Semi-permanent brow makeup: microblading and tattooed eyebrows
EyebrowQueen founder, Nilam, explains the techniques for achieving long-term brows and talks about what you can really expect from these treatments.
There are many different terms used when it comes to these brow treatments. Microblading, digital microblading ,micro pigmentation, semi-permanent make up, machine method and eyebrow tattooing are just some of the treatment options you’ll find. But they all mean more or less the same thing: a technician deposits a small amount of pigment under the skin, creating a brow shape that lasts from several months to several years.
In this article, I’ll explain the different techniques available, and clear up some of the misconceptions people have about microblading and semi-permanent brow makeup.
Microblading vs tattooing
I get asked all the time about the differences between microbladed and tattooed eyebrows, and semi-permanent vs permanent eyebrows. These days, the terms typically refer to the same thing: placing medical grade pigment just under the skin to create the look of hair strokes or powder like make up. Since they are cosmetic treatments, they are not as deep as traditional tattoos, and the pigment fades over time, unlike traditional tattoo inks that remain in the dermal layer forever.
If you search the internet, you will find mention of permanent eyebrow tattoos. In the Uk we have to refer to cosmetic tattooing as permanent. This is because even though the colour fades over time there may always be traces of pigment molecules left in the skin tissue. There are also tattoo artists using traditional tattoo methods and inks which are placed deeper into the skin and last longer. However, this is not common practice in the UK, so if somebody is offering eyebrow tattooing, it’s a good idea to find out if they mean traditional tattoos using inks or cosmetic tattooing using pigment. I would not recommend traditional tattoo methods or ink on the face.
Micro blading: by hand or by machine?
Cosmetic tattooing or micro blading is nothing new. The term micro blading usually refers to the process of cutting fine channels into the skin and depositing pigment using a hand-held tool. The technique that has been around for decades but was replaced by digital machines to create the same effect. However the hand held method made a comeback a few years ago and has increased in popularity because the treatment became cheaper to do and therefore more accessible for technicians to learn and clients have done.
The machine does the same thing as the manual tool and is actually my preferred method. The blade is configured from lots of needles in the same shape as a blade but is driven digitally, a little like a sewing machine dotting in and out of the skin.
Whether micro pigmentation of brows is done by hand or with a machine, the needle formation is the same, and the results are very similar. Both techniques allow the technician to create shading or strokes. Although some people say that a particular method can give little hair-like strokes, neither actually does in the long-term. I’ll talk more about that in the next section.
Personally, I find the machine method to be easier to use as I can control the amount of pigment deposited with the speed of the machine and my hand movement with each stroke.. I think it’s a little less aggressive and traumatic for the skin and gives more implantation. I often find sometimes the skin is resistant to the manual method, in which case digital machine micro blading may get the colour in better, especially if the skin has oily characteristics or old previous work.
Can I get realistic hair strokes with microblading?
We’ve all seen the pictures on Instagram and other places online – micro bladed brows with perfect, tiny hair strokes. Unfortunately, this isn’t really realistic, and I think it’s really important for clients to remember this, and for technicians to be honest about it.
When micro blading is first done, the small fine strokes can look fantastically crisp and realistic because the skin is broken and some of the pigment will be sat at the surface with the lacerated skin giving it a 3d effect. But new skin will heal over the tattoo creating a light opacity over the colour and light will bounce from the skin so the 3d effect is lost. Even with the most careful application, the pigment spread slightly under the surface blurring each stroke.These will become more blurred as they age and you’ll have what looks more like a textured shaded brow.
If you do manage to get nice crisp hair strokes that last the first time around, when you go to get the treatment refreshed, there will be some pigment between the strokes, and the result will look more shaded overtime. The pigment in the skin will also change the texture of the skin making it harder to tattoo over .. a little like drawing ball point pen over tippex.
How long does cosmetic tattooing last?
Microblading is usually advertised as lasting from 6 months to 3 years, but this is a big range. The length of time the treatment lasts will depend on several factors, including the type of pigment used, how deep it is put in and how the client’s skin retains colour.
Lifestyle, environmental factors and skin-care regimes can also affect how long semi-permanent brow makeup lasts. So, if you spend a lot of time in the sun, or if you regularly exfoliate your skin, the pigment will fade away much faster, especially with all the skin rejuvenation lotions which cause premature fading.
The person doing the treatment is always the most important choice that you need to make when considering microblading. Other than your skin type the result is almost completely reliant on their skill and knowledge to control the depth and application of the correct type of method and pigment for your skin. The therapist’s ability to create the right brow shape for you is essential, while their skill at getting the pigment in evenly and with the right amount of shading is critical.
A good technician will know to assess your skin type and be able to identify skin depth so they know where to apply more pressure and where to apply less pressure to get an even amount of colour.
Too light and it fades quickly, too deep and it goes a blue / grey colour that can be trapped in the skin like a tattoo.
We’d all love perfect eyebrows that last for as long as possible. However long lasting is not always the best option with microblading. I believe that it’s better to have brows that don’t last quite as long but look soft and natural all the time. I always advise my clients to have brows that look natural when you have no make up on and give you a good base that you can enhance with make up if you want to.
This is for several reasons. For one thing, brows start to sag as we age, and this can lead to longer-lasting treatments sitting really low down on the brow. Also, you might change your mind about the shape of your brow over time, so the natural fading process allows you to adjust the look and shape of your eyebrows. Brows should be a natural placement to compliment your facial features, not an on trend fashion necessity
It’s also important to remember that regardless of brand or type of pigment used, microblading treatments will fade over time. I have never seen a pigment that has stayed true to colour for more than six months, so this is something else you’ll need to be aware of if you choose to have your brows microbladed, it will not stay the same shade and tone forever. I would rather have to have my brows touched up more often because they have faded rather than to change the colour.
Machine Tattoo by Chelsey Briggs
Micro + Machine Tattoo by Chelsey Briggs
Microblade by Cathy Brown
Can semi-permanent makeup be removed?
When it comes to eyebrow tattooing and microblading, the shape is the most important to get right. Over time, if the colour changes, you can change the colour. If the pigmentation becomes uneven, you can reapply to even it out. But once there is tattooing in place, it’s very hard to change the shape - and removal can be a complicated process with multiple sessions over several months.
My preferred methods of removal are Laser and Saline:
- Laser which breaks up the pigment into microparticles to allow the body’s lymphatic system to carry it away. Visit Lorena Oberg for more info.
- Saline removal uses a solution that is tattooed into the area to encapsulate the pigment and draw it to the surface to remove. Visit Botched Ink for more info.
Both methods have advantages and disadvantages and work in different ways but are both effective in reducing the amount of pigment in the skin. If you decide your microblading removed it is important to find an experienced removal specialist to ensure limited long term damage to skin. It is helpful to know which pigments were used. For example, pigments that have titanium oxide may turn black initially when the removal laser is applied. Meanwhile, more ink-type pigments tend to go red on laser removal. Be sure to speak with the removal technician about what to expect with each session and discuss different removal methods. .
My preferred methods of removal are laser (recommend lorena Oberg) or saline removal. (botched ink) Both methods have advantages and disadvanages and work in different ways but are both effective in reducing the amount of pigment in the skin.
How to find the best Microblading technician for you.
Having a technician who has great ‘tattoo’ skills doesn’t mean you will get a good brow if they aren’t skilled in designing the right shape for you. And having a good brow shaper tattoo your brows doesn’t mean they will be good if they aren’t experienced and skilled in tattoo methods.
- Ensure your technician is properly qualified, licensed and insured.
- Make sure their set up is clean and hygienic
- Look to see that they use reputable pigment brands
- Look at their portfolio and ask to see healed results
- Don’t be guided by price or special offers
- Different technicians will suit different people so make sure you are comfortable and confident in your technician.
- Check how many treatments they do – experience is important.
- Make sure you have a patch test and discuss your medical history. If you are allergic to the pigment it can be disastrous for the skin as it is not topical and cannot be removed quickly or easily.
- Make sure you have a thorough consultation prior to your treatment, where they draw on your brows. I advise to do this a few weeks prior to having the treatment to allow for a cooling off period
- Before the treatment starts, discuss the colour and make sure the shape is drawn in and mutually agreed
- Stick to your natural shape as much as possible as your own hairs will grow around the new shape and may look odd if you don’t keep up with hair removal.
- Remember perfect symmetry will not be acheived.
- Remember your brows will change position and height over time.
- Note that Botox may change the position of your brows in different ways.
Alternatives to microblading
If you are not sure about microblading, or aren’t ready for the commitment of semi-permanent brow makeup, there are plenty of ways to get beautiful eyebrows without going under the needle. For example a good brow stylist can tint your brows to make hairs look darker or henna to stain the skin temporarily giving the effect of fuller brows. See my blog on Henna Brows. I always recommended to my microblading clients to use their microbladed brows as their natural brow. By that I mean the brow they want to wake up with in the morning which they could then enhance with make up for a stronger look if they needed. I have pretty full brows but like to add make up to them every day to enhance the shape and colour.
Use the EYEBROWQUEEN Brow Pro to draw microfine strokes or shade colour into sparse areas. You can create a natural or defined look with the fine tipped triangular pencil.
Use EYEBROWQUEEN Brow Fix to make brows look bushier without any fuss. The Brow Colour Boost wraps each hair that you have with colour and has added hair like fibres to plump up the volume. Check out our video tutorials for step-by-step instructions.