Don’t get it twisted: eyebrows aren’t just something you potentially plucked into oblivion in the ’90s. A study done by the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology showed it’s your eyebrows—not your eyes—are key in both recognition of faces and emotions.
But what happens if you don’t have naturally thick brows? Whether you over-plucked or simple have genetically sparser brows, that’s okay. Microblading, or the art of tattooing “hairs” to give the appearance of thicker, more shapely eyebrows, has grown in popularity in recent years. But taking the dive into semi-permanent beauty can be stressful—so we chatted with two microblading experts and one person who has tried it herself (twice!) to find out more.
What is microblading?
Microblading is similar to tattooing… but it’s also very different. “Anytime you implant a pigment into the skin, that is a form of tattoo,” says paramedical permanent cosmetic artist Mojgan Azimi. “But microblading is a more like a cosmetic pigment treatment.”
There are two different technique to get that fluffy-brow like appearance—not like a Sailor Jerry tattoo. True microblading “uses a handheld tool consisting of multiple fine needles to create the look of realistic hair strokes by implanting pigment beneath the skin,” says Shaughnessy Otsuji, co-owner of California and Canada’s Studio Sashiko. The second form, Nano Brow, “is a precise technique that has a similar result to microblading,” adds Otsuji. “It’s done using a digital device or tattoo machine and a single needle. This process can be beneficial for those who want a natural looking brow but have thick, textured or oily skin and can work well on previously tattooed brows that need correction.” A good technician will use their tool to follow the flow of your natural brow, simply adding more to it. Microblading can be used to “help to fill in sparse or bald spots, cover scars or extend the tails that may thin out where hair stops growing as we age or with hormonal changes,” Azimi adds.
How much does microblading cost?
As with any invasive or semi-permanent cosmetic procedure, microblading is not the time to hunt for bargains. Depending on the effect you want, the pigment can either exactly match your hair color or go slightly darker. Pricing varies on where you live, but typically starts at around $900. It’s definitely a costly procedure, but going to a reputable technician can decrease any risk involved.
Who should try microblading?
You should speak to a technician to figure out if you’re a suitable candidate, but generally speaking, anyone looking to increase the appearance of brow thickness or fill in gaps could benefit from microblading. “This treatment effectively cover the brow area to build definition, shape, or dimension,” Azimi says. Content creator (and former ELLE editor) Kristina Rodulfo just recently tried microblading for the second time. The first was 2017—and she warns she didn’t lay off the retinol so it was painful and didn’t turn out as desired. “In preparation for my wedding in April happening in Hawaii (where the heat and humidity means you want to have the least fussy beauty routine), I figured it’d be time to give it another shot,” she told me. “Knowing the process start to finish could take a little over a month, I gave myself plenty of time and opted to do it in October and November.” While her experience was gifted by beauty brand Avene, she had admired Delphine Eyebrow Couture‘s handiwork before that. If you’re tired of spending every morning penciling in your brows, microblading can significantly cut down on your beauty routine.
Does microblading hurt?
For Rodulfo, no—because she was numbed and her technician had a light hand. “It did sting at first,” she adds. “Like a paper cut. But she applied numbing cream and I got very used to the sensation. It didn’t hurt any more than a strong chemical exfoliating mask would.” Azimi and Otsuji both share that numbing creams, like Zensa, are used in their salons, too. “Having this service performed during your menstrual cycle may increase discomfort during your procedure,” Otsuji adds. “If you are a frequent smoker, the topical anesthetics used during the treatment may not last as long.”
How long does microblading last?
“There are many factors to keep in mind when predicting the longevity of brow tattoos,” says Otsuji. Pigment color used (lighter = faster fade time), skin type, and sun exposer all play a factor in this. With proper care, your microbladed brows should last up to five years.
How do you prep for microblading?
Skin should be clean and dry. Otsuji suggests bringing a few reference photos to the appointment, as well as a photo of your brows filled in at a desired level so the technician can get a sense for your style. And don’t repeat Rodulfo’s mistake from her first microblading experience—you must stop using retinods, retinol, and glycolic in the weeks leading up to the procedure, and no Acutane for a year before your appointmennt.
What’s post-care for microblading like?
Immediately after the procedure, keep the brows moisturized with a balm like Aquaphor. “The healing process takes around 10-14 days in total,” shared Otsuji. Let any scabbing fall off naturally, and to preserve the integrity of the strokes always wear sunscreen. Rodulfo adds, “You’re not supposed to do any heavy exercise that makes you sweat a lot or increases your body heat for the first 9 days. I’m a runner, and I like lifting weights and HIIT, so the toughest part was probably having to skip out on workouts for the sake of my eyebrows.”
Not ready for microblading?
ELLE editors love the Ami Colé On Point Precision Brow Pencil—the super-thin tip makes it so easy to draw on hair like strokes. Click here to see our favorite eyebrow pencils if you’re not ready to take the microblading leap just yet.
Meet the Experts
Mojgan Azimi is a paramedical permanent cosmetic artist in Beverly Hills.
Kristina Rodulfo, beauty influencer and former beauty editor who recently had her brows microbladed.
Shaughnessy Otsuji is the co-owner of Studio Sashiko, a tattoo shop that offers microblading in Cali and Canada.
Why Trust ELLE Beauty?
Beauty editor Margaux Anbouba is obsessed with predicting the trends and exploring new treatments in the beauty space—and bringing them straight to you.