In third grade, I was diagnosed with alopecia areata, a common autoimmune disorder where a misguided immune system tends to attack its own bodily tissues. Alopecia leads to unpredictable hair loss. For me, the disorder manifests itself in many ways — the most noticeable being my total lack of eyebrows and eyelashes. When I started college and discovered my passion for beauty and cosmetics, I started investigating a new trend called "microblading." I went in for a consultation over Thanksgiving break in 2016, during my sophomore year of college, and I kicked off 2017 with brand-new brows.
During my appointment, I learned microblading is a semi-permanent makeup technique where pigment is manually inserted into the top layers of the skin. The practice creates the appearance of natural, full eyebrows.
"Microblading is a form of tattooing — except for tattooing is a machine with a needle," says Darci Reichardt, owner of The Trove Salon in Columbia. "Microblading is a handheld device that has a blade. The blade is extremely teeny and can simulate hair strokes for a very natural look." Reichardt is a permanent makeup artist and licensed tattooist who specializes in eyebrows, eyeliner, lips and scar camouflage. She's been in the beauty business for 19 years but has only started microblading within the past couple of years.
Reichardt says that microblading just recently hit the U.S. — before, actual tattooing of the eyebrows was common — and Columbia is right on track with the rest of the nation. Inspired by my own experience, I checked in with Reichardt and other Columbia spa and salon employees to break down the basics behind the popular practice.
Does the procedure hurt?
At The Trove Salon, clients begin with a consultation appointment to discuss color and shape. On the day of the official procedure, there's a bit of paperwork to be done, and then the numbing and drawing processes begin. First, creams are applied to numb the areas where the needle will pierce skin. Because the eyebrow lands on top of a bone, numbing is not a perfect art, and pain cannot be entirely erased. "My clients say the pain level is about a two or three on a scale of one to ten, so it's pretty comfortable," Reichardt says. The procedure itself takes about an hour and a half.
I am not one who can withstand a huge amount of pain, so I was definitely worried about this process. I was so shocked at how easy it all was. My provider warned me that the “first pass” of microblading would be the worst, but I only felt the sharp sting for a few seconds. The worst part? The sound. You hear every single marking — which was a lot for me to handle, considering I needed full eyebrows and not just touch-ups. The sound is not unlike nails on a chalkboard, but don't fret. The noise is fleeting.
What is the recovery process like?
Reichardt says that the aftercare is easy. Clients are asked to apply an ointment on top of their new brows for about two weeks. Four weeks after the procedure, there is a 45-minute touch-up appointment.
I made sure to follow all of my provider’s instructions to the letter. For me, this included keeping my eyebrows completely dry at all times and applying an ointment once a day. I was surprised that I didn’t feel any discomfort or notice any swelling whatsoever. My least favorite part was the few days of healing and scabbing. An unfortunate side effect is that many patients experience dry patches of skin scattered around their new eyebrows. But these quickly fade, and the lush brows make the annoying scabs worth it.
How long does the “tattoo” last?
Microblading is only semi-permanent, and longevity results vary by patient and skin type. Microbladed eyebrows will fade over time, especially when exposed to elements such as sun rays or chlorine. Reichardt says that the tattoo will usually last 1-3 years. Fading occurs because microblading does not place pigment as deep into the skin as a typical tattoo does. "I suggest to my clients that when they are wanting to use a pencil again, that is the time to call for an hour-and-a-half touch-up," Reichardt says.
I have now had my microbladed eyebrows for almost two years, and though they have faded a bit, I haven't needed touch-ups quite yet. I think the fading has made the coloring more natural-looking when compared with the first day, when they were very dark.
How much does it cost?
Reichardt says that microblading typically falls within the $350-$450 range. Considering the procedure lasts multiple years, I've found the investment is more than worth it.