After a fuller, bushier brow? Here's why our Beauty Editor swears by microblading

wh beauty editor undergoing microblading with karen betts
Sparse brows? Here's your microblading cheat-sheetEmma Gritt

You’ve probably already heard of microblading - the intricate, slightly terrifying-sounding process of eyebrow tattooing.

The benefits are tempting: having great eyebrows permanently stuck on your face means you’ll never have to learn the art of drawing them – and you’ll no longer risk having them melt down your face during a sweaty gym class. Plus, if you've tried to work out how to grow your eyebrows and aren't having much luck, then you might have already considered having it done.

But how much do you really know about the process? To get you clued up, WH has spoken to Karen Betts, leading permanent make-up artist, CEO of Nouveau HD Beauty Group, and owner of Karen Betts Clinics, as well as Microblading Expert Sian Dellar. From cost to downtime consider this your microblading 101. Plus WH Beauty Editor tests microblading to see if it can deliver on fuller, bushier long lasting brows.

What is microblading?

'Microblading is a semi-permanent make-up treatment used to solve eyebrow concerns,' explains Dellar.

'It is performed with a hand tool and tiny blades made up of a grouping of pins. Depending on how the pins are grouped together, we can create hair strokes or shading, or a combination of the two, depending on what look the client is trying to create,' adds Betts.

Essentially, you can think of it as an advanced, super-intricate tattooing technique that delivers extremely detailed results.

'Microblading is the generic term for all treatments performed with the hand tool method, whether it be hair strokes or shading. Specific looks will have different names depending on what the technician/clinic wants to name them. For example, a fully shaded brow with no hair strokes may be called an ‘Ombre’ brow. Strokes with some shading may be a ‘Combination’ or ‘Fusion’ brow,' says Betts.

'It can help fill in gaps in patchy eyebrows, extend the length of the eyebrow, reshape and define brows and help uneven brows to look more symmetrical. It can also help reconstruct thinning brows, and even those with little to no eyebrow hair at all can benefit,' continues Dellar.

Is microblading safe?

Consultant Dermatologist and Medical Director for Dermatica, Dr Natalia Spierings, says: 'Microblading is in no way harmful and it is temporary so it shouldn’t be an issue for most people.

'However, the dye used can definitely cause contact allergy in some people so I would always recommend a small patch test of the dye or ink behind the ear on normal skin prior to undergoing this type of procedure.'

How long does microblading last?

Microblading is a semi-permanent treatment, which means you can expect your new brows to last up to one year. After that, you’ll need to revisit your therapist so they can perform any touch-ups.

'All microblading treatments will need touching up, but those with oilier skin types are more at risk of the pigment fading, since oils tend to lighten the pigment in the brow,' says Dellar.

What is the downside of microblading?

'There really is no downside to microblading if you are dedicated to the cause and patience is key,' explains Betts.

'People must understand that PMU is a cosmetic treatment not a beauty treatment. There is a healing process involved and true results are not seen for at least a month,' she warns.

'What’s more, having the required top ups and following the correct aftercare advice is just as important as choosing the right technician to care and protect your new brows, ensuring the best results and maximum longevity,' reveals Betts.

Is microblading the best treatment for permanent brows?

Permanent makeup is a godsend for so many of our clients, explains Betts and who has treated the likes of Katie Piper, Lisa Eldridge and Gail Porter,

'It is best for those that have thinning or sparse brows, however it really can enhance anyone’s brows. Even those who already have some eyebrow hair and just want to fill in any gaps or simply want a more defined shape, can achieve a very natural look with microblading.'

'It is the best option if someone is looking for a permanent brow solution because it implants pigment into the dermal layer of the skin (when done correctly). And not only that but the method of application can be chosen based on what the client is aiming to achieve. Often this can be a combination of techniques to create a bespoke look, after all everyone’s natural face and brow shape is unique,' says Betts.

How is microblading eyebrows different to having your brows tattooed?

Microblading is a tattoo, and sits in the dermis just like a tattoo. However, Betts explains that the difference is the techniques and ink used.

'Unlike traditional tattoos, which use a tattoo gun, microblading uses a blade-shaped tool with a row of tiny, barely visible needles to create hair-like strokes along your brows while depositing pigment into your skin.'

'Traditional tattoos use ink, and microblading is done with pigment. Inks have smaller particles than pigment, which are stronger and brighter, and last longer in the skin, but will ultimately migrate (travel or blur) over time and change to undesirable hues of colour.'

'Pigments are the safer option. KB Pro Pigments are not tatooo inks and aren’t made from organic (living) materials, they are highly concentrated pure pigment. Pigments have larger particles and are usually iron oxides which are more muted in tone. These fade over time and have more predictable colour changes. In fact modern formulations have no undesirable colour changes at all. Fade factor is important for the face, as faces change, fashions change and tastes change and your face cannot be covered like your arm or leg can be!'

'The result of a microblading tool and pigment combined? Realistic-looking brow hairs that don’t wash off for a year or more. Similarly, a lot of clients will ask, is it semi-permanent make-up or permanent makeup? At Karen Betts we always use the term ‘permanent’, because even though the intensity of the pigment fades over time, there will always be a residue of some kind in the skin. Some people use the term ‘semi-permanent’ because of the fade-factor, but both are actually referring to the same thing.'

How much does microblading cost?

Expect to pay around £250+ for a consultation, treatment and top up. Karen Betts Microblading prices start from £395-£895 at Karen Betts Clinics Nationwide. Treatments with Sian Dellar range between £395 -£550.

Does microblading look natural?

'There a variety of looks you can achieve with your semi-permanent treatment, from very natural brows like Meghan Markle or thick, feathered brows like Cara Delevingne,' explains Dellar.

Who should get their eyebrows microbladed?

There are many reasons people opt for microblading as a permanent brow solution.

'The main one is cosmetic - to save time in the morning and to enhance their natural features so that they look like a better version of themselves,' reveals Betts.

'We also have many clients who have permanent makeup treatments for medical reasons. Hair loss, facial surgeries/disfigurements, breast reconstruction, scars and loss of pigmentation can all affect someone’s confidence dramatically. To be able to help people with issues like this is the most rewarding aspect of my job and why I started my career.'

Betts frequently works with cancer patients who have lost their eyebrows because of undergoing chemotherapy. Most recently, former WH Leanne Hainsby talked about how useful she found microblading during her breast cancer journey.

Does microblading ruin your natural eyebrows?

'No, it doesn't affect hair growth in any way,' says Dellar.

How do you prep for microblading?

  • No coffee, alcohol or painkillers 24-48 hrs before the treatment, as this thins the blood and can affect the final outcome

  • A scratch test should be performed on the day of your appointment or consultation

How painful is microblading?

If you're wonder whether microblading hurts, Betts says 'the sensation is similar to a little scratch, you will feel the vibrations from the tool, but you should not feel any discomfort. I will always work with my client at this stage, giving them breaks if needed. The process normally takes about 1-2 hours, but it varies from person to person depending on individual requirements.'

Can microblading be removed?

Your microbladed brows will begin to fade naturally after around 6-8 months, if you don’t return for a touch-up.

If you’ve decided to have a clean break from your newly bushy brows, there are a few things you can do to speed up the fading process.

Dellar suggests a laser treatment: 'similar to the tattoo-removal process, these sessions use technology that will break down the pigment in the eyebrows into particles that will be carried and passed out naturally from the body.'

Alternatively, you could opt for a microdermabrasion facial to deeply exfoliate the skin and encourage the pigments to fade. But perhaps the easiest way to return to your normal brows is by applying a salt-based saline solution, which breaks down the pigment naturally.

Is there any downtime involved?

Nope. As a non-surgical treatment, microblading doesn’t involve any bed-rest or time off work.

'However, you can expect to experience redness and tenderness in the first 24 hours after the treatment, and then a period of healing,' explains Dellar. As the tattoo heals itself, you’ll experience a little flaking for around five days, post-treatment.

What aftercare is involved in microblading?

If you’re a skincare addict, take note: Both Betts and Dellar always advise their clients to keep all products away from their new brows for at least 7 days. This includes cleansers, moisturisers, makeup and even excess water, meaning that nightly bath may be off the cards.

'You’ll need to adjust your regular beauty routine for the first week, including not applying makeup for the first 72 hours and avoiding actives and using gentle skincare for seven days.'

In addition, you shouldn’t expose skin to extreme heat (think saunas, steam rooms, hot yoga), cold or moisture until the area has healed, which is usually around two weeks.

'I provide a healing balm that should be applied to the brows three to four times a day, very sparingly: a grain of rice-sized amount is plenty.

'It’s advisable to avoid sweating too, as the salt in sweat can make the pigment fade much quicker. Whilst the area may be very itchy, it’s important to make sure that you do not scratch or pick, since this will disrupt the healing process and potentially damage the pigment.'

And finally, having microbladed brows is reason 947 to stay away from the sunbeds and keep your face out of direct sunlight, as the UV won’t play well with your new face tattoos.

'Over exposure to UV is one of the biggest culprits of pigment fade, I tell all my clients to use high-factor sunscreen daily to protect the area and leave 4-6 weeks between your final re-touch procedure and a holiday,' says Betts.

How long does microblading take to heal?

The initial healing process takes up to 10 days. You may experience skin flaking but don't pick or scratch the area, it's important to let it heal on its own and just keep applying your aftercare balm.

Just like eyebrow tinting, the colour will be quite dark at first – but don't worry it will fade into a more natural shade. It should take around 14 days for your brows to settle into how they will look long-term.

  • Your practitioner should provide you with healing balm. Apply this three times a day using a cotton bud for 7-10 days after your treatment, as you shouldn't touch the skin

  • For the first 7-10 days - do not get your brows wet

  • No make up on the affected area for the first seven to 10 days

  • Avoid direct sun exposure for the first 14 days

  • After 10 days, apply a high SPF to the treated area

  • No swimming, saunas, jacuzzi, sun beds or very hot showers for the first seven to 10 days

  • Avoid other cosmetic treatments such as facials, skin peels, laser etc for the first four to six weeks

How do you choose a good microblading technician?

'A good eyebrow microblading technician will always go through a detailed consultation process to be sure that the results are tailored specifically to you,' explains Dellar.

'They will discuss the size, shape, colour and density of your eyebrow treatment with you to make sure that you get nothing less than a unique treatment for your specific eyebrow concerns.'

A good technician will also practice excellent hygiene – just as in a tattoo studio, the tools involved should be either disposable or completely sterilised and safe to use to minimise the risk of infection.

'They will also take on board any concerns you may have about the treatment: for example, if you are worried about pain, they will discuss this with you to provide a suitable solution, such as applying a numbing cream before the treatment to minimise any discomfort.'

'I tried Microblading: Here's my honest review'

a collage of a person
WH Beauty Editor Perdita Nouril, during and after microblading treatment with Karen Betts Emma Gritt

If like me, you're a victim of the late 90's skinny brown trend, you'll understand my pain of having to set aside time every morning to ace my arches. Time, that is now in short supply thanks to school / nursery drop offs as well as being back in the office post pandemic (shudder).

While there are some brilliant brow products that can help me to achieve a beautifully sculpted brow, I was drawn to microblading for its time saving benefits, but given that it's a costly treatment, has it been worth it? A thousand times yes. No longer do I have to apply an army of brow products, with my new and perfectly formed arches I usually just swipe through a clear gel to give them a bit of oomph and to hold them in place, then I'm good to good. They've made me feel more put together on the days I don't wear make-up, and I no longer need to worry about sweating my brows off after a heavy workout or a swim.

As for the treatment itself, it was everything I expected. The numbing cream meant the pain was manageable and it didn't take long at all - an hour max - and some of this was waiting for the numbing cream to take hold.

You do have to be vigilant post treatment but it's a small price to pay. I had to wear a little plastic visor in the shower on hair wash days to keep my brows dry. I also had to apply the healing balm religiously, but it wasn't overly taxing. A month on and not only am I impressed but completely obsessed.

The best microblading-style effect, without trying the procedure

Not quite ready to try Microblading? Check out Glossier Brow Flick, which is one of the best brow enhancers we've tried. It creates fine lines that look just like hairs.

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