I recently got my eyebrows microbladed, after years of trying to draw them on consistently. You might have noticed them in my YouTube videos and selfies – I’ve gotten so many unsolicited compliments on them!
Brows are probably the thing I find the most annoying in my make-up routine, and I’m not alone. Even drag queens who do their own makeup for a living find them annoying! Like most people, I’d heard of permanent makeup before, but knew of it as faded green-blue eyebrows on middle aged women.
Enter microblading. Microblading, also known as feathering or eyebrow embroidery, is a newly popular technique that gives you semi-permanent, natural-looking results. I went to Sydney Cosmetic Clinic to have mine done by Leona Gallagher, an eyebrow expert who flies down from Brisbane once a month to work her eyebrow magic (her home base is Simply Laser in Brisbane). Here’s my review!
What is microblading?
Microblading has been around for a long time, but it’s only become all the rage recently. In microblading, pigment is implanted into the upper dermis of your brow skin in individual hair strokes, using a manually operated blade.
It’s more shallow than a regular cosmetic tattoo which results in more natural colours. It’s also safer, but less permanent (the pigments used are more easily broken down by your body than regular tattoo ink).
The results last for up to two years, depending on the individual and their skincare routine – tanning and intense exfoliation will cause faster fading.
My microblading experience
Microblading is generally done over two sessions. In the first session most of the strokes are done, then the second session (for touchups) takes place around 30 days later, when the results from the first session has settled into the final look.
All up, the whole shebang took about two hours. At the first session, after signing some forms, Leona chatted to me about my skin type, skin tone, what my brow goals were and told me what to expect from the procedure. She then designed my brows for me based on what I requested, and what she thought would work best for my face:
After I was happy with how it looked, Leona put an anaesthetic numbing cream on my brows and we waited 20 minutes for it to set in. During this time, Leona mixed up the pigment that would be implanted, taking into account the fact that the skin on top would change the final colour.
Leona’s microblading technique involves making lots of tiny cuts with a blade containing a row of needles (if done correctly, the cuts shouldn’t leave any scars). Here’s the blade, which looks a bit like a tiny musical instrument carved into the end of a scalpel:
And here’s how the microblading looked (yes, that’s me taking the video on selfie mode!):
After doing the strokes, Leona covered the area with dye. At the end, she wiped off the dye, gave me aftercare instructions and I was done. (There’s a full video of Leona microblading someone else’s brows here.)
How much does microblading hurt?
Pain level was my number 1 question, and apparently everyone else’s too! So: does microblading hurt?
The answer is: it depends. Different microbladers use different techniques – some don’t use anaesthetic numbing creams at all since they believe it hardens the skin underneath and affect results.
I’m incredibly glad Leona is one of the practitioners who uses anaesthetic. It worked very very well and I felt almost zero pain during the microblading procedure! There was a little discomfort when the cream was fading, but Leona quickly applied more and it was fine again. As you can tell, I’m chill enough to videotape the procedure. At worst, it felt like someone was drawing on my skin with a ballpoint pen.
The worst thing about the actual procedure was the sound of the blade cutting through my skin, which sounded a bit like a box cutter going through cardboard. I couldn’t help cringing for the first few minutes but I eventually got used to it. I’d recommend taking some earbuds and loud music if you’re easily squicked out.
The second worst thing was that there was a short period of pain about an hour after the microblading when the anaesthetic wore off . This felt like a less intense version of the throbbing feeling of shampoo in a paper cut, but it lasted a longer time. It was bearable, but distracting. It faded 15 minutes after I took a couple of paracetamol tablets.
After that, there was pretty much zero pain, except for a tiny bit of discomfort when I put antiseptic cream on my brows that evening.
Overall, the pain was far less than I expected, and I’m someone who can’t handle laser facial rejuvenation. Unless you have zero pain tolerance, you should be fine with anaesthetic cream!
Microblading Aftercare and Healing Process
The microbladed area is a healing wound, so aftercare is critical. Leona sent me away with antiseptic cream and strict instructions to not let my brows get wet for the first 10 days. This included avoiding cleanser, shampoo, makeup, sweat and water. The only things that were OK on the eyebrows were antiseptic cream and coconut oil. This led to me using a lot of facial cleansing wipes, micellar water and washing my hair with coconut oil-slathered brows and a paper tape “roof” over my brows like this:
(Don’t worry, the super thick layer of coconut oil stopped the tape from sticking down on the brows!)
I also had to avoid heavy exercise, sun exposure and exfoliation in the first 10 days. Leona also warned me not to scratch my brows later when it would get itchy, as picking at the scabs can cause the strokes to wear off, or even cause scarring.
Here’s what my healing process was like. Keep in mind that different people heal at different rates depending on health, age, etc., although good aftercare will make you heal better. Luckily my brows didn’t look overly unnatural at any point during the healing process!
- Immediately after the treatment: There was a little swelling and redness around the site, but it was pretty unnoticeable, even in the most severe throbbing stage.
- For the first few days: My brows looked quite dark and a bit redder than usual. The little blood spots weren’t noticeable according to people I asked, even though they look pretty bright in these photos!
- Day 4 onwards: The area got unbelievably itchy as the scabbed areas healed, but I resisted the urge to scratch and instead pressed the itchy bits firmly.
- Day 7: The scabs started flaking off, and my brows started looking less dark as the superficial pigment came off.
- Day 10: Healed, but quite light. Water is OK again!
The strokes darken again over the next 20 days as the skin finishes healing during the stage that tattooists call “milk skin”. You have to be patient when you’re healing, as the final look won’t develop until 30 days after the procedure, so make sure you wait a full month before you start panicking about your choices in life.
Here’s how it looked on Day 5 – a bit darker than normal, but not abnormal looking to a stranger:
If you’re curious what the scabs look like, here’s a photo of a big flake that fell onto my laptop out of the blue
Microblading Before and After
Now that my brows are set, I’m absolutely loving them! Microblading has saved me so much time and angst in the mornings, and it’s much easier to maintain my brows now that I have a template etched into my skin. Leona is also incredibly experienced with brows, so the shape is fantastic at framing my face. These photos are with no brow products.
Update (14 November 2023): I’ve gotten my brows microbladed again 3 times (every 2 years) since the first round – clearly it’s been working really well for me! I’ve been going to Nikki at Mii Beauty.
Here’s how my latest microblading looks on Day 10 (after lunch with Dr Mara of Dermomtology):
What to Look for When Picking a Microblader
The results you get from permanent cosmetics are very dependent on the skill of the practitioner.
Much like tattooing, there’s an art to microblading brows. The brows need to be customised to suit your face – the right brows can balance out your features, while the wrong brows will just look… wrong.
There are also a lot of things that need to be taken into account when implanting the pigment. The type of needles and the size of needles need to be taken into account your skin. The colour of the pigment needs to be considered with your skin tone to work out how the final colour will look. The pigment also needs to be implanted at different depths depending on the part of the brow.
Leona’s advice for picking a microblader is to look at clear photos of their past work. Most microbladers will have a website or Instagram gallery with the results (here’s Leona’s before and after gallery). Look for testimonials as well.
What you’re looking for:
- What their work looks like, including their healed work (ideally 1 and 6 months later)
- The colour along the brow: Are the colours natural? Is it ashy at the ends? (This can happen if the pigment isn’t implanted at the right depth.)
- Does the tattooist design the brows to suit the person’s individual features, or do they use a generic brow? If they design the brows, do they look good?
- Do the hair strokes look natural all along the brow? Different people have different brow hair patterns (ethnicity also makes a difference), so the same hair strokes won’t be the same for everyone.
- How experienced is the microblader, both at microblading and at brows in general?
- If you can, ask for a consultation first so you can see what the clinic looks like, and see if you can do an allergy check. Infections are bad in general, and more importantly can ruin the results. You don’t want an infection somewhere as visible as your brows! (Click this example only if you have a strong stomach.)
Leona also does HD brows, where your brows are drawn, dyed, tweezed and threaded for results that last about a month. I actually had a HD brow appointment with her earlier, so I was pretty confident that she knew what she was doing! I would recommend asking your microblader if they’ll do your brows first (either before the microblading or as a separate appointment) so you can test out the shape before it’s etched into your skin. While you’ll get to approve the brow shape before they tattoo it in, it can be difficult to picture the final look when it’s just a dark outline.
I would highly recommend Leona! My microblading experience was better than I ever expected, and I’m completely in love with my brows. If you’re in Sydney, she’s at Sydney Cosmetic Clinic once a month (you can contact them on 1300 736 353 for more details and for bookings). She’s also in Brisbane at Simply Laser.
This service was provided in exchange for an unbiased review. For more information, see Disclosure Policy.