microblading

Microblading step by step: everything you need to know about the semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo

The process takes a couple of weeks until you see the finished product

Sophie Vokes-Dudgeon

One thing all beauty experts agree on when it comes to looking your best as you age, is that having great eyebrows to frame your face makes all the difference. I plucked mine quite heavily as a teen (oh how I wish I’d ignored that mean girl who told me it looked like my eyebrows and hairline were about to meet!) and, like my grandmother warned me, at one point they stopped growing back. Throw in a thyroid issue in my late 30s and here I was, aged 42, with more of a delicate whisper above my eyes, than a youth-enhancing frame.

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I knew microblading was an eyebrow trick many stars swear by, including the likes of Michelle Keegan and Coleen Rooney, but the idea of tattooing my face seemed rather radical – I chuck on some makeup and moisturise at night but I’m far from a high maintenance beauty slave. But the topic kept cropping up, and when a couple of colleagues in my office admitted their brows (which were gorgeous) were the result of microblading, I decided to give it a go.

Karen Betts is one of the best – this I heard from a few well-connected friends I discussed the topic with. Celebs love her and perhaps more importantly, her reputation among beauty editors was strong. I knew I wanted someone I could trust, especially if their work was to take residence on my face for the next 18 months to 2 years. But other than that, I didn’t do much research. And so, there I was, one Thursday afternoon, filling in a health questionnaire in Karen’s lush Harley Street clinic, a little nervous but other than that, utterly unprepared.

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At this point I will tell you the outcome: I completely love my new eyebrows. They are so natural looking that nobody can believe they have been microbladed on. The difference between having eyebrows (now) and not (then) is huge both to how I look, and how I feel about myself, regardless of whether it’s first thing in the morning, during a swim or popping out to the shops with no makeup on. The journey to this point though was...let’s say unexpected (hilarious, my husband might say, terrifying according to my kids and downright worrying at times if I’m honest).

There was so little information available online about the healing period between microblading and perfect brows. So for those considering taking the plunge, do it, but read on first, so you know exactly what to expect!

What exactly is microblading?

In a nutshell: microblading is a semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo that fills in the gaps between your eyebrow hairs so that your brow looks fuller. You can have Cara Delevinge-esque brows and want to (for some reason) make them even bigger. You can have completely blonde brows and want to give them some colour or you can have no brows at all, for example, if you suffer from alopecia and undergo microblading to give the illusion of them. Really, it's for anybody who wants to try it. 

Does microblading hurt?

You know what, it kind of does. It’s not real pain. I’m a mum of two, I’ve experienced real pain, but it’s not painless either. It’s like a tiny knife that cuts into the skin above your eye over and over and over, replicating each hair you need to have tattooed onto the browline, and while you get numbing gel and Karen is incredibly gentle, it is uncomfortable and stings a little.

How long does microblading take?

I was there about an hour and a half but part of that process is the numbing gel, the discussion and marking out of your new eyebrows.

my-eyes-after-microblading

My eyebrows, before and after

What does microblading look like immediately afterwards?

I have the pictures Karen took of my eyebrows directly afterwards and they were perfect! Beautifully shaped, each fake hair perfectly positioned and etched into your skin. A work of art. But – and I was warned – when you look at them on your face, rather than in isolation as a picture on your phone, they look really weird. Karen’s assistant had warned me that they would like someone else’s eyebrows and they really did. They were also not only brown but kind of red looking too (this is mainly swelling and a little bit of blood). As I walked home, I was convinced everyone was looking at my brows. My husband’s reaction (hysterical laughter) confirmed my concerns!

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When will microbladed eyebrows look normal?

This is the part of the journey I wish I had researched more - but it is also very personal. Some people love that initial look, I have friends who wish their eyebrows stayed looking like that. For me, who prefers things to look understated and natural, the path to fantastic eyebrows was about two weeks. So do not panic! The key here is to pick a well-respected practitioner and trust in their skills. This was my one reassurance when I woke on Friday morning and my eyebrows didn’t look normal, they looked even bigger and darker! I called Karen’s office in a bit of a panic. There was a celebrity who will remain nameless who we’d all joked I would end up looking like – and this morning I felt I did. I was told not to worry – that they would start calming down in the next day or two, and honestly, they did. But for about 24 hours I was concerned!

Why do microbladed eyebrows look so dark right after they've been done?

The main reason is that the pigment rubbed into the tiny new hairs remains on the skin, and in the miniature scabs that form as you heal. Bit by bit, that surface pigment disappears so expect it, be patient (and if you're the self-conscious type, probably don’t arrange any huge dates/big business meetings in the 4 or 5 days following!).

How do you look after your eyebrows after microblading?

Another thing I failed to research – the immediate post-microblading routine is a little prohibitive. First of all, keep up the lotion given to you – Karen Betts provides her clients with a little pot of something resembling Vaseline. Apply throughout the day (or whenever you don’t mind looking a little wet on the forehead) to help prevent scabbing and make healing swift and easy. But there are other things too – you need to keep your brows dry (so please, wash your hair before you get your brows done. Lesson learned here!) and sweating is not a good idea in the early days if you want your pigment to take hold. Good excuse to put the gym on hold for a week - but useful to know in advance.

When do you see the final results?

After two weeks you will know what your brows will look like going forward. Some people report that there is a funny period before when the pigment that isn’t sticking around has gone and what you have left looks a little faded before the finished results, but to be honest I didn't notice that. If you do, ride it out, because pretty soon something happens (it’s to do with skin regeneration) and voila, perfect brows.

Why do you need a follow-up appointment?

At this stage – about six weeks after your first visit – any gaps or areas that didn’t take the pigment well enough can be filled in. It’s really important to make this appointment or the pigment may not last as long as it should do. In fact, I was so happy with mine (and the few not-quite-perfect bits to me looked more natural) that Karen said I didn't need any extra work, but you should go for a professional appraisal even if you’re delighted with the outcome.

How long do microbladed brows last?

The results can last one to three years and you typically won't need a follow up for between six to 12 months. 

How much does microblading cost?

Prices can seriously vary from around £100 to £700, depending on who you go to and where you are in the country. As Karen says, you must absolutely research whether the person performing the treatment is qualified to do so before booking a treatment even if it is at a competitive price. 

michelle-keegan

Michelle Keegan is one of many celebrities that have tried out microblading

Which celebrities have undergone the treatment?

Plenty of celebrities now sport tattooed brows and their reasons for opting for the treatment range from wanting a low maintenance beauty regime to fixing over-plucked eyebrows. 

After spending years trying to grow out her eyebrows, Michelle decided to try microblading and said of the results: "They look very natural and I don’t have to faff around trying to even them out anymore." The Our Girl actress revealed she doesn't have the popular beauty treatment done very often, but she uses it to refine her own brow-shaping technique. Speaking to HELLO! in 2019, she said: "They do fade, but it just gives you a good stencil on how to shape your eyebrows," she said. "I'm not very artistic so for me, I've got a good base for knowing where to put the pencil, and where to fill in the gaps. I'd have loved to have a bushy, natural brow but unfortunately, I overplucked and my eyebrows don't grow."

Meanwhile, Good Morning Britain star Ranvir Singh also recently spoke about her experience with alopecia, revealing that she's been thrilled with the results of her eyebrow microblading treatment. "For those who live with #alopecia like me... I’ve had it since I was 8 and it's never got better... #microblading by @nezhasan_ has been a revelation," she wrote on Instagram. "It's eliminated the terrible guesswork over shaping and shading my eyebrows myself."

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What makeup products can I buy to mimic microblading?

If you're hoping to get the natural eyebrow look that microblading provides but you're not quite ready to brave the procedure, then we've rounded up some of the best products to try. 

loreal-paris-pen

Known as the 'Micro Tattoo Eyebrow Definer', the proof is in the name! The L'Oreal makeup comes in several different colours and "mimics the application of microblading for natural, hair-like strokes."

L'Oreal Paris Micro Tattoo Eyebrow Definer, £9.99, Boots

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mac-pen

The dual-ended pen offers a liquid brow liner to fill in the brow while the sponge tip contains tinted powder that is perfect for shading and adding dimension. 

MAC Shape and Shade brow tint, £19.50, lookfantastic

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maybelline-pen

Costing just £9.99, this Maybelline pen is shaped into three thin tips to create the appearance of several hairs in one stroke. 

Maybelline tattoo brow tint, £9.99, Superdrug

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urban-decay-pen

Another double-ended product, the Urban Decay pen includes an ink stain and waterproof pencil to create hair-like strokes just like the microblading procedure. 

Urban Decay brow blade, £20, Urban Decay

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