Everything you've ever wanted to know about eyebrow architecture: the history, the process, and the options.
What is microblading?
Microblading, as the optimal path to brow perfection, is quickly taking the world by storm. The natural effect created by this technique is a hit with women the world over, offering semi-permanent eyebrows that only need to be touched up every few months.
Gone are the days of thick eyebrow tattoos and the “drawn-on” look. Microblading is all about paying attention to face shape and coloring, and adding definition to the face that makes the eyes pop and slims the cheeks.
Known by many names: microblading, feathering, hairstroking, microstroking, “the Japanese Method” – the practice is bespoke for each client and the shape and thickness of each brow is determined based on the client’s face shape.
Microblading is done using a precision hand-tool, and with a surgical-grade pigment, so it’s not the same as a traditional tattoo ink, and there is no buzzing sound. The needle of the hand tool just scratches the skin to apply the pigment, sort of like a paper cut, so it only penetrates the upper layers of the skin and this also allows for finer line work. Some clients are a little put off by the sound of the scratching and often find it more bothersome than the pain level of the procedure.
But where did Eyebrow Embroidering start? and how many different styles and practices exist? To see how we got to where we are today with brow technology, let’s take a look back at how this face-saving practice developed.
THE ORIGINS OF EYEBROW ARCHITECTURE: A LOOK AT A CENTURY OF BROWS
The cosmetic industry was rising in the 1920s, and this is when many women of the West began to “enhance” their looks by drawing on their eyebrows. In the 20s, this was usually in the form of a thin curved brow that sloped down towards the corners of the eye. The angle tended to give a “sad” look, but it’s a vision of Hollywood glamour we now associate with the 1920s.
Throughout the following decades, the practice of drawing on eyebrows continued with different shapes in fashion at different times.
I don’t know about you, but I look back and cringe at the past “thin brow” trends that intruded upon the faces of stars and commoners alike (early 2000s Gwen Stefani, anyone?). Thin brows have come in and out of fashion over the last century, but looking at these images it seems as though the natural brow is the look that always comes back.
OTHER HISTORICAL BROW TRENDS: TATTOOING, PLUCKING, TINTING, AND WAXING
There are a few older methods of temporary, semi-permanent, and permanent brow architecture. One of the most prominent (and most permanent) trends that came into use in the 90s was the eyebrow tattoo.
Generally, the idea here is to shave off your natural brow (noooooooo) and have a line tattooed onto your face where your brows ought to be. Truly the stuff of nightmares.
This older style of cosmetic tattoo differs from microblading in a number of ways, with a great deal of drawbacks.
The Differences Between Traditional Tattoo and Cosmetic Tattoo
- Tattoos are done with a tattoo gun; microblading is typically done using a manual hand tool.
- Tattoos are a single thick line; microblading uses many fine strokes.
- Tattoo ink has a tendency to change colour and “bleed” or “smudge” – the line does not stay as it was applied. Microblading can lighten but does not smudge or bleed because the strokes are thin and only on the upper layers of the skin, so it fades over time rather than morphs.
- Tattoos are permanent, while microblading is semi-permanent (usually lasts 1-2 years before completely fading).
Unfortunately, if you already have tattooed brows, it probably won’t be possible to fix them up with microblading because the existing line is often too thick and dark, and the ultra-fine embroidered lines won’t show up on it.
Your technician will draw the shape on first to check that you are happy.
Most of us have had our eyebrows waxed and tinted at some point, with varied results. Obviously, tinting might give your brows a bit of a lift, but it isn’t going to do anything to reshape the brow or thicken patchy areas.
Early adopters of brow trends, particularly people who were around in the 60s, 70s, and 90s, might be finding that they no longer have much brow to work with, due to over-plucking or over-waxing. The older styles have left their wearers with thin, patchy brows. The good news is, current brow procedures can fix these problems right up.
HOW MICROBLADING CAME TO BE
The history is relatively brief – there is some evidence the procedure had its origins in Asia about 25 years ago, and grew to prominence in the West by the 2010s. Women continue to draw on or colour in their brows, but now we have many more options for brow enhancement and architecture: waxing, threading, tinting, tattoo, feathering, microblading or brow embroidery, hair strokes, micro strokes, powder fill, to name a few.
If you’re tired of drawing on your brows every day, the good news is that eyebrow embroidery will forgive you a multitude of brow sins.
Does it hurt?
Pain is a difficult thing to measure, because everybody’s pain thresholds are different. However, most people agree that pain experienced during microblading is minimal.
Feathering hurts less than a traditional tattoo. If pain is what puts you off getting perfect brows, there’s no need to worry. Permanent makeup technicians use numbing cream and check in with you throughout the process to see if more is required. The numbing cream typically takes a few minutes to reach its full effect, so it is applied before the procedure begins.
Rather than pain, the biggest cause of discomfort for people undergoing the procedure is reported to be the scratching sound.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN? THE DIFFERENT OPTIONS FOR SEMI-PERMANENT BROWS
You’ve probably heard a number of terms being bandied about for what most people will likely refer to as “microblading”, but some of these mean quite different things. We found a great glossary which we have borrowed from Allure to demystify some of these brow terms.
Semi permanent makeup technicians have their ways of ensuring your brows are lovely and even.
BROW TATTOO GLOSSARY
3D, 4D, or 6D Brows
Any brow tattooer worth his/her digital pen uses multiple ink colors to add dimension to their hair strokes. 3D usually refers to the artist using three ink shades or needles to draw multiple hair strokes with depth. Same idea with 4D and beyond.
Just as typical tattoo artists avoid tattooing over each other’s work, brow artists hate working on non-virgin skin. Not only is it difficult to see their fine line drawings over old ink, but when you tattoo over already-inked skin, results become much less predictable. Know this: If it’s not your first time under the needle, the artist you choose may not want to touch you. If they do, you’re likely getting charged extra for color correction—it can be a huge pain in the ass to match ink colors, mask discoloration and blurring, and still get a good result
This is another word for microblading.
The feathering technique is usually a combination of hair strokes and shading (to add a little depth when someone has very little natural hair), usually applied with a digital pen.
By injecting individual hairs to bulk up the natural brows, this method gives a no-makeup makeup look, and you still have the option to pencil them in when you’re wearing dramatic makeup.
The use of a very fine needle to draw each hair stroke’s varying widths. They start thin and then get a little thicker, and at the ends they get much thinner again. This is often called 'nanoblading'
This colored-in look is meant to mimic made-up brows and is thought of as outdated by most people. It’s best for people who already have pretty good natural brow hair but want a filled-in look. Without definition or individual hair strokes, it’s just one solid color from one side of the eyebrow to the other.
MICROBLADING: THE PROCESS
If you’ve read this article, you’re close to knowing just about everything there is to know about brows. So well done. But what about actually having the procedure done? Let’s take an in-depth look at the process.
Eyebrow Embroidery is carried out in two steps because of the healing process. After 4-6 weeks, the pigment from the initial application will have faded or become patchy as it healed, so a perfecting session is needed to get the colour just right, as well as to touch up the strokes. It is imperative that you attend the second session. If you do not return after 4-6 weeks for your touch-up, your brows are likely to fade much more quickly and will never reach the desired shade.
Your brows are applied with surgical grade pigment. It’s lighter and more shallow than a traditional tattoo, and it won’t warp or change colour once it’s healed.
What to Expect
During the initial appointment, the technician will have a consultation with you about what you want and create a brow based on your face. They often use a measuring tool to achieve balance and symmetry, but keep in mind the old adage about brows being sisters and not twins. Exactly symmetrical brows actually look really weird. A good technician will create a shape for each brow that works with your face shape.
Here’s what to expect at each session:
Your first session (90 minutes):
Numbing anaesthetic applied to your brows
Consultation to agree upon shape and look
Drawing the shape on for approval
Semi permanent pigment is applied with a sterile hand-tool
Your second session (60 minutes):
Numbing anaesthetic applied to brows
Correction of any irregularities in the microbladed hair strokes and colour toning
Tip: During the healing, you may experience flaking, itchiness, and patchiness. These give no indication of what the healed result will look like.
Before the Treatment
There are a few things you’ll need to be mindful of before your treatment to ensure the best results.
No coffee, alcohol or energy drinks on the day of your microblading procedure.
Do not take Panadol or Nurofen 24 hours before treatment.
Do not take an omega 3 supplement 1 week before treatment.
Avoid tanning and intense sun exposure 3 days before treatment.
No waxing 2-3 days before treatment.
No chemical peels, dermabrasion, laser or any other intense treatments 2 weeks before treatment.
Shower and fix your hair before your treatment. You’ll need to take extra care not to get your brows wet for several days.
After the Treatment
You need to be a little careful with your brand new brows at first. For optimal results, be sure to avoid all of the following during the healing process:
Sun tanning or salon tanning.
Laser or chemical treatments or peelings.
Creams containing Retin-A or Glycol Acid on the face or neck.
Picking, peeling or scratching of the micro pigmented area (this can result in scarring of the area or removal of the pigment).
Heavy household cleaning such as garage or basement cleaning where there is a lot of dust or dirt.
Drinking alcohol in excess as it may lead to slow healing of wounds.
Driving in open air vehicles such as convertibles, boats, bicycles or motorcycles.
Touching of the eyebrow area except for when rinsing and applying the post-care cream with a cotton swab.
Before showering apply a layer of post-care cream to protect your eyebrows from moisture. During the shower keep your face away from the shower head.
Once completely healed, always apply a layer of sunscreen SPF 30 on your eyebrows when exposed to the sun.
Thanks for reading!