I have mentioned it before: my natural eyebrows are pretty sad. They don’t quite fit the arch aesthetic of 2017. So each morning, I spend 20 minutes outlining and filling in my eyebrows with three separate products—a pencil, a pomade and a gel. And that makeup doesn’t come cheap. Each product costs around $20 and needs to be replaced four times per year. I’ll do the math for you: I spend $240 every single year for the two hairy things that sit above my eyes.
Despite the toll my arch addiction takes on my wallet, I don’t think I’ll be sporting the pencil-thin brows of the 2000s anytime soon. So I set out to do some research on other options. I settled on castor oil (post coming soon), but my dream is the procedure I’m talking about today: microblading.
For the uninitiated, microblading is a newer form of cosmetic tattooing that got its start in Europe, Asia and Canada and has recently made its way to the United States. The procedure – also known as eyebrow embroidery, 3-D eyebrows, and micropigmentation – imparts a much more natural-looking finish than traditional tattooing. Still not convinced microblading is for you? I rounded up everything else you need to know if you’re thinking about getting your eyebrows tattooed.
Find out who can get the procedure
The American Academy of Micropigmentation has offered training and certification in micropigmentation since 1992. It considers cosmetic tattooing a separate specialty within the field of tattooing, but many of the same qualifiers apply for microblading. For example, pregnant or breastfeeding women, diabetics, those with keloid scarring (excessive scar tissue) and patients taking Accutane (an acne drug which makes skin very sensitive) can’t get any form of tattoo, according to a study on permanent cosmetics in the Plastic Surgical Nursing. Most studios send out medical intake forms before you can even come in for a consultation to make sure there are no disqualifiers, said Patsy Charles, founder of the 14-year-old Dallas Skin Institute, which offers training in cosmetic tattooing, eyelash extensions and spray tanning. Additionally, a 2010 study found that test subjects had an allergic reaction to inks containing Pigment Red 181
Outside of medical conditions, however, almost anyone can get their eyebrows tattooed no matter their age, gender or race. Cosmetic tattoos are especially ideal for people who struggle with drawing in their arches and are looking for a timesaver. Those with medical conditions like alopecia (which causes hair loss) or chemotherapy patients are also great candidates.
Know Your Artist
How do you pick a reliable studio for your face tattoo? Shana Irish, owner of the four month-old Skyn Studio in Chicago, has been practicing cosmetic tattooing for two years. She recommends thoroughly researching prospective artists.
“You see a lot of these people who buy stuff off the internet and watch YouTube videos and think they can safely and professionally tattoo,” she said.
To avoid phonies, always look online for pictures of an artist’s healed work – the true test of skill. Additionally, remember that cosmetic tattooing is largely unregulated. In Illinois, for example, tattooists must simply register as a tattoo artist with the health department and undergo periodic inspections of their workspace. The lack of regulations on new forms of body art have been of concern to many health professionals since 2005, according to a 2005 study in the Journal of Environmental Health. So, look for artists with as many documented hours of training as you can.
Know the techniques
Microblading is arguably the most popular eyebrow tattooing technique. The rise of the “Instagram eyebrow”—perfectly shaped and shaded eyebrows popularized by makeup artists on social media – heavily contributes to the high demand for the procedure.
Unlike traditional tattooing, which uses a single needle and inserts pigment into the deepest layer of skin, microblading pushes pigment into the second layer of skin using a handheld tool made up of seven to 21 nano-needles. It mimics the looks of natural hair strokes, said Chelsea Perkins, microblading artist and owner of Studio 341 in Kaysville, Utah. Also unlike traditional tattooing (which requires touch ups every few years), microbladed brows last eight months to two years before requiring touch-ups. The time before you’ll need a touch up will depend on how well your skin holds the pigment.
Looking for a longer-lasting procedure? Irish recommends finding an artist who uses a machine that uses a single nano-needle. These machines use more pigment and penetrate deeper into the skin, lasting anywhere from two to five years, but impart the same finish as microblading.
Know your budget
Microblading is expensive – the cost ranges in the hundreds of dollars, depending on what city you’re in. You’re paying for a specialized service and, more importantly, a medical procedure. “I always just remind people that they’re price shopping for a tattoo on their face,” Irish said. “If you want a safe, hyper realistic eyebrow tattoo, you’re going to be paying a little bit more for that.”
You wouldn’t go to your hairstylist without pictures to clear up what style you want, right? Treat your eyebrows the same, said Irish. An artist will customize the brows to your face, but photos will help clarify how dark and full you want your brows.
It’s going to hurt
Before touching needle to skin, your artist will apply a numbing agent to your eyebrows (usually an epinephrine cream). Still, the tiny cuts can feel like razor blades. “I would give it a 4 out of 10 on the pain scale, but it hurts less as the artist goes,” said Ruby, a first-time client at Skyn Studio who recently went back for her eight-week touch-up. Most studios will give client a stress ball during the procedure to alleviate pain, as well.
If and when I have the money, I definitely plan on getting microblading. It’s a great solution for the struggle I face every day with my eyebrows and it can look absolutely amazing. Would you get it done?