I was born without eyebrows. Well, they’re there, but not visible to the plain eye. My hair is dark, my eyebrows belong on a blonde. My Irish face didn’t do me any favors growing up in a Mexican border town, where girls are known to be olive-skinned, put-together and beautiful, with a dramatic brow, long before that was a thing. I felt the disparity and tried to compensate with all the smoke and mirrors, but still, in the morning I wake up freckly and Irish and by the time I go to work, I look at least half Mexican.
My husband is well aware of this stigma I carry with me, and thought I should name this post, “Waking Up With Eyebrows.” He’s become painfully aware of how important eyebrows are in giving structure and contrast to the face. He knows that I want to approach strangers with an eyebrow pencil and offer my assistance. He knows that I’d rather leave the house naked than without eyebrows.
When I heard about microblading, a natural-looking alternative to tattooed brows, I became obsessed. It’s a relatively new technique in which small hair-like lines are etched into the skin with semi-permanent pigment. Could I too wake up in the morning with eyebrows?
I found someone in the Phoenix metro area, trained by the founder of the microblading method with a nice set of credentials and great portfolio (all important factors) and made my appointment. She allowed for Q&A via text, I sent her pictures of myself without makeup (eek!), made my appointment, signed the release forms, and sat down to trick nature.
Microblading Session 1: Let There Be Brows
The first appointment took about three hours. She measured my face with a round ruler, made crayola markings and straight lines for symmetry and face structure (I looked like a real muppet), dotted lines around the area she’d be microblading with a marker, applied numbing gel, wrapped my forehead in plastic wrap, and sat back to let the lidocaine take effect. New microblade pens are used with each new client, as well as new blades with a row of 12-16 micro-needles per blade.
She scratched lines into my eyebrows, with a surreal scratching sound for each tick. I didn’t feel much with this step but when she pressed the pigment in, I felt a lot, similar to a tattoo but with a lot of pressure. At each step, there was a measuring, standing back and scrutinizing, asking me for my thoughts. One eyebrow definitely looked better, and at each step I gave my thoughts on how to make them both awesome, and she’d scrunch her face and hit me with pigment. At the end, she placed firey pigment from hell on my brows and wrapped me up like leftovers once again. We sat. She cleaned me up, put on a gel and sent me on my way.
Session 1 lessons learned:
- My penciled-in eyebrows curved down too much and were pulling my face down – a no-no for an almost mid-lifer. They tail should pull straight to the side.
- My brows are different shapes and my face is asymmetrical, which I well knew, but it feels different when someone is reminding you repeatedly, no matter how much self-acceptance you have.
- Don’t live and die by a ruler or formula. Sometimes, in life, you have to eyeball it, so to speak.
As soon as I left, I looked at my swollen eyebrows in the mirror and was horrified at the asymmetry, so I called the artist in a panic and asked if that was normal. Welcome to my OCD life. She of course didn’t return my call until many hours later and told me my face was crooked, I had my opportunity to correct any issues, and we could address my concerns at the touch-up in 8 weeks. Freaking great.
The next day, less swollen, having come to terms with the fact that my face is naturally asymmetrical, and that, worst case scenario I could correct with pencil and concealer like I’ve always done, I realized that it’s not that bad. I looked fine at work the following Monday, by brows a smidge darker than they would have been with pencil. A few days in, the pigment darkened and my eyebrows became itchy and tight and it looked more like a healing tattoo than a set of natural eyebrows, but it’s part of the process, right? …Right? By the time I was ready to go back, I thought my brows were actually looking legit.
Microblading Session 2: Bring on the Pain
As she was applying the numbing cream, she told me she ran out of her preferred cream and this one took longer. Maybe I didn’t leave big enough of a tip the first time? After I’d been numbing for a while, I went to the table where she took the ruler to my face again, redrew the boundaries and asked me what I thought. I told her exactly what I thought, no holds barred this time, and she edited the lines. Ready to go.
I laid down on the table and she started to scratch the strokes in with the microblade. Holy hell! Maybe it was because I was a little sick already, but my sinuses flared up instantly, my eyes welled up with tears which kept streaming down my face, and she kept microblading… Until the epic sneezing kicked in.
It hurt worse than needles, worse than childbirth, worse than rib tattoos. “Stop frowning.” Um, I’ll try but my eyebrows are in charge at the moment, okay lady? She explained that the cream she used last time was one her mentor gave her and that American creams are 5% lidocaine and not as good. Give me the good Chinese stuff, for the love of God.
Same process as the previous session. She scratched long strokes in with the microneedler and pigment, put on numbing cream, wrapped my eyebrows in plastic, then pressed in more pigment with the pen (I think my endorphins were in full force by now because this is what hurt most the last session but after my lack of Chinese lidocaine, this was a walk in the park), then asked me what I thought it needed. Last chance because there’s no going back after this. I gave her a few things I’d like to add, even though I felt like saying, “F* you and your pain – I’m out!” She did a few more strokes, I checked myself out at different angles in different light, gave her a thumbs up, she put some cream on my eyebrows, and sent me off into world not to see each other until touch-ups in another year or two.
|Me without a stitch of makeup (gasp!), before, mid-way, and after. BTW, this is my morning hair with no heat styling.|
Was all this worth it? Definitely! Here are some of my takeaways, in case you’re as determined as I was to endure pain and inconvenience for the sake of epic, natural-looking brows:
- Do your research: Not all artists operating under the umbrella of microblading do it properly – some use tattoo pens, some use pigment that changes color, some are just bad. Check for credentials, training and apprenticeship, examine portfolios, follow the artists that you’re considering on social media as you make a decision to see their latest work.
- Make sure the artist and you come to agreement: Decide what the shape should be prior to the microblading, during, and at the end of each appointment. Be prepared to advocate for yourself and let him or her know if there’s anything that needs editing. You know your face better than anyone else, and better than any ruler, so be your own spokesperson.
- Realize that this is long-term, and probably not perfect: If you have a perfectly symmetrical face like Brad Pitt, congratulations! Your eyebrows are probably perfect too, so what are you doing here? For the rest of us, there are slight variations from side to side, and so it will be with your eyebrows. When the pigment is first applied, you will look like a caricature of yourself (especially if you’re not used to a prominent brow), so come to terms with imperfection, and know that you’re trusting your artist to do something to your face that will last years.
- Don’t look at yourself in the rearview mirror: For that matter, make no judgment on your eyebrows for the first week. They will NOT look as you expect them too. The asymmetry is exaggerated, they’re too dark, you maybe can’t use as much makeup as you’d like, but especially when your face is swollen and fresh, don’t look in the mirror on your drive home. And be kind to yourself, because you’ve just gone through a self-inflicted trauma.
We go to great lengths (and to some depths) for beauty, but for me, microblading was a great solution because I get brows on fleek for a few years, first thing in the morning, after swimming, in the rain, and when I’m sick. I get a natural looking, low maintenance face and peace of mind (and face) on a daily basis.
I’m happy to answer any questions, to the best of my ability, to help you make a good semi-permanent decision or avoid a bad one.
[Lead photo Creative Commons Zero]