Whether it’s called “microblading”, “eyebrow embroidery”, “microstroking”, “semi-permanent makeup”, “cosmetic tattooing”, “pigment embroidery” or “3D eyebrow embroidery”, it’s undeniable that this new technique is the new big thing in salon treatments and permanent makeup. When I first started seeing microblading before & after pictures popping up on the Internet, I didn’t really believe them. They were the definition of too good to be true! The before pictures looked a lot like the eyebrows I had seen in my day to day life as a makeup artist and eyebrow technician: sparse, uneven, short, or spaced too far apart. The afters? Perfect, natural looking, lush, symmetrical brows!
So What Is This 3D Eyebrow Embroidery Magic, Exactly?
3D eyebrow embroidery or microblading is a “permanent” makeup technique done with a tiny, angled blade made of a row of even tinier needles. The microblading blade is dipped in ink, and then lightly scraped across the skin in delicate strokes, mimicking hair. I put the word permanent in quotation marks because, while it is the technical term, it’s not apt.
Unlike eyebrow tattoos that often look unnatural and unappealing, eyebrow microblading lasts for 3 years at most, providing you with your dream naturally looking bushy eyebrows or any other shape your prefer. For women in their 30s or younger the microstroking will likely not last for more than a year.
Where Did It Come From?
At first the only person who seemed to be doing eyebrow microblading was a permanent makeup artist out of Vancouver, but soon the technique spread like wildfire throughout salons all over Canada and the US. It’s not surprising, not only because of realistic results, but also because of the semi-permanence.
As Marion Godwin, the owner of Pin Ups & Pompadours Salon in Whitby, Ontario, says “microblading is excellent for women with commitment issues!”
A few years ago an eyebrow embroidery session at one of the few salons offering microblading would have cost anywhere between $700 to $1200, but now that the treatment is more common you are much likelier to find it offered at a salon near your house for under $500. 3D eyebrow embroidering, from start to finish, takes about two hours, which includes the time it takes to design the eyebrow shape with a pencil, the time it takes to numb the skin, and the microstroking itself.
I was interested in microblading, both on a professional level and as a candidate. For many years I worked at a salon as an eyebrow stylist, which also meant allowing new hires to occasionally practice and learn on my own face. The mistakes of inexperienced waxers combined with a genetic lack of symmetry in my face lead to thin brows that were too far apart, with my right brow distinctly higher than my left. I had become very adept at filling in my brows, but the idea of being able to cut 5-10 minutes out of my makeup routine appealed.
Things to Keep in Mind: The Pros
If you are also interested in microblading, it’s important to be well informed! There are a lot of wonderful things about eyebrow embroidery. For example, short of eyebrow extensions (similar to lash extensions), eyebrow embroidery is the most natural-looking way of correcting sparse or uneven eyebrows, without the fear of losing hairs.
The semi-permanent makeup results last for up to 3 years, and very few touch-ups are needed. Because the results are not totally permanent, there is no need to worry about the changing eyebrow trends. One year you can have your brows microbladed to look fuller and thicker, and two years later you can have them microbladed to look thinner and sleeker.
Cons of Going for Eyebrow Microblading
However, there are also some risks associated with microblading. 3D eyebrow embroidery is done with a blade that cuts into the skin, and one session can require over 100 tiny cuts. If the person doing the microblading is not properly trained they could cut too deep or skip important sterilization steps, potentially causing an infection. That is the worst-case scenario with microblading, of course.
Slightly less dangerous, but still scary, is the possibility of the 3D eyebrow embroidery technician just not doing a good job, and giving you a wonky eyebrow shape.
There is also some pain and discomfort involved in the process, although most microblading technicians will use a lidocaine-based numbing cream like Zensa before doing the procedure. However, the numbing cream may not be completely effective for everyone, and some discomfort may still be felt.
You Have Your Work Cut Out For You, Too
Semi-permanent makeup must be taken care of as much as one would take care of a regular tattoo. The aftercare of cosmetic tattooing is intensive; for the first few days the microblading recipient cannot wear any makeup near or above the eyebrows, lest makeup get in and infect the microblading cuts. They must keep the brow area clean, and well moisturized.
Some cosmetic tattoo artists swear by Vaseline, since it creates a total barrier and prevents bacteria from getting in the cuts. Other microblading technicians prefer natural oils like grape seed oil or coconut oil, since they still allow the skin to breathe and will not pull ink away from the microbladed eyebrow the way Vaseline might. Either way, you must remember to re-apply your chosen microblading moisturizer/protector multiple times a day.
For 7 days after the pigment embroidery it is important to avoid swimming or sweating heavily, since exposure to too much water can cause the microbladed eyebrows to scab over, which will cause the cuts to heal unevenly resulting in patchy eyebrows.
How to Choose Your Microblading Technician?
The key to having an amazing 3D eyebrow embroidery experience is to do your research before choosing a technician, and making sure you are ready for the involved aftercare process. When you search for your permanent makeup technician, make sure to look at their Instagram or website gallery for microblading before and after pictures.
Make sure you like their personal style. Some cosmetic tattoo artists have a preference towards longer, bolder strokes, while another might prefer softer, shorter strokes. You might see one microblading gallery filled with precise, artificial looking eyebrows, while another will be filled with more natural looking eyebrows that will be a little messier. The beautiful thing about microblading is that there is no right or wrong style – it’s all up to personal preference.
However, if it seems like the microstroking was done very tightly that’s actually a concern. Some technicians know that very tight microblading strokes look better in the before & after pictures, and might attract more customers, but the truth is that they don’t heal well, and after 2-3 months the semi-permanent makeup will likely look blurry and muddy.
Important Questions to Ask Your Eyebrow Embroidery Technician
Once you have selected your eyebrow embroidery technician, either give her a call first or do an in-person consultation. During an in-person consultation, or even right before the microblading session itself, the microblading technician should fill in your eyebrows with a pencil, giving you an idea of the kind of shape you will end up with.
During the microblading consultation make sure to find out what kind of pigments she uses, and how often she replaces them. Some great permanent makeup pigment brands include the Nano, PCD, and Biotouch. These cosmetic tattoo pigments must be replaced on a yearly basis, lest they expire.
Next ask her how she sanitizes her blades and blade pens. The best answer would be that she doesn’t. A good microblading technician will use a brand new, disposable, sterile tool on every client.
The last question to ask is whether a touch-up is included, and after how long. While some cosmetic tattooing salons like to have their microblading clients come back after 3 weeks, waiting for 6 weeks is preferred.
Why is a Microblading Touch-up Necessary, Anyway?
After 6 weeks, the skin will have fully healed from the microblading. This means that a new layer of skin has grown over the eyebrow embroidery pigment, so it will become anywhere from 30% to 70% lighter.
Many people leave their first microblading appointment worried that their eyebrows are too dark, however by the time their skin has healed the color should be perfect, or maybe even too light.
In some cases the body totally absorbs the ink, and the semi-permanent tattoo totally disappears. In other cases, because of a variety of factors, including body chemistry, medication, or sun exposure, the pigment embroidery might even change color.
The touch-up is an opportunity for the microblading technician to fix any of the changes that may have occurred. And before you ask, yes, even changed ink color can be corrected! It’s also an opportunity for your permanent makeup artist to make any small corrections or changes to the shape.
A lot of the time, during the first appointment microblading clients will be nervous about their brows becoming too dark or heavy, only to completely change their mind 6 weeks later and request stronger looking-brows.
And As For Me?
So as you may have guessed, I went through with the process. I’m thrilled with my new eyebrows right now! They’re even and natural looking. Now let’s just hope I don’t get lazy with my aftercare, and lose all the hard work of my microblading technician.
Photos courtesy of @eyebrowdoctor_, @shaughnessy
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