I permanently removed brow maintenance from my to-do list about two years ago when I opted to get my bald arches microbladed — that is, semi-permanently tattooed — and I haven’t looked back since. But now that I’m getting ready for a touch-up appointment, I’m remembering that even though microbladed brows require practically zero upkeep, there are products for microbladed eyebrows that I'll need to add to my shopping list before my session, as the prep and recovery stages before and after microblading are pretty high maintenance.
The process actually starts a full four weeks before your appointment. “We recommend that you haven’t used [exfoliating] acids or retinol for at least four weeks prior to microblading,” Courtney Casgraux, the CEO and founder of Los Angeles’ GBY Beauty, tells TZR. During the tattoo-esque experience, a technician will use a sharp blade to cut tiny hair-like strokes into the brow bone to mimic natural hairs and deposit pigment under the skin — so it’s imperative that the skin in this area can withstand treatment. “Acids and retinol may ‘thin’ or sensitize your skin, and could cause your skin to tear during microblading,” she says.
Around the two week mark, you should hopefully be done with any antibiotics you were previously prescribed. “Antibiotics and other vitamins thin your blood,” Casgraux notes. “If your blood is thin during the microblading process, you may bleed a lot and that could affect the pigment and how it takes to your skin.” (Obviously, it’s more important to finish a round of prescribed antibiotics than to keep your microblading appointment — so if you’re still on antibiotics and it’s less than two weeks before your session, reschedule.) One week out from microblading, she suggests eliminating fish oil pills and Ibuprofen from your routine; both have the aforementioned blood thinning effect as well.
At this point, it’s also a good idea to discontinue the use of any brow growth products you use. “Avoid using leave-on brow serums that include ingredients like retinoids, vitamin A, AHAs, BHAs, or physical exfoliants,” Daniel Hodgdon, the CEO and founder of Vegamour, tells TZR. Focus your entire skincare and makeup routine around gentle, hydrating products.
“A day before treatment, wash the area with an antibacterial cleanser,” Dr. Rachael Cayce, a dermatologist at DTLA Derm in Los Angeles, tells The Zoe Report. CeraVe Foaming Facial Cleanser and Neutrogena Oil-Free Acne Wash both fit the bill, but Casgraux asks her clients to cleanse with Dial soap the night before and the morning of the appointment. (No, Dial soap isn’t the best for the skin on your face long-term; but it creates a bacteria-free canvas for microblading, so it’s worth it just this once.) “Clients should arrive free of any cosmetics and face creams,” she adds.
On the day of your microblading session, it’s important that the skin around your brows isn’t broken out or inflamed beforehand. “Microblading [on irritated skin] can lead to scarring or an increased risk of a dye reaction,” Dr. Cayce notes. And even if your skin is completely clear, there’s always a risk for infection or an allergic reaction to the tattoo pigment.
Before a blade touches your brows, the aesthetician will typically apply a numbing cream with lidocaine to desensitize the area (you won’t feel a thing, I promise). “The numbing process usually takes about 20 minutes,” Casgraux says, and it’s best left to the professionals. Finally, it’s time for the main event.
Once your brows are done, get ready to play the waiting game. “If a client has extra dry skin and seem like he or she may scab, I will send them home with Aquaphor,” Casgraux says — but other than that, no products are recommended.
The full healing process takes about a week and a half, during which time there are many things you should avoid: Rubbing the area, staying out in the sun, wearing brow makeup, and getting your brows wet. And yes, the last one can pose a bit of a challenge. Besides keeping showers, face masks, and workouts to a minimum, it can be helpful to coat the microbladed area in Aquaphor before stepping into the shower, since it creates a water-resistant barrier; you can even apply strips of plastic wrap on top for extra protection. When it comes to skincare, skip the splashing-water-on-your-face kind of rinsing in favor of a damp washcloth. “A broad mineral sunscreen should be applied when outdoors as well,” Dr. Cayce says.
“You will notice that the microbladed area will become dry and flakey before the healing process is complete,” Casgraux says. “The area will also gradually get darker for three or four days before the pigment lightens up.” If your brows are particularly dry or peeling, add more Aquaphor. Follow this post-care protocol for seven to 10 days.
“Once the microbladed skin has completely healed — i.e., scabbing has ended — it is safe to resume using a brow growth product,” Hodgdon says. And don’t worry about your growth serum interfering with your fresh tats. “Ingredients in a typical brow growth product will not affect microblading pigment, because they do not contain bleaching agents or chemical exfoliants,” he says. “On the contrary, because the best brow products will support your brow area to grow more hair naturally, brows will only look lusher, healthier and more natural afterwards.”
As far as the best makeup to use on the area? Well, none, really. “The whole point truly is that you shouldn’t need it,” Robin Evans, a New York City-based brow expert with over 25 years of experience, tells TZR. She maintains that certain colors and formulas, especially brow powders, will make the final results appear distorted or dull. “However, I do have some clients that still like that fluffy look, so a brow gel or brow mascara is great to brush them up and give them that feathery feel,” she says.
To keep your microbladed brows looking sharp, sunscreen is once again the answer to all. “Applying it over top the tattoo daily will prevent fading,” Evans says.
Ahead, everything you need pre- and post-microblading to ensure the best possible before and after pics.
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