So, I confess: since I got microblading, I basically feel like everyone should get microbladed. I mentally style eyebrows on the street constantly! I know that this is far from a beauty blog (I think having used a blowdryer more than a dozen times in ones life is probably a prerequisite for that) but microblading seriously changed my life, and even my travels, so much so that I felt a full blog post review was in order.
Note that I of course couldn’t photograph my own microblading, and in fact did a terrible job of even snagging before and after selfies. Face palm! Luckily, my sister followed in my brow-steps and I was able to tag along and snap away at hers — so that’s her pretty face in most of these pictures, and the video below.But, first things first.
What is microblading?
Forget the thick, tattoo-gunned permanent makeup eyebrows of the past. Today’s eyebrow-enhancement de jour, known as microblading, is a more refined procedure in which special ink is manaully-applied with a blade that reaches only into the superficial layers of the skin. Hence, it’s only considered semi-permanent, but manages to beautifully mimic the natural hair strokes of real eyebrows.
Why did I want microblading? Why is microblading great for travel?
So, let’s start with the fact that I was born with thin, pale, barely-existent brows that I plucked into oblivion in junior high (seriously, can we start a campaign for tweezer control for tweens?) Who knows what effect that had on my adult face, but suffice it to say that my brows have been lacking for a long time. I was very self conscious about my bare face as a result.
Even on my easy breeziest, low maintenance days, my eyebrows were the one thing I wouldn’t leave the house without doing — even if I was running down the street to pick up my laundry, I smeared an eyebrow pencil on my face. Guys, I’ve even photoshopped them on in photos, ha. Because I was so fastidious about drawing in my brows or deleting photos where they looked realistic, I have almost no “before” photos to show you! But, here are a few. Yikes.
a morning I’d drawn my brows on… and Bangkok heat had another idea
Still that was far from a perfect solution. First of all, my happiest days are ones in which I really don’t put on makeup at all! This is not at all a judgement on people who wear lots of makeup — contour your face off, girl — I’m just not great at it and love when I’m feeling sun kissed and confident and wake up happy with what I see in the mirror, product-free. (Okay so basically… I’m lazy.) I tried tinting once but I basically had seven hairs t0tal, so it wasn’t very effective.
woke up at 4am to hike, still had makeup on from the day before
My travels only exacerbated the issue. First of all, I’m a super active person and traveler — even after drawing my eyebrows in the best I could, I sweat them off constantly. Not to mention I’m under the sea whenever I can be!
As soon as I heard about microblading I was hooked on the idea. No more half-assed morning makeup application, no more sweating off or scuba-ing off my brows, no more panicking about if I’d packed enough blonde eyebrow pencils for ten months in Thailand, ha.
my brows were no match for salt water
Why Urbane Brows?
Why’d I wait so long to finally get the procedure? First of all, I was living in Thailand, not exactly known as the land of natural blondes, and so I was skeptical I could find a technician skilled in my coloring. Second, when I was in the US, I was on the go and unable to commit to the two perfectly-spaced appointments and/or the required downtime (let’s just say for two weeks you are not camera ready.
When I moved back to Albany this fall, I immediately started researching for the perfect fit. I was overjoyed when I came across Urbane Brow on Instagram. I loved the before and afters that were posted, and I just vibed with business owner Ashley’s style. When I went for my consult I immediately clocked how cute the studio is, and I’m not going to lie — that matters to me. I’m supposed to trust you with the aesthetics of my face when I can’t stand your space?! Um, no.
I also love that they have online scheduling, which makes snapping up appiontments a breeze (can more studios and salons of all types adopt this?!) And, I was a big fan of the location — every appointment is an excuse to grab lunch, check out the new murals or just stroll though Downtown Albany.
Their other services include waxing and tinting, lash lifts, and permanent lip and eyeliner makeup. I tried the lash lift before a vacation (I’ve had a couple, always before dive trips — that’s another post!) and have even considered a light permanent eyeliner.
Bottom line, as a licensed registered nurse who now trains other microblading technicians, I felt confident Ashley was someone I could trust with my face. Plus, I could see that she’s a forever student like me, always taking new trainings herself in cutting edge beauty procedures — I love that. We really bonded and became friends, and I loved having a new friend to brunch and bar-hop with almost as much as I loved my new brows.
What’s the microblading process like?
After an initial consult, I set an appointment for the microblading itself, and then a touchup six weeks later. You need the touchup, guys — it’s standard in the industry. My sister, who is the model for all these photos, never did hers and her brows faded faster and didn’t have the same consistency (though they still looked great.)
First up, you’ll have another chat — you likely went over this during the consult — about what to expect of the procedure and aftercare. Make sure you read the pre-appointment restrictions carefully — no booze for a day, no waxing for three, etc. Then, you’ll start talking style.
She started by drawing on the outline of my potential brows using protractors, rulers, and a lot of intuition. Then, she’d show me the mirror and we’d talk.
This actually ended up being a longer and more intense process than I expected but I mean, it’s your face — that’s a good thing. We went back and forth on shape — I especially wanted a longer tail, and Ashley encouraged me to move the brows closer together and to open up the arch of my brows to open up my face, too.
Once we settled on a shape, we snapped a few photos and got ready to rock. Ashley redrew the brows using permanent marker, wiped away the pencil, and grabbed a blade. At this point we talked about color. There were really just two shades we were mulling over — I was, like all first time microbladers, super concerned about the color being too dark, but really the bigger choice for blondes is between going with a slightly warmer or cooler tone.
With all decisions set, she started blading. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t until I watched Olivia’s procedure, after mine, that I actually full understood what was going on! Ashley moved quickly but confidently with the blade, making small cuts (there is a teeny amount of blood, which I never even saw for my own procedure) and then rubbing the ink over and into the brows. The whole thing takes about an hour.
On the first day of your procedure, you have to set an alarm on your phone and every hour gently wipe your eyebrows with a water-wrung cotton pad and pat on some of the aftercare cream you’re given. For the rest of the week, you move to 2-3 times per day. I definitely experienced some minor swelling and scabbing after but nothing alarming — Ashley told me that was my new brows healing! Once the procedure was over I really felt no pain or discomfort, though I did try to avoid sleeping on my face for a few days which was a challenge.
Also, for a super active person like myself, the toughest part was not working out for a week! Ashley assured me that as long as I wasn’t going to a heated bikram or sweaty spin class, I could resume some movement within a couple days and I did — taking some gentle yoga classes and doing some simple weight training so I didn’t go crazy.
For the first two weeks you have to avoid makeup, sun, tanning bed, swimming pools, and the ocean. After those initial two weeks I did start using my face powder to tone down the color of my brows a bit if I was going out in the world — it was an easy and effective solution while my brows continued to heal.
Six weeks later, I went for a touchup. You can do it as soon as four. While my biggest concern was making the tails a little longer still, Ashley also encouraged me to bring them closer together too. I was hesitant, but am glad I listened to her here. I also loved that Ashlee was very chill about moving slow with these steps. She encouraged me to take baby steps and even do a third appointment if necessary rather than shock myself.
Microblading is not forever! Ashley estimated that with my age, activity level and skin type I’d probably need a touch up and she was right — I started using my eyebrow pencil again to touch things up at about exactly the one year mark. Time to make that appointment soon!
How much does it cost?
From my research I know that microblading costs vary wildly. However, from talking to friends I know that what Urbane Brow charges is standard for top of the line procedures — Ashley herself is $700 for the initial appointment, while her associate (also named Ashley, ha) is $550. Touch ups range from $125-400 depending on the length of time since the initial procedure.
Obviously, this is a luxury service by any run of the imagination, especially compared to the cost of the eyebrow pencils I used for years, ha.
Needless to say, this is not something you want to cheap out on. Step. Away. From the Groupon. Sadly there are a lot of microblading horror stories out there and Ashley does a lot of correction work for people who drive from far and wide to fix botched procedures with her.
What else did I do to attain maintinance-free brows, since I am insane?
If you caught my post about getting laser hair removal with my friend Jaclyn, you know I was considering electrolysis too. And I did end up starting it — on my brows! Electrolysis is the only method approved by the FDA for permanent hair removal (laser is FDA approved for hair reduction.) It also works on all hair types and colors, and super small areas… like eyebrows.
I was already popping into Smooth Reflections for laser hair removal on my underarms, legs and bikini line and laser genesis treatments on my face, so I figured what the heck, while I’m here, why not get those stray eyebrow hairs electrolysized, too, rather than just tweeze them? We stayed away from any hairs close to the eyebrow line, just to give some leeway in case I ever wanted to do fuller or slightly differently shaped brows, and just focused on the major outliers.
Not going to lie, it doesn’t feel awesome — a probe is inserted into each individual follicle and a mild current is delivered to destroy all of the cells in the hair follicle and prevent regrowth. That said, it feels more uncomfortable than painful and again, you can take ibuprofen beforehand.
The number of sessions you need varies wildly since you have to catch every hair at various points in the growth cycle, but I just basically had Jaclyn pluck away whenever I was otherwise there. It was so cheap — it’s $20 for five minutes or $35 for fifteen, which is all we ever needed.
Okay guys, especially if you have light hair, you need to prepare yourself for some emotions surrounding getting microbladed! As a natural blonde, I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it is a hard transition as you wait for your brows to fade to their long-term color. But Ashley assured me to just trust the process and I did. And it was worth it.
before and after my initial appointment
But, you will freak out and think you’ve made the biggest mistake of your life at least once. You may also go through a weird patchy phase — I didn’t really with the original pass but definitely did with my touch up. I found myself explaining even to random delivery people (which I’m sure they were thrilled with) that “hi sorry I look so strange I just got my eyebrows done!” Ashley is also available via phone 24/7 to talk you down from freakouts.
If you try to pick at the flakes or mess with the process, you can lift the pigment right out of that fun crust that forms on your brows — allow it to flake naturally.
before and after my touch up
This is why timing is crucial. I got microbladed at a time that I was working from home and rarely leaving the house except to work out or for my mom’s appointments — so I wasn’t too stressed. I was warned that it could take two weeks to fade to the appropriate color but for my face it truly took months. The first two weeks are for sure the most dramatic — I wish I’d taken progression photos at the time, but I wasn’t really in my best blogger mindset. It’s also important to keep in mind that the strokes are very sharp initially, but will soften into the skin over time.
In the end I’m super glad I listened to Ashley about bringing the inside of my brows closer together. However, I wish I had been more realistic with myself that my top priority was to maintain my natural brow shape, and not “opened up” the tails of my brows so much, which I hope to slowly adjust over my annual touch ups. As I’ve reached the one year mark the color at the tails of my brows has also started to look a little warm and reddish which is a very common side-effect for blondes who get bladed.
big brows and big smiles
Microblading, Lasik, and getting my teeth straightened are the three biggest investments I’ve ever made in my face and they truly changed my life — my days are infinity simpler, and I feel confident and at ease with my reflection. And wow, I love being on the road and on dive trips and knowing I’m ready for an adventure — or a camera flash! — at any moment.
I would 100% go back and do it all over again, though I would make slight tweaks on shape and color knowing what I know now. So I am clearly a massive microblading advocate — but you have to know what you want and be mentally prepared.
It is just one of the cruel facts of life that blondes, who truly need microblading the most, also suffer the most for it (I hope you can tell I’m being a little sarcastic in my delivery… even though these are facts.)
my post-microbladed brows out in the wild!
My Microblading Tips
Thinking about getting microbladed? Here’s my advice from a girl who’s been there, bladed that.
• Find a technician you trust — or don’t do it. If you can only afford someone who you feel a little unsure about, save those pennies for a trip instead, girl. It’s not worth letting someone at your face with a knife if you aren’t 100% confident in their skill.
• In my opinion, the best time to get microbladed is in the early fall or the winter right after the holidays. If your hair lightens in the sun, it will likely be darker once the weather starts changing, and the darker tones will make your new darker brows a little less shocking until they fade. Make sure you don’t go in right before the holidays, when most people have a lot of social events.
• Definitely take a painkiller before your appointment. If you’re super auditory sensitive, some headphones might help too so you don’t have to hear the scratching sound on your face, which bothers some people. For me, I preferred just chatting with Ashley, which also was a distraction from the pain, and listening to her playlists. The follow up hurts a bit more since you’re working on previously worked skin.
• Take the aftercare and the touchup seriously. I was pretty religious about mine but I do look back and wish I’d been more careful to put sunscreen on my brows when I was out in the sun, which I think would have helped with the fading. Just keep a little sunscreen stick in your bag and swipe on as necessary.
• Recognize that these brows are not forever. The younger and more active you are, the more frequently you will need touch ups. So keep that in mind and plan and save for it.
Today I feel my eyebrows are a work of ARCH! Okay… sorry but not sorry for that one, ha. I just couldn’t make it through this post without one truly over-the-top pun.
Any questions? Hit me up in the comments and happy microblading!
I received a complimentary microblading treatment in exchange for photography services and this blog post. As always, I share my unvarnished thoughts and opinions here regardless of any exchange of payment or services.