The job of a beauty editor is laced with plenty of perks, including more free swag than one person can handle. Admittedly, I’ve grown accustomed to getting some of my hair, skin and makeup staples without having to flash a credit card or wad of cash, but as of late, I’ve adopted a more low-key routine and pondered the pricier treatments I would actually invest in if my access weren’t as exclusive. Throughout the years, I’ve tried everything from Cool Sculpting to sound bathing, but none have made me feel more secure and confident than microblading.
I inherited painfully sparse brows from my father; so much so, that in my twentysomething years of living, I have yet to have them tweezed or waxed by a professional. That may seem like a money-saving trait to some, but I’ve spent just as much on eyebrow pencils, gels and pomades that I finish at warp speed because my entire brow needs to be filled in every. single. day. The struggle has always been real for me, compounded with the fact that I was tirelessly teased about them as a teenager when my makeup skills were amateur at best.
At one point, I thought of permanent makeup as a solution, but not having the ability to adjust my arch and the potential of looking as though a Sharpie was dragged across my forehead always scared me. So when I finally decided to take the plunge and get them microbladed, it was seriously life-changing. In the simplest terms, it’s a form of semi-permanent tattooing, where a tool with tiny blades creates hair-like strokes to fill and shape the brows, therefore creating a more natural-looking result.
Here’s what my brows looked like when I first had them sculpted:
Given my brow insecurities, I had very few concerns the first time around, but once it was time to get them touched-up, I was definitely curious as to how the process would differ. If you’re in the same boat as me, or simply want a closer look at long-term care, here are the must-know facts about touching up brows that have already gone through the microblading treatment.
Touch-Ups Depend on Skin Type
How often you get your brows treated depends on your skin type, lifestyle and age. For instance, oily skin will fade color much faster than dry skin and younger skin will fade faster than more mature skin. Mine definitely falls on the oily/combination side, so having a follow-up appointment after just a year and a half made sense.
“Most clients find that at the year mark, their shape is still visible, but the color is muted and they want more color concentration. At that point, clients come in for a one-time color-boost appointment. I just add more color concentration into the shape and lines that already exist,” says Kendra Bray, founder of Better Brows & Beauty in NYC (and the only person I trust with my brows).
The shape and color will continue to fade if you skip color-boosting altogether. If that’s the case, generally speaking, some amounts of pigment will remain in the skin after two years, and by the third, most of it will be gone. “Long-term maintenance must be done methodically to continue to have a natural look,” says Bray. The moral of this story is that while a color touch-up works for one person, that may not be the case for someone else.
Your Artist Choice Matters
That brings me to another important point. Who you decide to entrust your brows with matters a lot. In adition to having the proper training and accreditation for managing sharp tools and semi-permanent pigments, they should set aside a considerable amount of time for consultation, which includes precise brow-mapping and shaping. Above all, this should be someone you plan on working with on a continual basis.
“One thing you do want to consider when you’re choosing an artist is, ideally, someone who can be with you throughout the years,” says Bray. “Not only will they have notes on what needles were used, what pigments, how your skin reacted and retained the pigment; they’ll be able to help you manage throughout the years.”
The Tools May Change
The scariest part of the entire process is, well, the process. There’s something very sharp puncturing your skin at high speed. Everyone’s pain tolerance is different (mine is very low), but there’s a level of discomfort overall. For my first appointment, Kendra filled in my brows using a hand tool that sounded like a knife scraping a chalkboard whenever it hit my skin. And although numbing cream was applied beforehand, it was still hard to not squirm while she worked.
This time, I had the option of a machine that resembles a traditional tattoo machine. The biggest difference between this and a hand tool is artist preference. “A natural-looking hair-stroke-like brow has become so popular. Every artist may choose to use a different method based on skin type, skin texture, or first-time client versus long-term maintenance appointments,” says Bray. “The hand tool is a small blade that is making tiny channels in the skin where pigment is placed to create the hairlike lines. The machine uses a single needle, which pushes tiny amounts of pigment into the skin in the direction that the artist places.”
We’ve talked about the much-desired look of a natural hair stroke, but if you’re someone who wants to do as little brow-defining as possible, you can try shading in your look. This is certainly an option for first-timers, but as someone who’s been through the process, I recommend going as natural as possible first, living in it for awhile, and altering from there if you’d like.
“Powder effect is another technique that can be done in combination with microblading. Depending on what the individual wants and natural brows, I will add this technique for a more defined look,” says Bray. “The powder effect looks like it sounds. It is a sheer wash of color that is added within the shape. Some people are also calling this technique an ombre brow. Shading, powder, ombre—it’s just marketing. They are all terms for the same technique.”
Lay Off the Retinol
And finally, the biggest lesson of all: Keep your exfoliators away from the brow area! I love retinol. Not just because it’s one of those things they say you should use to prevent wrinkles; it just makes my skin look ridiculously smooth.
What I didn’t realize is that according to Bray, it’s what made my pigment fade and actually turn to the auburn/brown shade you see above. Once your brows have been treated, it’s important to simply wash them and remove makeup with a wipe; nothing more. Also, immediate after-care matters just as much the second time around. This includes keeping the brow area dry for 7-10 days and avoiding sweat-inducing activity.