Standing Appointment is our review series that investigates the best new and notable cosmetic procedures in the aesthetics space and determines whether or not they are worth trying for yourself. Today, we explore one editor’s experience with microbladed eyebrows.
Of all the beauty features I’ve wrestled with over the years, my brows have definitely been the most contentious. My teen years of overly tweezing have left lasting consequences that I’ve tried to reverse with serums, waxes, pencils, and some good ol’ patience. And while I’ve certainly found a few cosmetic gems that deliver the illusion of the fluffy, full brows of my pre-teen era, it always requires some time-sucking artistry on my end. In truth, the goal would be to be able to run out the door with only a quick swipe of brow gel and nothing more. But, alas, as I’ve gotten older and entered my 30s, my already uneven and patchy brows became even more so, and my year-long efforts of growing them out proved more and more futile.
To be clear, microblading has been on my radar for some time. The semi-permanent service, which creates the look of realistic hair strokes by implanting pigment under the skin with a micro-needle or tattoo machine, has been around for years, decades even. However, it must be said that the microblading technique of yesteryear is very different from that of today. If I’m being honest, I never loved the microblading work I witnessed in the past as I felt it looked a bit too uniform and structured ... like a too-perfect tattoo. I believe eyebrows, in their natural state, should look a bit, well, imperfect and have a natural, feathery finish.
“I think it’s more so the hair stroke pattern that’s changed [over the years],” says Shaughnessy Otsuji, tattoo artist and owner of Studio Sashiko, a cosmetic and restorative tattoo space. “When I was trained [in cosmetic tattoos] it was like, ‘Here’s how to draw straight lines on someone’s skin.’ [These days] there’s definitely more of an art form involved. You’re seeing a more realistic brow with more of that negative space and fluffy, softer-looking effect.”
When the opportunity to try microblading at Studio Sashiko’s new Los Angeles location came up, I was honestly a bit hesitant. Images of boxy, cartoon-like arches quickly arose, making me want to reach for my trusty brow pencils and never let go. But a quick review of the studio’s and Otsuji’s Instagram accounts made me rethink my hasty reaction — the before-and-after images I saw were truly remarkable. The microbladed brows looked miraculously natural. I found myself pouring over the images for a solid hour, taking screenshots of the ones I wanted mimicked on my own pathetic little arches. I booked an appointment with Otsuiji immediately.
Now, it’s important to note that most microblading procedures (which can cost anywhere from $600 to $1500+ in total) require two sessions. The first lays out the initial foundation and silhouette of your brow look. The second session, to be done within two to five months of your initial appointment, is to enhance the healed brows and address any areas that still need correcting or shading. Results last about one to two years and often require an annual appointment to refresh the look.
The Microblading Prep
Because there’s skin-tattooing involved, there’s definitely some prep leading up to a microblading appointment to ensure great results (and overall skin safety). If you receive Botox, make sure it’s been at least 3-4 weeks since your last appointment to avoid any complications or interference with your injectable results. Also, the Studio Sashiko site notes to avoid blood-thinning medication at least 72 hours prior to your microblading appointment and limiting your alcohol and caffeine intake in the 24 hours leading up to your session. It’s also recommended that you avoid sun or tanning bed exposure for 30 days before and after your procedure to avoid altering the pigment color.
Another key piece of the puzzle here is to know exactly what you want walking into your appointment. As I mentioned above, I arrived armed with about five to six examples from the studio’s IG account of the type of brows and finish I was going for. For context, my natural, pre-microbladed brows were uneven and patchy. While one brow was fairly full with just a few sparse areas, the other had stopped growing entirely and was considerably thinner than its sister.
Over the years, I’d come to accept my arches in their bare and unbalanced state and got pretty good at filling them in and making them appear feathery and full. But, the process can be time-consuming and all I’ve ever wanted were natural, even brows that only required a quick swipe of brow gel as I ran out the door. Hence, my foray into microblading.
The Microblading Process
After sharing my hopes and dreams (and inspo images) with Otsuji, she got to work on drawing out the prototype of my tattooed brows. This essentially is a preview of the finished product. It also is the stage at which you can make any, suggestions, tweaks, or corrections to the tattoo artist’s initial vision. In seeing the robust, fluffy shape drawn out on my face, I had immediate butterflies of excitement and told Otsuji she was good to go. No changes needed.
Upon my approval, Otsuji applied numbing cream on my brows to ensure a pain-free experience while the microblading pen (which is topped with a tiny needle) works its magic. After 30 minutes or so the cream was wiped off and she got to work on creating tiny paper cut-like incisions on my skin. Once the marks were made, Otsuji applied the dark brown pigment we agreed on (that’s just a shade lighter than my natural chocolate-brown hair color) and allowed it to set into the skin.
The process itself, because of the intricacies of the incisions and tattooing technique, took about two and half hours from start to finish. I had no idea what to expect as I sat up from the chair, although Otsuji told me my brows would likely look darker and more intense initially as the pigment is still fresh and settling into the skin.
But, the brows I saw in the mirror were truly a work of art. Full, fluffy arches gazed back at me and I literally let out a little squeal of excitement in my seat. They looked so natural and clean, like I’d grown them overnight! But, Otsuji let me know that the work was far from over and that the next steps (to be carried out at home) were crucial to ensuring my brows healed properly.
The Microblading Aftermath
Before I raced out the door in a flurry of happiness, she handed me some very intricate instructions and a small jar of cream. “It’s super important you follow this exactly,” said Otsuji. The cheat sheet in in my hands outlined precisely and with detail the dos and don’ts I was to abide to over the next few weeks.
First and foremost, I was to avoid getting my brows wet, which meant no swimming, sweating, or cosmetics for at least two weeks. This presented a bit of a problem as I was currently in the midst of training for a half-marathon. Otsuji recommended I keep my runs light and easy for the next couple weeks, which I felt was a fair and reasonable compromise. It’s also crucial to avoid direct sunlight while your brows are healing and to wear a hat and sunnies while you’re out and about.
As for treating the area, not much is required during the healing process aside from keeping the region clean. The first week or so, I was instructed to dab the tattooed area gently with a damp, lukewarm paper towel five to seven times a day and pat the area dry immediately after. This helps remove any plasma and oil build-up and prevents the scabbing. I was also instructed to apply the barrier cream provided to me with a cotton swab daily for the first two weeks. This helps keep the area protected.
After a week or so, I noticed my brows starting to flake and itch. This, Otsuji explained, is the natural exfoliation process involved in healing. It’s crucial to avoid picking or scratching the area as you risk changing the look of your brows. This is also when the initial rich pigment seen in those first post-session days starts to lighten. The brows will start to look softer and even get patchy. This is OK. It’s part of the healing process and will continue for the next week or two before filling out again. Patience is key here as Otsuji explains that the entire healing process can take up to 6-8 weeks.
Fast-forward a month since my initial appointment and I’m happy to report my brows are looking fab. While I’ve yet to book my second touch-up session (due to the winter holidays and the infuriating Omicron outbreak), I’m already thrilled with the results. My brows look fuller and, more importantly, even. I haven’t applied any brow products to them (even after they fully healed) and really don’t feel the need to. While I look forward to enhancing this look in a few weeks when it’s (hopefully) safe to see Otsuji again, I’m already a believer.
All things considered — price, process, healing time — I would absolutely recommend microblading to anyone dreaming of full, natural-looking brows. They absolutely are in reach, you just need to find the right studio and artist to make those dreams a reality.