I’m not a trendy person, but when eyebrows became the hot new thing a few years ago, I knew I needed to get on board. I wasn’t blessed with strong brows, à la young Brooke Shields or Cara Delevingne, which seriously impeded my ability to emulate my idol, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter, and proudly state, “I woke up like this.” No, I instead woke up bleary-eyed before furiously penciling the heck out of my thin, droopy light-red brows. If this process sounds familiar to you, please know there is hope for us members of the Sad Eyebrow Club, and it’s called microblading.
Microblading is a semi-permanent cosmetic process in which ink and a brush with small (micro) needles are used to draw on realistic hairs, giving you the appearance of symmetrical, full brows. Essentially it’s a tattoo. And it’s on your face.
Before you freak out, this is not a Mike Tyson face tattoo—a fact I had to reiterate to my mother several times after telling her what I was about to do. Microblading differs from ordinary tattoos in several key ways. First, the results are semi-permanent, meaning as your skin regenerates over the years, the ink will fade, and you’ll need a touch-up in one and a half to three years. Second, ink is scratched into the skin instead of being poked in, as a regular tattoo machine would do. And third, there’s no downtime. As soon as you walk out of the salon, your brows are on fleek (albeit a little puffy).
Microblading is a relatively new process, so there isn’t necessarily a regulatory process for practitioners in Missouri. But this is still technically a tattoo. And if you care about your face, you’ll want to be sure the person inking it up is a professional and is certified in as many ways as they possible can be. Fortunately, my co-worker, Christy Howell, highly recommended Shawnna Wilson of S/W Beauty LLCto battle my brows.
The Brow Gal
Wilson is actually licensed in brow tattooing, and, as a makeup artist and eyebrow threader, she has more than 13 years of experience shaping brows of all colors, shapes and sizes. I barely have 13 years of experience braiding my own hair, and I’m pretty good at that, so I figured Wilson knows her stuff.
I did some stalking on her Instagram and Facebook feeds to see examples of her work. Wilson says she has shaped close to a thousand brows since starting microblading three years ago. Her photos show some frankly amazing before and after shots. Just look at the photos on this page. See my sad scraggly brows before? They have no direction. No ambition. No purpose in life. But those after brows, those brows have their act together. These are brows with a master’s degree. These brows probably have a 780 credit score and no overdue library books.
The most surprising thing about microblading is how natural the finished brows look. When you use a brow pencil or brush, you’re usually filling in as if you’re coloring within an outline. While effective, this method leaves a one-dimensional, solid look. Wilson’s process uses a small brush, about the width and length of your pinky fingernail, of several teeny tiny needles. It mimics the appearance of separate, natural hairs, making you look like your genes did all the work, no shaping or filling involved.
Wilson says the natural look is harder to pull off than one would think. Because these needles scratch into the skin, the strokes can’t overlap the way natural hairs can. Wilson practices her brush strokes for about an hour every morning to improve their placement, curve and length. “I always thought of it as a science because I do so much measuring and math, but I guess it really is partially an art form,” she says.
Under the Knife
The mathematics of the process became apparent when I showed up for the first appointment, which lasts three hours. The first thing Wilson did when I entered her cozy, cottage-y salon was to apply a topical numbing cream to my brows. Wilson then spent two hours getting the perfect brow shape for my face. She used a grid photo app to map out my face then started drawing using eyebrow pencils and powders, lifting a brow here, elongating one there and making them symmetrical. (She even used calipers to make sure they were exactly even.) She tweezed and shaved any stray hairs then let me take a peek to give my okay.
After outlining the brows in red sharpie—which looks frighteningly like blood when your caffeine-deprived brain glimpses it in a mirror—Wilson was ready to start inking them in. This is where that numbing cream is crucial. Overall, I felt next to nothing. Each stroke felt like the equivalent of dragging the end of a paper clip across my skin. The most disconcerting thing was the scratching sound of the strokes, but those were drowned out by the soothing playlist Wilson had on in the background. When finished, she rubbed more ink into the brows, which admittedly stung a little, let them sit, wiped off the excess and, voila, bold brows.
Wilson’s embroidery patients—as the process is called—have two appointments. The second session is almost identical to the first, but it’s done six weeks later so Wilson can fill in any areas that didn’t take to the ink or finesse the shape and color after your skin has healed.
At first, your brows will appear way darker than you ever imagined they could be, and they’ll stay that way for about a week. For the first few days, Wilson advises getting them damp every hour, drying them with a lint-free cloth and then applying a light ointment to keep them moisturized. This prevents scar tissue from forming and ruining your new brow ’do. After they’ve healed, though, they look like a natural part of your face. I still fill them in or darken them a little with makeup if I’m going for increased drama or that Instagram brow, but for my everyday look I can indeed proudly proclaim, “I woke up like this.”
Book New Brows
Brow Embroidery, $350 (includes two sessions): Wilson is already booked through 2017, but keep an eye on the appointment calendar on swbeautyllc.com to watch for openings. Be sure to book your six-week follow-up appointment as well so your spot doesn’t fill up.