I've never gotten a tattoo, and I didn't plan on ever getting one. But when you see the transformation that comes as a result of microblading, it makes you reconsider.
I actually heard about microblading from Bella Thorne. Well, not directly through her, per say, but she had just been in studio for an episode of Pretty Unfiltered, a show I host here at POPSUGAR, and I started following her on Snapchat immediately after. She visited Microblading LA to get her brows done. I had seen the term thrown around a few times online, but the idea of getting something permanently done to my face freaked me out, so I never thought twice about it, until I saw Bella's brows.
Microblading is a procedure that essentially makes any and all brow products worthless to you, because you will not need to use them when you get the procedure done. It's a cosmetic tattoo that fills in your brows or, in some cases, creates a beautiful, sculpted, natural-looking brow, sometimes out of nothing. A technician uses ink and a handheld blade to create hair-like cuts into the skin. You know the meme that compares your brows? "Left brow: Speaks three languages, top of her class, helps the homeless. Right brow: lives with her parents, gets arrested, has no life goals." It speaks to me on a personal level. Getting my brows to a good place each morning takes too much time! It's not that I have nonexistent brows — my hair is coarse — but there are definitely patches of hair missing.
I try any and everything for our viewers, so I offered my brows up as a test. (You know, in the name of journalism.) And, of course, I wanted to go to the best, so I reached out to Lindsey Ta and Microblading LA. There, they have four rooms for clients, along with a larger studio that serves as their training academy. Lindsey, the owner, has been in the permanent cosmetics world for several years and won the 2016 World of Microblading Championship in Amsterdam this year. To say she knows symmetry of the face would be a gross understatement.
Before the Appointment
Lindsey was kind and personable during our correspondence, and two days before my appointment, she advised me not to take aspirin, drink alcohol or caffeine, or eat omega 3s, explaining all of these things could thin my blood. She also explained to me that clients who receive injectables should refrain from this service for at least two weeks after their last appointment.
"I tell everyone to expect a two-hour appointment," Lindsey said. The first hour or so is mostly for the mapping process and for getting to know the client. Lindsey says learning about her clients' lifestyle can help her give them perspective when it comes to their brows. For instance, someone who swims a lot or sweats a lot might not have as long-lasting results as some of her other clients. And I learned it's not how much or little brow hair you have that matters. Instead, the real focus is your skin type. If you have oily skin, the results might not last as long, either.
In terms of how long they last — that's the second question I always get (first coming later on) — it can be anywhere from one to three years, depending on your lifestyle. I imagine with my job, which has me consistently washing my face or doing some kind of crazy face mask at the drop of a hat, that mine won't last past a year, if that. But it sounds amazing to not have to do my brows every morning!
After filling out paperwork and chatting with Lindsey, she sat me down in front of a brightly lit vanity and offered me a mint. "We're about to get real close," she said as she popped one in, too. Then, she stepped back toward the vanity and looked me straight on, to my left and my right, observing my brows from every angle.
"Your left eye is smaller than your right," she said, matter of factly. She was right: having eye surgery as a child to remedy a condition called ptosis, I've noticed that my left eye has always been smaller and in the past year has started to droop. I shook my head. "I'm going to shape your brows so they look a bit more symmetrical." This excited me — perhaps I won't need another surgery to remedy this issue.
Mapping the Brow
First, they use a pencil to map out the brow. It's a very confusing process because they essentially create a giant outline of your brow, and I was worried I was going to look like a caricature of myself. Lindsey explained that they would never create single, straight, harsh lines on my brow. These lines are like a colouring book: they're guides to fill the brow in. They also mark the brows to indicate when the hair stroke should change direction, hence the vertical lines on my forehead.
Then, they use a 3D waterproof pencil to create hair strokes to use as a guide for the actual tattooing process. Once that is finished, she let me look at the shape and give my thoughts. Initially I was worried that they were too close together, but she reminded me that it would be fading, and the hairs wouldn't be as stark as the guide she created.
With my approval, she shaped my brow with a razor, cleaning up underneath and essentially lifting my brow. Then, she applied topical numbing cream, and 20 minutes later, I was lying down to get my first tattoo — on my face, no less!
The number one question I've received throughout all of this has been "does it hurt?" Yes and no. The numbing cream makes it so that you don't feel any incisions, but it's not perfect, so there were times I could feel a bit of discomfort when she was making the hair strokes. And let's get real: she was using a blade to cut open my skin! Of course it wasn't going to be pain-free. I'd describe the entire process, though, similar to an itch. She pulled my skin taut and sliced, kind of like creating a bunch of tiny paper cuts. I know this sounds painful, but it was more annoying to me than anything.
She created the incisions, and as she went, she filled them with ink. Lindsey asked some secrets of her practice to remain secret, so what I'll say about the ink is that it's, apparently, different than ink they used for standard cosmetic tattoos, so when it fades, it doesn't turn grey or purple; it just kind of disappears over time.
After the first round of incisions (about 30 minutes), she went back and fixed any imperfections. Then, she coated the brow with a layer of ink to seal her work. Two minutes later, I was looking in the mirror at my new brows.
After the Appointment and Aftercare
Staring at my new brows, I was shocked to see that this normal "dip" I have in the tail of my natural brow was completely gone: she'd filled it with the most perfect hair-like strokes I've ever seen. The sparse patch at the front of my brow had vanished, and she'd also created a few strokes closer to my nose, bringing them in a little.
The numbing cream wore off about an hour after the appointment, and it felt like my brows were on fire. They were fairly sore, too. (Again, I wasn't surprised.) Lindsey told me before the appointment that there were a variety of aftercare instructions, one being that I couldn't wash my face for a week.
SKIIIIRT. What?! Washing my face gives me great joy. I was not amused by this tidbit, but she explained that there is a "dry healing" period in which the brows will need to essentially scab over and shed. To prevent any scars and to help them heal quickly, it would be essential for me to keep my brows from getting wet for at least a week, which definitely made removing eye makeup and taking showers a very detailed activity. Oh, and picking off the dead skin was also a big no-no.
The good news, though, is that I was not allowed to sweat excessively, either, so it's too bad that I couldn't go to the gym, either. Truly.
It will be about four to six weeks before my brows fully heal, and during that process, I'll notice my brows get super dark, shed, get super light, shed, and them become the shade they were intended to be. After six weeks, I will return for a touch-up appointment.
1 Week Since the Appointment
I've been keeping a diary of sorts on Instagram regarding my microblading experience. The day after the appointment, my brows were so dark that I could have been mistaken for Groucho Marx or Bert from Sesame Street. I have found that I wear more eye makeup right now, since my brows are darker, because I want to balance them. Cleansing cloths from Olay and Q-tips have been my new best friends when it comes to makeup removal, and my Beautyblender has made applying moisturiser stress-free.
Over the past week, they've been itchy, and it's taken every inch of me not to scratch them profusely. Randomly, a little piece will hang off my skin and look like dandruff, which is super sexy, and at night, I know that my boyfriend probably has nightmares about my glistening, ointment-coated brows. But I have to say, not filling in my brows has changed me. It's a time saver, that's for sure. I have had to fill in the places where the brows have shed, but Lindsey told me that would happen and I could use brow powder to help.
And the third most asked question: how much does it cost? Microblading LA charges between $700-$1,500 for this service, depending on how extensive your brow application is. If you're filling in a few spots, it's going to be less expensive than going in and getting an entire brow drawn onto the skin. Nationally, it seems the standard rate starts around $500.
Yes, it's an investment, that's for sure. If time is money to you, it's definitely worth it. I'm going to keep reporting each week on the status of my brows and how the process is going, so check back frequently to learn more about the process! Below is a photo of me, nothing on my brows, pretreatment, and a photo of myself on set six days later. I have nothing on my brows, even though I do have on more makeup.