I remember when we first learned about microblading back in 2016, and man did it take off full throttle. The procedure utilizes a tiny row of needles to create thin, hair-like marks on the skin in the brow area by depositing pigment under the skin like a tattoo. An entirely new category of microblading pens and markers was created in cosmetics as a result of its popularity. Though it was originally touted as a semipermanent treatment designed to last one to three years, there have been many reported cases of negative side effects, and as such, its hype has dwindled.
“Trend cycles are usually very quick, especially on TikTok and Instagram, however, the trend cycle we see with microblading has lasted much longer because the disappointment of microblading doesn’t hit right away, and it can sometimes take years to see the negative effects of the process,” says celebrity eyebrow specialist Joey Healy, founder of his eponymous brow brand. “These days, I see more people getting on board with cosmetics and more natural ways of enhancing their brows, rather than professional procedures that may end with unwanted results.” Here, two esteemed brow experts weigh in on the current state of microblading, as well as safety concerns and how to get the look via other methods.
Why the Hype Is Dying Down
“The microblading hype is definitely losing steam,” says Healy. “Even if it turns out exactly how you expected at first, the healing and fading process tends to be the real disappointment. Too many touch-ups can cause the brows to look more muddy than structured, and after the semi-permanent tattoo begins to lift, it may take on a red or blue hue.”
Briana Olson, celebrity brow artist and founder of Trio Beauty, says another reason why fewer people are microblading their brows is due to evolving trends. “Some like to switch between a more full brow, a lifted fluffy brow, and something in between. Having microblading done means that there is less ability to switch between these looks and trends.”
What was once seen as a “temporary tattoo” of sorts, is now being seen as permanent, says Olson, because there is no way to determine whether the pigment will actually ever fade completely. “Whether or not the pigment will fade completely is determined by which layer of the dermis the pigment reaches, and the pigment cannot be placed in the same layer each and every time by the technician,” she explains. “The pigment can also fade out to a gray shade or a peach shade depending on the pigment used by the technician.”
Brow expert Michele Holmes says her clients with total brow hair loss still prefer permanent makeup, including microblading and shading, because an artist can create a complete brow design using the hair-stroke technique. “However, I’ve noticed a subtle trend shift into the powder brow and nano brow practice that marries the microblade look and shaded makeup look,” she says. “The needle is more gentle on the skin than the microblade tool.”
There Are Also Safety Concerns
Unlike most other in-office treatments, Olson says “microblading is quite unregulated, and artists can start performing the practice in as little as a three-day course.” Holmes adds, “Microblading is a highly under-schooled industry. For example, in California, under the California Safe Body Art Act, ‘any individual who wishes to perform microblading’ needs to only be 18 years old, registered with a local enforcement agency, take a two-hour online bloodborne pathogen course, and work in a registered facility. A registered facility is the salon owner’s responsibility where the stations are set up to meet local tattoo health department codes.”
Nowhere in this process, Holmes continues, does the “artist” have to complete a set number of hours before working on clients. “In comparison, an aesthetician has to complete 600 hours of training school and pass a state board exam in order to simply wax an eyebrow or perform a facial. Under state board regulations, aestheticians are not allowed to cut skin—like using a lancet to open a pimple—but the microblading loophole would allow them to cut the skin with a microblading tool. I took two very intensive, week-long microblading courses and met some people who had never been in any beauty field before, nor had any brow-shaping knowledge.” Knowing this, it’s wise to do your research before getting microblading to avoid potential unwanted side effects.
These side effects, Healy describes, include the following: “1. It can damage the existing natural brow hairs and skin underneath. 2. It’s very common for the pigment to lift and change colors over time. 3. There’s no delete button with microblading! If you don’t like the results, there’s no way to undo it—it has to fade over time. 4. Possible scarring on the brow can occur if the procedure isn’t done properly, or after a post-procedure infection has cleared. Microblading is a semipermanent tattoo process, and just like with regular tattoos, you do risk the potential for infection, especially if performed in an unsanitary manner. 5. Depending on personal pain tolerance, you can experience pain or discomfort throughout the procedure. It’s also important to remember that the skin is thinner and more sensitive in this region, and is close to your eyes.”
Throughout her years of seeing clients for brow services, Holmes says she’s also discovered that many people don’t even know what microblading really is. “I show them pictures of the tiny, serrated knife that looks like an X-Acto blade so they know what they are getting into.”
3 Ways to Get a Microbladed Look Without Microblading
There are so many options for achieving a full-looking brow without committing to a procedure that the experts say comes with so many risks. These are three of the most popular alternatives right now.
Brow Tinting: Healy says this is the perfect alternative to microblading if you are looking for a professional procedure. “This is a non-damaging process that makes the existing hairs stand out and gives a subtle shade underneath for that fully, fluffy appearance,” he explains. “At the Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio, we use custom-blended vegetable-based dyes that are gentle and not irritable to the skin. I usually leave the tint on longer at the front of the brow to deepen the color of those wispy finer hairs. This gives the dimension and fullness without any additional damage to the eyebrow region.”
Brow Makeup: “You can use a variety of different cosmetic products to achieve the microbladed look, from powders, pencils and pomades to tinted brow gels, or even clear glycerin soap!” says Healy. “I would say a tinted brow gel is the best option for this because it coats each individual hair to deepen the color and add a bit more texture and fine lines.”
“If you are skilled at brow makeup, a brow pen is a long-lasting and simple way to draw realistic-looking hair into the brows,” says Holmes, recommending KS&Co Microfeathering Brown Pen. “Brush your brows up into desired shape and swipe the makeup into the gaps using soft feathery strokes.
For a brow novice, Healy says these pens and markers can be difficult to use correctly. “Instead, opt for a pencil or powder, which is much easier to apply, blend and shape,” he suggests. “I find retractable brow pencils with a triangular-shaped head to be the best. You can use it on the fine, pointed side to define individual hair strokes, and the thicker side to shade where needed. Pencils and powders are also easier to clean up with a full-coverage concealer or highlighter to really define the shape.”
Another option is a brow stencil, which has received tons of love on TikTok this year. “Our Brow Trio Stencil Kit is a great microblading alternative that gives the look of microblading from home,” Olson says. “It is waterproof and smudge-proof, so it still has that great benefit of microblading that makes it possible to swim or workout with your brows on.”
Brow Serums: “The great thing about the microblading trend dying out is that people are becoming more aware about the benefits that serums offer!” Healy says. “Regular use of a nutrient-rich brow serum helps to grow, thicken and condition your natural brow hairs. I recommend using one that is packed with peptides, proteins and vitamins, like my Brow Renovation Serum, in order to promote growth while simultaneously strengthening already present brow hair.”