Whether you overplucked in the ’90s or are just obsessed with today’s de rigueur magnificent eyebrows, microblading might solve your brow envy.
If you’re coming in cautious, we get it. The truth is, microblading really is safe when done by someone licensed and trained.
Still, microblading is a relatively new beauty concept, so it can be hard to know what’s normal and what’s not — and whether you even qualify as a candidate for the procedure.
We checked in with brow experts Veronika Dmitriyeva, Mary Torres, Narissa Matheney, and Naomi Sinead (aka the “Brow Whisperer”), plus dermatologist Heidi Prather, MD, to help set the record straight about what to expect if you’re considering microblading.
With microblading, the technician uses extremely small blades to make tiny, hair-like incisions right above the dermis layer of your skin while depositing pigment directly into those incisions. As a result, your brows will naturally fade over time and require touch-ups.
To create the desired look, a technician manually punctures and penetrates your skin with the pigment color that best suits the natural brow tone to give the illusion of fuller, darker, and groomed brows, Dmitriyeva says.
Microblading isn’t only reserved for thin, sparse brows — even if you’re blessed with naturally full ones. Microblading can enhance what’s already there. But the results are especially remarkable for people with thin brows (and can be nearly life changing for people who live with alopecia).
Something else to consider: “If you’re prone to keloids, or have eczema or rosacea, then microblading may not be for you,” Torres says — and it’s also not a great idea for anyone who’s pregnant or chestfeeding.
Although the two might easily be confused, microblading is not the same thing as the technique called microshading.
Instead of making hair-like strokes along an eyebrow, microshading “uses a [round] needle to poke and deposit pigment above the dermis, focusing on areas around or directly on top of the microblading,” Sinead says. The result is similar to how your brows would look with powder applied.
Microshading tends to be better suited for oily or sensitive skin types — and for anyone who prefers the makeup look 24/7, since it creates a powdered effect.
Because microshading requires a certain level of expertise and the process takes longer, it costs about $75 to $100 more than microblading and feels slightly more uncomfortable. Microshading lasts for about 3 to 6 months.
Before microblading, your brows will need to be measured, and your technician will determine a size, width, and depth that’s best suited for your face shape.
Torres points out that brow technicians who rely solely on stencils to measure their clients’ brows are likely “not well-versed” in measuring. So, if you go to a tech who starts using a stencil alone, get on out of there. The brow mapping should take longer than the microblading itself — it is a crucial step to ensure the best results.
In the days leading up to the procedure, fish oil supplements, vitamin E, ibuprofen, and Advil are off-limits since they’re blood thinners and can potentially lead to excessive bleeding, bruising, or scarring.
You’ll want to steer clear of alcohol, caffeine, Botox, tanning, waxing, and tweezing as well.
Full disclosure: Dry skin retains pigment better than other skin types, so if you have really oily skin, a few additional touch-ups might be required. “That’s because the excess sebum can ‘push out’ the pigment, keeping it from giving the client the healed results they may be looking for,” Torres says.
Unless you have a low pain threshold, you’ll probably only feel mild discomfort during the procedure.
Normally the technician will apply a numbing cream for at least 30 minutes to minimize any pain, since the session can take up to 3 hours from start to finish. “If your brow technician spends longer than that, they probably aren’t comfortable with microblading and need more practice,” Sinead says.
Thanks to the numbing cream, the only sensations you’ll likely feel are pressure or scratching from the microblading tool. But as the session goes on, your skin may start to feel irritated, similar to having a sunburn.
The experts noted that one session can cost anywhere from $300 to $1,500 (the price largely depends on the location), but Sinead says it’s important to understand that a “higher price doesn’t guarantee quality work.”
Included in the price is a touch-up within 4 to 6 weeks after your first appointment because “40 percent of the pigment that’s infused into the skin will fade, so the technician needs to go back in and reinfuse,” Dmitriyeva says.
It’s not likely that health insurance will help cover microblading. But if you have a medical condition or take medications that cause you to lose your eyebrows, you may want to check to see if your health insurance provider will agree to cover the procedure.
Because microblading is a semipermanent procedure, your brows will last anywhere from 1 to 3 years. This is unlike what happens with a tattoo artist, who injects ink below the dermis, making the results hella permanent.
Depending on your skin type and desired look, you’ll need a touch-up application every 6 months or every year, because the pigment will start to fade. If you have oily skin, the pigment may not last as long, because the oil secretions make it more difficult for it to successfully adhere to your skin.
The touch-up process may be as simple as a root touch-up, where the color is filled in. But if you wait longer for a touch-up than recommended by your technician, you may have to repeat the whole microblading procedure.
Touch-ups are typically a bit more than half of the cost of the microblading procedure. So, if your microblading session costs $1,000, the touch-up application might probably cost around $600.
Microblading is way less invasive than tattooing, and there’s zero downtime required, but infection is still the biggest risk.
Be aware that the FDA doesn’t regulate the color additives used in the pigments. Also, because microblading is a fairly new procedure, some technicians may not have received adequate training.
In fact, a small study of 41 microblading establishments in British Columbia found that most technicians took a training course that lasted only a week or so, and 78 percent of them felt that more training should be required.
This means it’s very important to do your research and choose a reputable technician who works in a sterile environment. “Your technician should have an extensive background in skin care,” Sinead says. “That includes having permanent makeup and blood-borne pathogens certificates.” This is especially important in a post-COVID-19 world.
How to vet a professional
Browsing through the technician’s online portfolio is a smart move, but keep in mind it’s super easy to rip off another artist’s before-and-after photos — or use Photoshop to make one’s work look better than it is.
Instead, watch for videos showing the technician’s face as they’re doing the procedure. Are they wearing gloves? Are they unwrapping the equipment before use?
Something else to look out for: The wrong pigments. “Never trust black pigment!” Matheney says. “Microblading techs should only use dark brown pigment even when doing someone with the darkest brows.”
Once you find a properly licensed and trained technician, ask for a consultation. Be wary of any person who brushes off your concerns, charges a fee for the consultation, or refuses to give a complimentary allergy patch test. “They should be able to explain everything, from where they get their ink to how to properly care for your brows afterward,” Sinead says.
“When pursuing any medical treatment, it’s important to know the qualifications of the person performing the procedure,” Prather says. “You should ask:
- Where did this person train?
- How long have they performed treatments?
- How reputable is the office?
Going through this checklist can ensure that the person performing your treatment is using a sterile technique and following standard safety precautions to minimize any risks of scarring, infection, and transmission of blood-borne products.
Board certified dermatologists generally do not perform the microblading procedure, but they can suggest a reputable esthetician or licensed professional who can safely guide you through this process.”
If you have friends who tried microblading before, ask them about their experiences (or for a recommendation) — but follow your own gut above all else.
The average person needs no longer than 2 weeks to heal, but it takes a month for the color to set in. You might stumble across sites that advise you to not wash your brows for several days after microblading, but that’s not actually correct — not washing could increase your risk of developing an infection.
Microblading healing tips
Here are a few expert aftercare tips from Brow Whisperer Naomi Sinead herself:
- During the first 24 hours, gently blot your brows every hour using a sterile gauze and distilled water to remove excess lymph fluids.
- After the first day, gently clean your brows every 2 to 3 hours with a slightly damp Q-tip and antibacterial soap, using a light tapping motion.
- On the fourth day, you can begin applying a thin layer of Aquaphor to your brows.
- Slight redness or discoloration, itching, swelling, and scabbing are normal. For the first 2 weeks, avoid rubbing your brows, exfoliating the skin, direct sun exposure, exercise, saunas, swimming, hot tubs, foundation near the brow area and brow pencil application, facial treatments, and lash extensions. These things could all cause irritation and loss of pigment, as well as slow down healing.
- The healing process is quite tedious, but the results really can look great. And the benefits go beyond saving you time on your morning routine for the next 12 to 36 months.
It’s smart to be cautious about any treatment that involves needles and healing time. But microblading can be done safely and effectively.
Just be sure to vet your professional well, ask the right questions, and maybe get a recommendation from a friend. Then enjoy your full and dramatic brows in your next Blue Steel selfie.
Princess Gabbara is a multimedia journalist and storyteller. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @PrincessGabbara. Visit her website at princessgabbara.com.