Nothing builds character more than taking a look in a mirror after a threading, waxing, or shaping appointment, and realizing "Wow, these look awful." Whether your brows are uneven, too thin, or simply don't exist at all, the ordeal can be traumatizing. Encounters like these have lead many to microblading, a tattoo-like treatment that embeds pigment beneath the skin, in realistic brow-like strokes.
However, as microblading begins to amass a less-than-positive reputation for issues of faulty color and risk of infection, those looking to up their brow game are on the hunt for something a bit less destructive. "Many of our clients have shared that they don’t like the harsh colors and lines," Clementina Richardson, founder of Envious Lashes, tells TZR. "I also often hear that it faded too quickly, and the price point is too high for such a faulty treatment."
Discoloration is also a very common risk, as it is attributed to the skin's reaction to UV rays. "Sun will degrade any sort of tattoo you have on your body. Your brows get lots of sun exposure even if you live in a cold climate or it's wintertime," Joey Healy, founder of Joey Healy Brows, tells TZR. But aside from the appearance, the damage it can have on your health is the biggest risk. "The worst case scenario, to me, is if you get an infection," he says. "It's just still so new that you might not be in the hands of an expert who is using sterile techniques and is talented." To note, microblading isn't regulated across all 50 states. Some states require the technician to have a tattoo license, while others do not.
So if the traditional brow pencil fill-in just isn't cutting it anymore, and microblading is proving a little too hit-or-miss, here are five procedures that involve zero tattoo needles.
This minimally invasive process, which lasts four to six weeks depending on growth, includes the application of semi-permanent dye with a small brush to add shape, definition, and color to brows. "This can help cover grays, and really emphasizes blonde hair and baby hair," Healy says. "Some people don't have a lot of hair, but if they do a quick tinting service, they can double their brows and make them look denser. We use a vegetable based dye at Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio, which I suggest for more sensitive skin." The treatment, which ranges from $10 to $75, can be found anywhere brow services are offered and can even be done from the comfort of your own space with at-home tinting kits.
This more temporary fix, which lasts up to two weeks with proper care, may not last as long as the other treatments — but it provides that natural, feathery look that many are looking for without damaging the skin. Just as with lash extensions, small hairs are applied with an adhesive delivering a thicker and darker look. The process typically takes anywhere between 60 to 90 minutes. Once completed, the hair can be brushed up or filled in however you desire. "With eyebrow extensions, the actual fibers are attached directly to the skin or the eyebrow hair itself, unlike lash extensions where you need natural eyelashes to attach the extension to," Richardson, whose clients include Naomi Campbell and Mary J. Blige, says. The treatment ranges from $150 to $350 and depending on the state, the stylist also needs to be licensed, not just certified.
The rising trend, which lasts four to eight weeks, utilizes only the natural brow for a more defined and voluminous look. "Brow lamination is basically a perm, but for your brows. Our high end products include key ingredients that straighten curved hairs to ensure symmetry," Giselle Soto, celebrity brow artist, says. "Before anything, this service involves a thorough consultation and a brow wax session so we begin with a clean slate. The actual process starts off by using a style-fixing product that allows us to style the hairs into a new shape. Next, a styling neutralizer is applied to secure that the hairs remain in the desired shape. Lastly, a nourishing keratin oil is applied to replenish their moisture after the chemical treatment process." Lamination will run you around $60, and can only be performed by a licensed esthetician or cosmetologist.
Where eyebrow lamination and tinting — a more permanent variation — collide. This process, which includes a keratin-infused straightening solution applied to the brows is followed by a setting solution usually containing hyaluronic acid and panthenol. It’s then finished off with a tint of permanent dye and the desired shaping of the brows. "It gives you shiny, feathery, flawless results. It’s a long-last dye that is specially formulated for the face," Richardson says. And if you're on the heels of an undesirable microblading experience, you don't have to wait too long for brow sculpting. "As long as the skin is healed, we can do the brow sculpt four to six weeks after microblading has been done. However, be sure to only go to a license professional." After the hour-long treatment is complete, the look, which will run you about $100, can last up to six to eight weeks.
The most invasive (yet completely permanent) solution is a little gruesome, but your brows will thank you for it. "Just like other hair transplants, brow transplants harvest cells from usually the nape of the neck and then they implant those hairs individually in the brow," Healy explains. "Microblading is very flat and one dimensional. With the hair transplant, you at least have the texture of an actual real human hair. This procedure costs anywhere from $7,000 to $10,000 and can only be performed by board-certified plastic surgeons.