for a brow artist who answers your questions and is confident discussing the microblading process. He or she should be willing to talk about his / her education and experience.
- Generally, the best microblading artists are booked. You may have to wait to see one, but waiting will be worth it.
- Kendra Bray thinks experience is important. “Not only does the artist need to be certified, but it takes a lot of time to get good at the art, as well as the experience of working with the pigments on different skin types. Someone can advertise that they are offering microblading, but that doesn’t mean they know what they are doing.”
What should you look for if the artist is new to microblading?
The Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals has answered this question:
"if someone is new to the industry and does not already have a minimum of 100 hours of training in permanent cosmetics, they need to have a similar amount of training in microblading, even if it is for just that one type of procedure. There are many areas of study when learning these techniques, which include facial morphology and bone structure, brow shaping and design, color analysis, color theory, proper handling of equipment, prevention of cross-contamination, as well as practice work and the opportunity to observe procedures before actually performing them under supervision."
How long does it take?
Expect your appointment to last between 2 and 2 1/2 hours.
How do you care for your brows after microblading?
Many brow artists recommend keeping your eyebrows clean and moist for 3 weeks following your treatment. Aquaphor or petroleum jelly work well for this purpose. Don't apply skincare products to the area.
Use a clean pillowcase each night. You should be given written aftercare instructions to take home.
Follow- up appointments are usually set up for 30 days after treatment. That's when initial touch-ups are done. If desired, most artists will add a second shade at this appointment.
You'll need touch up appointments about every 6 months for 2 years. Remember though, these are just guidelines. Each brow artist will have their own aftercare protocol and schedule.
Audrey Glass, an L.A.-based cosmetic tattoo artist, says her aftercare recommendations are very different. Many microblading salons recommend that you avoid any brow contact with water for 2 weeks after your appointment. She explains,
"Microblading is the process of making very small scratches in surface of the skin and depositing pigment in the scratches to create hair-like strokes. This means that the client leaves their appointment with small wounds in their forehead. Cleaning the eyebrows with lukewarm water several times a day is necessary to avoid infection."
PhiBrows.com recommends a post treatment care plan very similar to the one that Audrey Glass recommends above.
The bottom line? Each microblading school teaches its own preferred method of microblading and aftercare. Find a brow artist that you trust and follow his / her instructions carefully.
A Few More Things You Should Know:
- Alpha hydroxy acids (lactic, glycolic, citric, retinoic and tartaric acids) or any creams / lotions for tone correcting, anti-aging, exfoliating or fading can cause discoloration of the pigment used in microblading.
- Sun exposure can fade the pigments. Be sure to use sunscreen on your eyebrows.
- Sometimes you'll see 3D, 4D, or 6D advertised in microblading. Brow salons use these numbers to convey the number of pigment colors used.
- A scalpel or traditional cutting-type blade should not be used. This type of blade is considered a medical device and cannot be used for microblading.
- Some salons and brow artists label microblading / eyebrow embroidery a semi-permanent process. They say that the color only reaches the epidermal (outer) layer of the skin. The Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals says this is untrue, "color is tattooed / implanted into the dermis (middle layer) of the skin. If pigment particles do not reach the dermis, they will disappear during the healing phase of the skin, during normal regeneration of cells at the epidermal level."
- About 4 weeks after your microblading treatment, you should expect the skin to be healed and 30-60% of pigment to have disappeared (your brows have faded A LOT!)
- Miami Beach Microblading says the pigment / ink used for your brows should be made specifically for Microblading. That's because the tattoo inks made for traditional tattoos are much thinner. They are made this way so that they can be delivered by tattoo gun needles which move at a very high speed. If this thinner type of ink is used for microblading, the strokes will disappear much faster.
- The FDA doesn't approve tattoo or permanent tattoo inks. Reason #394 to find a brow artist that you trust!
An article on CosmeticTattoo.org says that microblading is the fastest growing segment of the cosmetic tattoo industry. In the article they express concern - and justifiably, I think - that traditional educational pathways are not being followed as the popularity of microblading continues to boom. New technicians can learn microblading in a 1 - 2 day demonstration. They are not required to have any educational prerequisites. And the people who conduct the training often don't have any formal qualifications themselves. The attendees don't get bloodborne pathogen training and the programs they attend are not accredited.
All these things can make for a very bad microblading experience. Protect yourself by finding the very best brow artist.
I hope this article helps! Thanks for reading!
Amy Takken, RN
Amy Takken is a registered nurse with 20+ years of experience helping people improve their health. Her in-depth skincare articles have been featured on Nazarian Plastic Surgery and The Palm Beach Center for Facial Plastic & Laser Surgery. She's also been quoted on Dermascope.com.
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The Information provided on our website is not medical advice and should not be viewed as such. By law, only a medical doctor can diagnose or give medical advice. As a registered nurse, my goal is to educate, so I provide information on skin care, skin care products, and skin care treatments. If you have any condition that concerns you, please see a medical doctor. While most skin conditions are benign, some – like melanoma – can be deadly. If there is any doubt, please, please consult your physician. Thank you!