Recently, it's become more common for our eyebrows to get an artificial boost that lasts for far longer than your average pencil. Microblading — the process of applying tiny, semipermanent tattoos to the brow area to mimic the look of hairs — has become so popular that finding a skilled, certified professional to perform the treatment in any given location isn’t very difficult.
But while the immediate effects of microblading (fuller-looking, perfectly shaped brows) are obvious, the long-term effects of the treatment aren't talked about as often. But microblading is a semipermanent tattooing of the skin, so a full picture of what microblading entails before, during, and long after is important to have before you book your first appointment.
Diana Menendez, the owner of threading and microblading studio Accentuated in Scottsdale, Arizona, has been attending to people’s brows for almost a decade. Menendez explains that the first part of achieving the look you want with microblading is to find an experienced and trained professional that you trust. You can be as prepared as possible for the microblading process, but if you aren’t working with a licensed professional, the results can be horrifying.
The Possible Side-Effects of Microblading
In addition to walking out with brows just don't look like your inspiration photos, there’s also the more serious possibility of infection. As Boca Raton, Florida-based board-certified dermatologist Jeffrey Fromowitz explains, if you experience prolonged swelling, redness, crusting, or oozing after microblading, this is a sign that things are not as they should be and you should see your doctor as soon as possible.
When done correctly by a trained professional, microblading should last up to a year, Menendez explains. After a year (or six months, if you use tretinoin or do frequent chemical peels), you will most likely need regular, yearly touch-ups to maintain the original results. Without these touch-ups, Menendez says you would see the microbladed brows fade and eventually disappear completely after three years.
But all of this doesn’t necessarily mean that the impressive before-and-after photos you’ve seen tell the whole story about the long-term effects of microblading. Though the process is increasingly common, New York City-based board-certified dermatologist Hadley King explains to Allure that there are always going to be risks and the possibility of long-term complications or allergic reactions because the process involves piercing the skin barrier.
"It's also important to note that the FDA does not regulate the color-additive substances of the pigments used in microblading. Allergic reactions and contamination are possible," King says. "Because the results are semipermanent, it is particularly important to make sure that the procedure is done correctly. It cannot be easily covered up if it is done incorrectly." The most common thing you’ll hear about microblading is that the pigment fades over time, which is true, but what King says is also correct. If the microblading procedure goes wrong in some way, or there is a mistake made, it will not correct itself overnight — if it can even be corrected at all.
There's No Quick Fix for Less-Than-Perfect Microblading
San Francisco-based board-certified dermatologist Caren Campbell says she doesn’t recommend microblading cosmetically due to the maintenance required and the fact that, as King points out, changing the brows immediately is simply not feasible.
"Immediate removal is impossible and requires expensive laser sessions. Picosecond lasers provide the best removal results," Campbell says. Picosecond lasers are the same pigment-seeking lasers used to remove traditional tattoos, and a session usually costs between $300 and $1000.
If you are happy with your microblading results, then you’ll probably want to make sure your brows look as full as possible for as long as possible. Microblading is expensive (most sessions cost between $400 to $1,400), so it only makes sense that you would want to get your money's worth. However, as brow stylist and certified aesthetician Joey Healy tells Allure, simple things like sun exposure can fade your brows more quickly than you might expect.
"Your face gets a ton of sun, even in the winter and cold climates, and it does degrade the ink faster," Healy explains. "The sun hitting your face will change the color of the ink to sometimes look orangey, blue, and I've even seen pink."
And while many people believe they will use less brow makeup after microblading, Healy also mentions that his clients with microbladed brows often have to use brow products afterward — and they can’t switch up those products, either. “We find that we're giving clients a lot of brow powder to mask discoloration and to even out some wacky things that happen,” he says.
Though it's clear that many people who get their brows microbladed are happy with the experience (this writer, for one) Healy says his number one concern about the long-term effects of microblading (other than the possibility of discoloration) is that the procedure doesn't account for the fact that trends don’t last forever.
"We're helping people right now recover from the '90s thin eyebrows," Healey says, warning that microblading isn't a fleeting fix. "You are married to this shape. This isn't a lash extension; it is a face tattoo, and there is no way around it. It's a commitment. Bold brows are in now. They can very well get thinner again, and you're stuck with this shape."
Microblading in the Time Of COVID-19
The coronavirus pandemic has increased the risk that comes with many elements of our day-to-day lives and that includes appointments for procedures like microblading. Menendez tells Allure that she has "always taken strict measures in cleaning and sanitizing my salon environment," and that now is no different. Though she is working fewer hours now due to the pandemic, she also made sure to note that every client is required to wear a mask, which is in line with what most other salon owners Allure has spoken to say has changed about the way they operate, now that many states are reopening.
Laura Marinelli, PhD, is a phage scientist with expertise in microbiology and the skin microbiome, as well as the scientific advisor for Ellis Day Skin Science. She shares that the risk is "likely to be quite high" for cosmetic procedures right now, though it's not the microblading itself that poses an issue. "It's important to note that because the virus that causes COVID-19 is a respiratory pathogen, there are no specific risks associated with the tattooing procedure itself, but rather, the main risk comes from the potential for person-to-person transmission via respiratory droplets while breathing/talking," Marinelli says. "I know we are all experiencing various levels of quarantine fatigue and are anxious to get back to our normal lives, including our favorite beauty treatments, but, as a scientist, I wouldn't feel comfortable giving the OK at this juncture. IMHO, safety has to be the top priority, and no eyebrows, regardless of how fabulous, are worth getting sick over, or worse."
Though frustrating long-term effects like discoloration or misshapen brows are far from the ideal experience with microblading, it’s important to keep in mind that infection is always a much more serious risk — even once the pandemic is over. Both possible outcomes are exactly why it’s important to do thorough, exhaustive research before choosing the professional to microblade your brows. (While the regulations on who is authorized to perform microblading varies from state to state, Hadley advises always looking for a licensed aesthetician with accreditation from the American Academy of Micropigmentation or the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals because they are likely to have more training.) And remember, if you don’t feel comfortable with up to three years of altered brows, then it’s probably best to simply opt for makeup instead.
Read more about tattoos:
Now watch someone get microblading for the first time:
Originally Appeared on Allure