What Is Microblading?

And What You Need To Know About It

by Naomi Saphire // April - May - June 2018

Beautiful eyebrows can make a huge difference to your face. Some people are genetically fortunate to be born with nicely shaped brows with just the right amount of hair. Many need to pencil in the deficit on their own, day after day. Yet others start losing their brows as they grow older, suffer from disease, or have undergone medical treatments that affected their brows.

Penciling in your own brows each and every day can be a serious but necessary time waster, because without those brows looking as full as you desire, you are not walking out the door as the best-looking version of you.

Microblading is changing this for thousands of men and women across the country. With the right artist and technique, you can have eyebrows that look very realistic, even under the scrutiny of that 4K phone camera. Microblading is making a huge difference in the lives of people with severe hair loss, like Alopecia or disorders like Trichotillomania, and those who may have overplucked in their younger years or simply aren’t one of the lucky folks who are naturally brow blessed. But the pitfalls are many, because the microblading industry is not as regulated as most consumers might assume.

Unlike traditional tattoos, which are permanent, microblading is a semi-permanent, manual technique that infuses pigments (ink) into the upper layer of the epidermis, a more superficial part of the skin. This makes the strokes crisper than a traditional tattoo, which penetrates deeper into the epidermis. Small incisions, or scrape-like cuts, are etched into the brow in the shape of individual hairs and those incisions are filled with the pigments, generally over one or two sessions.

Certain microblading techniques layer the strokes in ways that create the optical illusion of depth and give the brows more of a 3D look, rather than just drawn lines. Because of the shallower depth of microblading strokes, they fade naturally over time. The eyebrows last an average of 12-24 months, mostly depending on your skin type. Brows on those with normal and dry skin last significantly longer than those with oily skin.

Most people need a follow-up procedure within six to eight weeks of the initial session to make the strokes last. It is perfectly normal to lose some of the pigment after the first session, especially for those who have oily skin. Many industry experts credit as much as 70% of the skin’s retention potential with the post treatment care in the days after the microblading. Following your artist’s after-care instructions to a T can determine a successful outcome and add months to the lifespan of your new brows.

Is there pain? There is some discomfort by varying degrees, depending on your pain threshold. Some shops offer a topical anesthetic before the microblading starts, but this is a courtesy you might want to consider declining. When your skin is satiated with the anesthetic cream, it leaves less room for the pigments to be absorbed, making the retention level less than ideal and can result in blurred strokes and cuts that go too deep. Once the initial incisions are made, numbing gel can safely be applied directly into the tissue before the pigment is spread. When anesthetic is applied directly, without having to be absorbed through the skin, the numbing is instant and doesn’t adversely affect retention.

While microblading has been enjoying a nice grace period of goodwill, the industry is now starting to experience a bit of a backlash from the increased prevalence of substandard work and even botched jobs. To become a microblading artist – or a tattoo artist for that matter – all you need is to make sure your work area passes a local health inspection. In many states, including North Carolina, there are no government-regulated course materials on microblading procedures that need to be passed, nor is there a quality control of the workmanship. There are academies and techniques of microblading that enjoy high esteem within the microblading community, but this is not something a consumer would be privy to without considerable effort spent doing online detective work. And even then, there is no guarantee that a person who received a diploma from a top microblading course will excel as an artist. Microblading is a procedure that requires both an artistic eye, highly developed fine motor skills, and the type of personality that can patiently work with a client to collaboratively design his or her new brows. That means it is all up to you to choose the right microblading artist. So how can one sift through all the clutter to determine who is a great one? Facebook recommendations can only get you so far. 

Assuming you don’t have a friend with microbladed brows that you can personally inspect, the best predictor of the quality of work you will experience should be found on the artist’s website. Every artist has their past work portfolio on their website in the form of accumulated “before” and “after” photos. But be wary of judging the work from poor quality photos. At low resolution, an artist’s work may look acceptable when the fuzzy image doesn’t distinguish one individual stroke from another. But how do those strokes hold up on a high-resolution image? People will be judging your finished brows in the cold light of day, not while squinting from a distance in a dark closet. Be sure the artist’s work is available in high resolution photos that don’t obscure any flaws in the workmanship. If the pictures are grainy, soft, or pixelated, you should be suspicious.

Cost for microblading ranges anywhere from a couple hundred dollars all the way up to about $900, with most studios averaging upward of $500. Just remember, this is your face. You probably wouldn’t want to go to the cheapest plastic surgeon for a facelift. The same mind-set should be applied when selecting a microblading artist.

Don’t rush into microblading until you’ve had a consultation with the artist. This is your opportunity to ask questions, discuss what type of eyebrows you hope to achieve, and establish a good rapport.

Microblading is not for everybody. If you’re pregnant or currently undergoing a medical treatment that compromises your immunity, put those dreams of gorgeous brows on pause. Also, if you’re a workout fanatic and can’t go a couple of weeks without breaking a sweat, this is not for you, because you can’t get your new brows wet for two whole weeks following the procedure.

Many people spend 10 to 20 minutes every day filling in their eyebrows and then worry for the rest of the day about just how much their work has deteriorated. Microblading is saving them hours every week in addition to giving them the incredible confidence gained from having beautiful brows. I encourage you to audition the artists in your area with a discerning eye and wish you good luck on your quest for those perfect brows. 

Naomi Saphire

A PhiBrow certified microblading artist and a clinical esthetician and owns her own microblading studio, INKOLOGY.