If there was one step in your morning beauty routine you would never, ever skip, we have a feeling you’d say it’d be your brows. There’s a reason why the phrase “brows on fleek” caught on like it did. Your arches frame your face, and they have the ability to totally transform the way your face looks. These days, people are taking their brows to new extremes to garner major attention. Scroll through Instagram, and you’re bound to spot rainbow arches, wavy eyebrows, and more. Prefer a more natural brow look? No tweezing necessary today: Super-thin arches are out, and thick, full brows are very, very in. Luckily, there are tons of products out there you can use to fill in your brows, from pencils to mascaras to pomades to gels (oh hey, Glossier Boy Brow). But let’s be real: Filling in your brows on the daily is time-consuming as hell, and sometimes the results don’t look quite as natural as you’d hope. Sound familiar? Microblading might just be the solution to your biggest brow woes.
What is microblading?
“Microblading is a cosmetic tattoo procedure that involves creating small intricate strokes using a manual tool and applying pigment,” explains Jen Santoro, cosmetic tattoo artist and owner of Altered Aesthetics, a cosmetic tattoo shop that specializes in getting clients’ brows on point.
Microblading might be for you if…
If your brows are sparse, you hate spending your precious time filling in your brows in the morning, or you’re simply interested in achieving a natural brow look, microblading might be a good option for you. Santoro says most of her clients have either plucked for so long that their brows no longer grow, or they have inconsistent hair growth; Davis has clients of all ages and all different kinds of brow situations. “I see everyone from young to old women to women who love makeup to women who don’t love makeup,” she says. “Even women who don’t love makeup still like to have a finished look without looking overdone.”
What to Expect From Microblading
Curious about microblading? Here’s everything you need to know about the procedure if you’re considering it.
Forty-eight hours before your microblading appointment, you should stop taking any blood-thinning medications or supplements (such as ibuprofen or fish oil), says Santoro. She explains that during microblading, you might bleed a little bit, but if you’re on a blood thinner, you’ll bleed a lot more, and this will dilute the pigment, preventing your skin from retaining it well. Davis recommends limiting alcohol and caffeine intake in the days leading up to your appointment because they also thin the blood. Additionally, stop using prescription retinoids a week before (they thin the skin), don’t get any chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or Botox, and don’t pluck or wax because you don’t want any irritation around your brow area, says Santoro.
Expect your microblading session to take two hours or more. Before your esthetician gets to work on microblading, they’ll map your eyebrows to ensure you’re happy with the shape and fullness. This can take anywhere from 20 minutes to an hour, says Santoro. During this process, your esthetician will determine where your brow should naturally start, arch, and end (with input from you). “If the client has a little bit of brow hair or a decent amount, I like to follow the natural pattern of the brow,” says Santoro. [pullquote align=”left”]“I find brow mapping to be the most crucial part of the process. You can lay down the perfect stroke and color, but if you don’t map, you won’t have good results.” —Jen Santoro, cosmetic tattoo artist[/pullquote] Santoro gives clients the opportunity to look at the brow shape from all different angles (lying down, sitting up, in a front-facing mirror, etc.). Once both brow shapes are complete, Santoro uses a caliper measuring tool and string to measure the brows to make sure they’re symmetrical, the arches are the same height, and that both brows are the same size. “I find brow mapping to be the most crucial part of the process,” says Santoro. “You can lay down the perfect stroke and color, but if you don’t map, you won’t have good results.” Next comes the numbing. Santoro uses a topical lidocaine cream to numb the brow area and leaves it on for about 20 minutes. During that time, she works with the client to figure out what color they want their brows to be. “The goal should be to create color that, in its healed state, is as close as possible to what your current brow color is,” says Davis. “That’s what will give the most realistic look if you’re not using any makeup.” Santoro typically goes for a slightly darker color to account for the fact that pigment fades 20 to 30 percent once healed. When the area is numbed, your esthetician will remove the cream and get to work microblading. They’ll use a hand tool to deposit ink, and this usually takes about 30 minutes to complete, says Davis. “We use the smallest strokes to build the eyebrow with a specific pattern to replicate the most realistic look of an eyebrow,” she says. Santoro says she’ll do one pass to create enough strokes to outline your brow, then she’ll do a second pass to fill in the rest of the brow. After looking at the brow from all different angles, she may do a third pass to fill in areas that she missed.
Once done, Santoro will clean the brows and give clients an aftercare kit. She’ll have you blot your brows with cotton rounds every 10 to 15 minutes for the first two to three hours post-procedure to remove lymph fluid that might be seeping out. “You want the brows to heal softly and flake off, and reducing fluid helps,” says Santoro. You’ll want to clean your brows with a little bit of warm water and a fragrance-free antibacterial soap morning and night, says Santoro, since you do technically have an open wound. Santoro gives clients an ointment specifically made for microblading that you can apply two to four times a day for the first week. “For the first two to three days, your brows will appear darker because the pigment is sitting on top,” says Santoro. Then, between days four and six, your brows will start to flake off. “You go through the same process when you get a traditional tattoo,” says Santoro. You should stop flaking by day six or seven, and then by day 14, the color should have stabilized. “Microblading is a two-step process with sessions four to six weeks apart,” says Davis, meaning you’ll have to come in for a touch-up after your initial session. Davis calls the touch-up the perfection session: “We take time to adjust the color, shape, and anything else we want to tweak,” she says. The perfection session is a lot quicker than the initial microblading session. From there, touch-ups are recommended once a year.
“The ideal candidate for microblading is someone with a skin type that has minimal oil,” says Davis. “The less oil there is, the better the results will be because the color retention will be more vibrant over time.” If you have moderately oily skin, Davis says you can expect to need a touch up between eight and 10 months, whereas if you have normal to dry skin, you can go up to a year before needing a touchup. If you never go for any touch ups, your results may last pretty well for one to three years, says Santoro. To maintain microblading results for as long as possible, always wear sunscreen when you’re outside (sun exposure fades tattoos) and avoid exfoliating around your brow area, since that can accelerate pigment fade, says Santoro.
How to Find a Microblading Expert
It’s important to go to someone who’s properly trained in microblading, as you don’t want to take any chances with someone working on your face. Your expert’s licenses should be on display in their studio, says Davis, and they should have completed microblading training. Santoro says you want to go to someone who’s at least taken a four-day course, if not more. Davis also recommends requesting to see photos of healed work, not just advertised pictures. “The healed work is what you will end up with a week and a half after your initial appointment,” says Davis. Going in for a consultation (which is typically free) is a good way to see if that pro is the right one for you.
How much does microblading cost?
Microblading doesn’t come cheap. Santoro says it can run anywhere from $400 to $600 (or more!) depending on where you live. This price usually includes the initial touch-up, says Santoro, and it may also include any aftercare products you’re supposed to use. Yearly touch-ups won’t be as expensive as the initial cost (they may be about half).
Microblading Risks: What to Keep in Mind
The good news is that microblading is relatively safe, says Anna Guanche, MD, board-certified dermatologist at Bella Skin Institute; however, there are always risks with any procedure. “Anytime there is a puncture of the skin, there is a risk of infection,” says Guanche. “The area should be properly prepped to avoid this.” Guanche adds that you could experience an allergic reaction if you’re sensitive to the pigment or numbing cream. Doing a spot test could be a good way to avoid this, she says.
Popular Microblading Alternatives
Microblading isn’t your only semi-permanent brow option.
Kristie Streicher, celebrity eyebrow artist, created the technique known as microfeathering. Streicher uses a super-fine, precise blade to deposit pigment onto brows. Microfeathering isn’t a way to create a totally new eyebrow (so it’s not for those with zero brow hairs), but it can refine what you already have.
This treatment is popular, too. “The idea with microshading is to produce the look of a filled-in brow that looks more like you’ve filled it in with powder or makeup,” says Davis. “Sometimes artists will combine this with microblading.” Microshading can be done with a hand tool or a machine, says Davis.