If semi-permanent brow treatments were peaking in popularity pre-pandemic, demand for them since the Zoom boom has rocketed. We’re talking about the modern iteration of eyebrow tattooing: natural (looking) full brows when you roll out of bed onto a video call – no grooming necessary.
Microblading, a tattooing technique that adds pigment to the skin via hair-like strokes, is the most popular semi-permanent brow treatment right now. According to social listening tool Pulsar it’s the third biggest brow related hashtag (after #browsonfleek and #browsonpoint) across image-orientated sites Instagram and Pinterest.
Using a precision blade formed of tiny needles, a brow artist can significantly fake fuller, more uniformed eyebrows with microblading. "It is perfect for replenishing lifeless, sparse or over-plucked brows, or for simply breathing life into lacklustre arches," says brow expert Priya Kerai. "It's also a great treatment if you're experiencing hair loss or have been through chemo,” as well as for those dealing with the hair-pulling disorder trichotillomania.
But it’s not only microblading we’re trying and tagging; the new cohort of pro brow treatments range from techniques such as nanoblading and microshading to micropigmentation. While the breadth of choice may feel overwhelming, they boil down to similar methods used for different looks. Let us break it down for you.
Microblading versus traditional tattooing
“Traditional tattooing, cosmetic tattooing and traditional microblading are very similar because they are all forms of tattooing,” explains brow artist Liarna Jessica Yearwood. 'Tattooing' merely describes the process of implanting colour into the skin using a device. Ink tends to last indefinitely in the skin, although the colour can change – which clearly isn’t ideal.
Modern microblading uses temporary pigments in lieu of ink to deliver a more natural effect placed nearer the skin surface. As microblading expert Nez Hasan explains of her celebrated your-brows-but-better signature, it’s about the technique as much as the tools. “I only pigment the top layer of the skin and don’t go deep to the epidermis,” she says. As such, how long your treatment lasts depend on the method and product used, in addition to how your skin takes in the pigment.
So, if you want your brows to look full without looking fake, research a brow artist practising these newer techniques – and be prepared to commit to top-ups if you like the natural-looking results.
Microblading or nanoblading?
If you’re laser-focused on achieving realism, nanoblading may appeal. Put simply, the technique is the same as microblading, but with super fine, flexible needles. It’s something Yearwood favours in her salon. “You can achieve a hyper-realistic look from nanobladed hair strokes,” she says, explaining that the ultra-fine blades can mimic the diameter and dimension of real hair in the skin – whereas microbladed strokes can appear thicker.
Certain salons might use both micro and nano blades, yet only advertise microblading given that it’s better known. Always ask, so you can get the right treatment for you.
Microshading and nanoshading
If you want a feathered, hair-stoke effect then stick with micro- or nanoblading. If, however, you prefer a denser look that mimics the appearance of wearing brow make-up – such as powder or pencil – then look out for the shading technique.
Mostly used in combination with micro- and nanoblading, shading also falls under various guises (microshading, nanoshading, powder-ombre effect, soft powder technique, micropigmentation…) but essentially refers to the shading of the skin between brow hairs.
Hasan explains: “Microshading is carried out using both a blade for the strokes and a one-point needle for the shading”. She recommends this treatment for those with sparse or no natural brow hairs (“it will give a much fuller look); everyone with medium to darker skin tones (“it will give a more defined look”); and anyone with an oily t-zone (“for longer lasting results”). Her make-up effect ‘powder brows’ treatment is carried out using a one- and three-point needle, without the blade work.
For her signature treatment Yearwood use a digital machine to create “soft natural ombre shading for more definition”. The combination of the blading and shading “gives you natural looking brows with colour that will last well, reducing your maintenance in the longer term and saving you time and money”.
Yearwood says this combo treatment means the colour will last in the skin for “at least one-to-three years, sometimes longer”.
Getting the perfect shape
Techniques aside, achieving the perfect brow shape for you is imperative and can be a collaborative decision.
Yearwood says, “if clients know what they would like to achieve, then that’s great. But if not, that is also fine – we will advise you”. At her clinics in Chelsea and Harley Street they start by carrying out a comprehensive consultation which includes a patch test done by post, and a skin analysis to identify which methods are most suitable. Then, “we measure the brows so that we can correct asymmetry and draw on the shape beforehand so that you can see and approve the final look”. Surprises aren’t welcome when it comes to a brow transformation.
Need to know
What a treatment feels like can vary. People report discomfort, but it shouldn’t be painful given that the area is numbed before and during treatment. “As the blade cuts through the top layer of the skin you will feel a scratching sensation rather than pain,” Hasan explains. “Some of our clients even fall asleep,” Yearwood adds.
Immediately after any semi-permeant brow procedure your brows will appear up to 50 per cent darker than the end result. The brows generally heal within two weeks, during which time they fade to a more natural colour.
During this time, “it is important to keep the skin dry for the first 10 days and avoid picking at the scabs,” says Hasan. “We cannot stress enough to follow aftercare advise provided as this will ensure the best results.”
There are people that this treatment isn’t suitable for. “We advise not to get this treatment done while pregnant or nursing,” Hasan notes, “as pigment and anaesthetic may get into the bloodstream”.
Otherwise, for those in the market for longer-term better brows, microblading (and its sister treatments) makes for a very worthwhile investment.
Where to go
Nez Hasan, from £550, High Street Kensington, London
Liarna Jessica Yearwood, from £395, Chelsea, Belgravia and Harley Street, London
The Dermaspa Clinic, from £695, Milton Keynes
Laura Kay London, from £420, Radlett, Hertfordshire
Blink Brow Bar, from £450, locations nationwide
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