By Sarah Jio
You’ve probably heard of microblading (aka, a semi-permanent tattoo for your eyebrows). The specialty salon service is all the rage right now, and while it’s been around for years, I was a bit of a late adopter. I admit to being completely squeamish about the concept of a “tattoo” on my face (right?). But, like all good girls who were teenagers in the 90’s, I, regrettably overplucked my brows, leaving me with a lifelong love-hate relationship with eyebrow pencils and powders. Exhausted with my daily brow regimen, I began to wonder if I had the courage to take the microblading plunge, and a few months ago, I finally did!
I made an appointment with a technician who a friend of mine recommended, and nervously slid into a reclining chair as she got to work. The first step was cleaning my brows and removing the makeup in that area. After taking photos and chatting about my preferences (I told her I wanted a natural look, and nothing too dark or severe, given that I have blond hair), she began taking measurements—from the tip of my nose to my browbone, and other areas—before drawing out the new shape of my brows and settling on the shade of pigment to use (ash brown).
I’ve never gotten a tattoo, so I had no idea what was in store next, when she whipped out her little tattoo gun (if you could call it that) and began making featherlight strokes along my brows. After the first pass, I got a 15-minute break, and then she did a final run through before showing me my results.
At first, I was pleasantly surprised. I loved the shape and was amazed at how natural the results looked. But, I still felt like a few areas were a bit too sparse, so she agreed to touch up those spots. I left with after-care instructions (more on that, below) and made an appointment for four weeks down the road for my “touch up” visit.
Later that night, I felt good about everything. My brows looked great, and the process wasn’t that hard. But, in the days and weeks that followed, I had a few moments of panic. Here’s what I wish I would have known, so I could have avoided those freak outs:
Microblading isn’t for the faint of heart. The initial appointment can run 2-3 hours (or longer if you’re technician needs to do multiple passes), and also the healing process takes time. By the end of my visit, I was starving and wished I’d packed a snack to get me through.
I also wish I’d known that when you leave the salon with your fresh, new brows, your journey has only just begun.
In fact, that fresh-out-of-the-chair look will all but disappear by the next day, when the real work begins: your body’s healing process and your after-care work (staying out of the sun, avoiding exercise—sweat can mess with the pigments—and applying ointment multiple times a day). This period can be so grueling, that many regret taking the plunge. But, hold tight and read on—it gets better.
Everything I’d read or heard about microblading emphasized that it is relatively painless. Um, not so much. Yeah, it’s not a white-knuckle-and-screaming-in-pain experience, but at times, it’s a bit … ouch. I found the “first pass” to be relatively easy, but by the second pass, my eyebrows were like, “give me a break, already! This hurts!”
Fortunately, that part didn’t last long, and I was on my way. But be prepared for some itchiness that evening and in the days to come, which is normal, and the ointment your technician will give you helps with that. You can also place a baggie of ice over your brows to reduce inflammation.
While there’s some controversy among microblading experts about “dry healing” vs. “wet healing,” the general consensus (and the one my technician swears by) is that water isn’t good for your brows post-procedure. The theory is that by keeping the skin around your brows dry, your body is better able to heal properly and “accept” the tattoo.
With that in mind, showers are off limits, unless you can avoid getting your face wet (tough).
Yes, you can take a bath, but everyone knows how hard it is to wash your hair in the bathtub. My advice is to shower before your treatment (wish I’d thought of that!), take a body-only bath, and do your best to rely on dry shampoo until at least a week later. Also, facial wipes to cleanse your face are your new best friends!
As noted above, I was shocked to learn that exercise is a no-no after your service. I was a bit bummed to find this out, as I’m someone who loves her daily run. The theory is that sweat (which contains your body’s natural salts) can impact your skin’s ability to retain the pigment of the tattoo. And, after all that hard work (and money!), you don’t want to mess things up. So, be prepared to take a seven- to ten-day break from working out after getting your brows done. I warned you! (Oh, and sorry: Swimming in salt water, or a pool, is off limits, too.)
Yes, they’re the experts (artists, really), but you know your face best. If the shape they draw doesn’t look quite right, speak up! Better yet, bring in photos of microbladed brows you love as examples. After my second pass, I still felt that some areas of my brows needed a bit more strokes. While the technician initially disagreed, I politely explained that I preferred a more filled-in look. She added a few more strokes in certain places, and I liked the overall look much better.
While I had some understanding that my brows might be a bit inflamed after the appointment, I had no idea what would really lie ahead (aka, the various stages of scabbing, flaking and healing) and that I’d have to deal with this (major) zinger: No eyebrow makeup for at least 10 days, and preferably longer. If you’re meticulous about your brows, like me, this was a strange form of torture.
The thing is, even with microblading, most people still touch up their brows, because even the best results are never perfect.
And in the healing stage, you will want (so desperately) to help them along with a little eyebrow makeup, but do everything you can to resist the urge to reach for the brow pencil because it can botch, or even ruin, your final results. Yep, that might mean laying low for a bit, and maybe rescheduling a few dates until you’re feeling more brow-confident.
I’m serious, if you get your eyebrows microbladed, go into the appointment with this as your new mantra. While you’re most likely to leave the salon feeling happy, you’re definitely going to go through the many stages of brow grief in the weeks ahead. I’m telling you, it’s a thing, and it looks something like this: Day 1: “Wow, I’m so glad I got this done! My brows look so great!” Day 2-5: “Um, what the $%&@ did I do to myself? Why are my eyebrows so scabby and flaky? When will this end?” Day 5-14: “OMG, my brows are gone! Why are they so light and sparse? Maybe this didn’t work for me?” Day 15 to 25: “Hmm, things are slowly looking better. We’ll see.” Day 25 and beyond: “Finally!”