We all remember that brief time in the early 2000s when all of the suburban housewives of the world threw out their tired brow pencils in lieu of something a bit more permanent and hassle free. In theory, it sounded great. Who doesn’t want to wake up every morning with beautifully thick, perfect eyebrows that rival those of Brooke Shields circa The Blue Lagoon era? But, as with most short lived beauty trends (see the Kylie Jenner lip challenge), there were some unforeseen after effects, namely the dreaded blue-grey color the brows faded to after a year or so. In short, some of our brows are still living life like "Jenny From the Block" is the number one radio hit of the century.
Suffice it to say, when micro-blading came onto the scene a few years ago, it piqued the collective interest of every brow obsessed (or in our case, lazy) makeup wearing person on social media. The photos were too good to be true. Gone were the days of thick, sharpied on eyebrows, and in their place stood tiny little wisps of what looked like real hair. Wouldn’t it be nice to gain some insight into everything there is to know about micro-blading before actually committing to it? We asked Claire Vuillemot, a professional tattoo artist who’s gone cosmetic within the last few years, what you should absolutely know before booking an appointment.
What exactly is micro-blading?
It’s a cosmetic tattoo that's applied with a very fine bundle of needles, a hand tool and cosmetic pigment, mimicking the natural hair of an eyebrow. If you look up close at an eyebrow — the hairs grow in all different, yet very specific directions. This method can be used to fill in gaps, cover scars, or create a more flattering shape where hair has been removed and never grew back.
How does it differ from the way permanent cosmetic makeup used to be applied?
When done properly and following aftercare, it creates a soft and natural illusion of a real brow. When I started this a year ago, people in New York were shocked and put off by the idea of it, because all they thought of when they heard "eyebrow tattoo" were those crazy sharpie-style block tattoos that we're all most familiar with. Those old style tattoos were done with machines and sometimes cosmetic pigment, sometimes with regular tattoo ink and applied with too heavy of a hand in unnatural shapes and colors. With this method I work off of what natural brow hair a client already has, and build a shape that fits the proportions of their face according to their other facial features. Every set comes out different, and I love that! I don't do one size fits all, or crazy arches, although I might be guilty of a bushy boy brow once in a while.
Can micro-blading cover or disguise old cosmetic tattooing?
Sure, if you have a very faded older tattoo it can be reworked with this method, if the artist is up for it. Results can be unpredictable, especially if there is a lot of scar tissue from the old tattoo.
What does the aftercare and healing process look like? Are there any particular products you would recommend?
Aftercare for cosmetics are pretty different from regular tattoos. I'm sure every artist has a different healing method. The most important thing for these fineline brows, that I've discovered, and what I recommend to my clients is they must be kept extremely dry. No water or sweating for the first 10 days post treatment, so you have to be careful washing your face, in the shower, and working out. It can be a challenge but it's possible! At the end of your session, you'll leave my studio with squeaky clean brows that are treated with ointment. They form a thin, delicate scab and seal up overnight. Then they heal from the inside out and they shouldn't get wet or really be touched for a good five days. Moisture will make your lines bleed together, change color, or fall out — either way — not good! Between days 5-10, they peel and flake, at that point a little dab of coconut oil once a day is all I recommend if they feel itchy and tight.
Due to the nature of thin facial skin it really takes about 4 weeks for the brows to totally settle in. They kinda go through a bunch of different phases. It goes a little something like this:
Day 1: Fresh, crisp and perfect
Days 2-5: Oxidized, dark and filled in appearance
Days 5-10: peeling flaking and shedding a top layer
Days 10-20: lines surrounded by white, milky fresh skin, brows appear faded
Days 20-30: the new skin heals around the lines and the color and shape blooms back to the surface
Is micro-blading safe for someone who has particularly sensitive skin?
Results may not be optimal if your skin is very sensitive. For example, if you bleed a lot, the pigment won't hold as well.
Is there any chance someone could have an allergic reaction to the pigment used?
There's always a chance for allergic reaction when placing foreign substances in or around the body. I haven't had a single allergic reaction yet, so that's great! If someone thinks they may be allergic or too sensitive, I offer a patch test a week prior to the tattoo appointment.
What does upkeep look like? Is this something that has to be retouched on a semi-regular basis, and if so how often?
Yup, there's upkeep. But it's pretty minimal. It's better than brows that sweat or smear off or that take 20 minutes to apply every morning! A set of brows includes an initial touch up 4-8 weeks after the first appointment and then, depending on your skin type and lifestyle, will need to be freshened up maybe once a year. If your skin is super oily and you love the beach, your brows will fade out quick.
Is there anything else you feel like people should absolutely know before making the decision to receive micro-blading?
It's very important to see lots of examples of an artist's work, both freshly tattooed and healed photos. Make sure you vibe with their artistic style and viewpoint: dramatic, natural, etc. Also it's great to keep in mind that any kind of tattooing, whether by hand or machine, is a very technical craft that requires a lot of practice and knowledge, as well as artistic talent. A lot of people are taking quick courses to become 'certified' in micro-blading, with no creative background or previous tattoo knowledge and just get right at tattooing faces. It's crazy! I mean, when I first started, I thought how hard can an eyebrow be? Even with my tattooing background, I discovered it's not that easy. So just be careful.
Definitely make sure you can commit to the aftercare rules, and choose a time when it will be convenient for you. Like a week before your sister's wedding or right before a beach vacation — not good timing! Give yourself at least a few weeks healing before any major plans...
Also, realistically cosmetic tattoos will need some maintenance if you want them looking their best, so count on revisiting your artist at least once a year for a touch up.