What Is Microblading? (Plus More FAQ, Answered)
The tattoo-based brow service is pricey and requires some serious patience—here's why it may be worth the hype.
Microblading for your eyebrows is one of the most popular beauty treatments right now—and it's easy to see why once you check out the seriously impressive microblading before and after photos on Instagram.
But the eyebrow procedure isn't for the faint of heart—and probably not for the reasons you think. It's not the pain during microblading, but the "I have microbladed eyebrows" look and healing time that's hardest to deal with. Not to mention the microblading cost. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About the Buzziest New Beauty Treatments)
Here, everything you need to know if you're considering microblading your eyebrows, including what exactly it is, how much it costs, and how long it lasts.
What is microblading?
Microblading is a semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo that's done manually using tiny strokes to replicate brow hairs. (Related: The Best Eyebrow Makeup If You're Just Not Ready for Microblading)
What's the point? In my case, I was eager to have a natural looking brow that's fuller than my existing one. I hate wearing tons of makeup during the day and I love a natural no make-up face with great brows. (When I do wear makeup I often add more definition to my brows with a pencil.)
"Eyebrows normally thin with age," adds Kristina Goldenberg, M.D., a New York-based dermatologist. Additionally, "plucked eyebrow hair doesn't always grow back, so in some patients, eyebrows may be thin due to repeat plucking." I had both—age and some serious plucking in my teens and twenties—working against me.
Does microblading hurt?
My microblading experience began with a painless drawing stroke-by-stroke on my existing brows to show me how the semi-permanent ink will set in. Before I glance in the mirror, I'm warned that it's not an exact replica because the brows will fade into a more natural look. This step requires some creativity to imagine the final result. My tech, Jackie Lum at EverTrue Salons in Chicago, also used a tool to better create the symmetry of my would-be brows. Tip: If you want a more natural look, which I did, encourage the tech to use your existing brows as a guide rather than re-drawing a new shape.
I spent the next 15-20 minutes letting the numbing cream Lum applied set in until it was time to head back to the table. The tattooing process took about 30 minutes (although it can take up to two hours) and since my skin was numb, it was not painful. As the cream wore off, I did feel a few pinches that were mildly uncomfortable—perhaps a 2 out of 10. Otherwise, it felt like a marker scratching the skin.
Oh and speaking of markers, my day-of results looked like I had filled in my brows with a Sharpie. My significant other told me I looked witch-y—and my six-year-old daughter turned away from a hug.
The next few days required a serious dose of patience. "Don't panic and trust the process," said Ramon Padilla, owner of EverTrue Salons—and he was totally right.
On the upside, my brows didn't hurt but felt more like a scab. They stayed dark until they started peeling, which created super light patches throughout the brow. But again—don't panic.
For the first week I followed a few microblading aftercare rules, including staying out of the sun (a hat and sunglasses can also help you avoid strange glances during the scabbing process!) and avoiding touching my brows or getting them soaking wet to prevent any smudging. I also applied an ointment twice a day throughout the week to aid in the healing process.
A little over a week later, the brows stopped peeling and started to emerge a perfectly natural color—or at least that's what happened in my case.
Day 10 is when most people are ready to show them off—although it takes about six weeks for your brows to be fully healed, says Padilla. This is usually when salons will recommend first timers come back in for a touch-up process to fully complete the microblading process.
How much does microblading cost?
The combo of hygiene and skill is essential to avoid a scary 'after' photo, but be ready to shell out the cash. "Specialists get better with experience and sometimes that takes years," says Padilla. At EverTrue, the service starts at $515 for a brow specialist and goes up to $915 for a master therapist, which is pretty much the standard in the industry.
A trusted expert with proven results can also ease any hygiene-related jitters. That's because, similar to getting any other tattoo, the dangers of infection are real including staph, Hepatitis C, and even HIV, adds Dr. Goldenberg. (Related: This Woman Says She Got a ‘Life-Threatening’ Infection After a Microblading Treatment) In my case, Lum showed me a sealed blade that she opened in front of me to ease my fears.
How long does microblading last?
Microblading isn't permanent, which is actually a good thing since as your eyebrows start to naturally become lower on your face with age, a brow tattoo can start to look misplaced.
Depending on your skin type, microbladed eyebrows can last from six to 18 months—although microblading typically fades more quickly on oilier skin types, says Padilla. My brows had some smudges of color a year later but simply looked a little darker and still totally natural.
Maintenance (and more cash) is required if you want to keep up the microbladed eyebrows look on an annual basis. Luckily, these touch-up visits tend to be shorter and slightly cheaper than your first go at it.
My microblading takeaway
In my case, the healing process was well worth it. Waking up with defined brows that flatter my face definitely speeds up my morning routine (plus, getting complimented on your brows is always a nice ego boost). I also feel that I need to wear less makeup overall now.
My number one tip before booking your own microblading session? Look at the microblading before and after pics posted to social media (yes, even the microblading gone wrong photos). Seeing so many different types of brows on a variety of skin tones helped me understand how it will impact my own. It can also help you choose a tech in your area who is serious about microblading and doesn't mind showing off his or her work. It's kind of like visiting a tattoo shop—you need to do the research, not just show up.
Will I do it again next year? Probably, but I'll also buy a bigger hat.