Hi, I'm Alison, and I've spent years suffering from invisible eyebrow syndrome. After reading some unbelievable microblading reviews online and on Instagram, I volunteered myself as beauty guinea pig and tried out the procedure. I mean, it's just permanent ink, a needle, and your face — so what could possibly go wrong?
I'd like to thank (blame?) Cara Delevingne for starting the fuller eyebrow trend. I didn't realize it until a few years ago, but my eyebrows had been sadly over-plucked and were in dire need of a fuller style. Unfortunately for me, plucking out your brow hairs is much easier than growing them back. The parts of my eyebrows that do grow oh-so-quickly show up in all the wrong places. Is there an invisible shield directly around my eyebrows allowing hair to only regrow outside of the socially acceptable brow area? I'm starting to think yes.
After about a year of contemplating microblading, my mom coincidentally decided to go for it (and loved it), and generously got me a gift certificate for Chrismukkah to do the same. Understanding what my brows looked like before the procedure is the only way to appreciate the results, so I'll show you all the funny photos of me before, during, and after.
Here are my lack of eyebrows, in all their glory (my cat Layla is totally judging me). The heads of my brows (the thicker parts on the inside) are fine, but the tails (the thinner parts on the outside) manage to be simultaneously bushy and too thin. I hadn't plucked much of the tail end in years, aside from rogue hairs, because I was trying to let them thicken out, but it just wasn't working.
I used eyebrow pencils (my favorite is L'Oréal Paris Shape & Fill Mechanical Pencil; $11) to fill them in pretty much anytime I left my apartment, but they were still thinner than would be ideal. You can only use a pencil so much before the resulting brows clearly look fake, and that wasn't the look I was going for.
Here they are filled in a little more but I'm clearly no makeup artist, and they don't have the right arch. I know I'm nitpicking but I wanted better eyebrows, just go with it.
Going Under The Semi-Permanent Knife
I was lucky to find a trustworthy microblading salon (Prettyology in Boston) through my mom, who did the procedure first. When I went in for my appointment, the technician looked at my eyebrows for about 30 seconds and knew exactly what I needed. She went over the procedure and a few things for me to choose from, but I mostly trusted her with what to do.
My options were microblading or microshading. In very non-technical terms, microshading (also known as micropigmentation) is like using a semi-permanent brow powder or gel to fill in and darken your existing brows (it's not actually done with those products, it's done with semi-permanent ink). I didn't really have enough existing brows to do this, so microblading was better for me.
How does microblading work? If you're at all queasy about knives and needles you may want to skip ahead a little bit. A properly trained and licensed technician makes individual, hair-shaped cuts on your skin and then applies ink to the appropriate area that seeps into the cuts. Each individual hair is hand-drawn onto your face; it doesn't get much more precise than that. The ink doesn't go as deep into your skin as with a traditional tattoo, which is why it's not completely permanent. As someone who has multiple tattoos, I can also tell you it feels very different.
The technician started by plucking out a lot of my existing eyebrow hairs, and I think she could tell this was giving me anxiety (I came in to get fuller eyebrows, after all). My new eyebrow shape, she told me, was going to be different and she needed to clear up some space to work her magic. She then used a brow pencil to draw on how she would do the microblading — this allowed me to see a preview of the finished product and for us to discuss the best shape for me.
Afterwards, she began by making the first round of cuts sans numbing cream. To be honest, I can't remember why she said she needed to do that because I was distracted by the pain. I'm not gonna lie, it hurt. But it only took about five minutes, and once she put the numbing cream on I was a new woman.
As I mentioned, microblading involves making the small hair-shaped cuts and then applying ink into those cuts. The ink application is less precise...
WARNING: Embarrassing Content Below
I told you it was embarrassing. Don't worry, the ink only adheres to the microblade cuts and is easily wiped off from the rest of the skin. Don't get distracted, though, the end result is on the way and it's pretty epic.
I likened myself to Groucho Marx, the namesake behind the classic disguise, Grouch Glasses.
Now please erase that photo from your memory and prepare yourself for the modern day, IRL Mona Lisa. Here's my after picture:
Gorge, right? This is how my brows looked immediately after the procedure. They felt sore and tender for about an hour afterwards, but it was relatively mild pain. Aftercare will vary depending on where you get the procedure done, but the main instructions for me were almost the same as with a normal tattoo — gently clean two to three times per day with unscented soap and water and apply petroleum jelly for the first three days, then keep them moisturized with unscented lotion for a few weeks after that.
You also have to avoid makeup around your eyebrows for a few days, so keep that in mind when scheduling your appointment. Basically, don't do it the day before your first date with your Tinder crush.
The technician told me that my brows would appear too dark for the first few days while the ink settled, which was true, but it wasn't bad enough that I had to hide from the public eye.
Here is the (almost) final product! You can see that the ink settled to the right color and my brows are in much better shape (literally) than before my eyebrow makeover began. The best part of it all, to me, is that my eyebrows look completely natural.
This isn't the complete final product because part of microblading (at most salons) is a second, complimentary appointment to touch up any areas where the ink may not have set properly, and potentially add some micropigmentation on top of the microblading to make my brows look their absolute best. But they already look pretty d*mn great if I do say so myself.
If you're interested in getting microblading done yourself, choosing a good salon is key. Make sure the place has good reviews online (check Yelp) and ask around to friends in your area if they know of a good place — try using the Facebook recommendations feature to cast a wide net! Price is also a good indicator of the salon quality. It will vary by city and by individual procedure, but can cost between $500-$800, before tax.
This is a hefty price tag but you should be wary of anywhere charging less than that. You definitely don't want bad eyebrows tattooed on your face, so I'd say the investment is worth it. You can also look for discounts on Groupon, but still do your research on the original price of the procedure and check out reviews before you pick a salon.
While I'm overjoyed with my results, keep in mind that it's not completely permanent. The ink will last between one and three years, so I've got some time to bond with my new brows, but I'll eventually have to either get this done again or, sigh, go back to doing them myself. In the meantime, excuse me while I show off my on fleek eyebrows.