If you’ve considered microblading your eyebrows, you’re not alone. Thanks in part to Cara Delevingne and Glossier’s Boy Brow, eyebrows have made quite the transformation over the past 10 years. What was once just some hair chilling on your face is now a make-or-break feature. This more-is-more mentality when it comes to brows has skyrocketed the popularity of mircoblading— the newish, semipermanent version of eyebrow tattoos. But harsh, stamped-on brows they are not; instead, the delicate, realistic strokes look like the fluffy brows of your dreams.
In fact, microblading’s recent popularity has spawned microshading and microfeathering, two techniques that give you a different brow look depending on your preferences. The Sparknotes? Microblading will give you natural, fluffy-looking brows even if you have none to speak of, microfeathering builds on what you’ve already got, and microshading will give you a semipermanent powdered look.
For more details on each service, including cost, aftercare, and what to expect, read on.
In this article:
Anyone who wants a natural brow look that lasts.
What is microblading?
Microblading is a technique using a superfine pen (technically, a bundle of 12 to 15 needles) to deposit pigment into skin. The tip is so fine, in fact, that it can create hair strokes that look legit. Compared with other techniques, “microblading gives a very natural look and better simulates hair,” says Betsy Shuki, makeup artist and brow expert who offers microblading services at the office of NYC plastic surgeon Scott Wells, M.D.
Is microblading a tattoo?
Sort of. It uses the same principal as tattoos (see superfine needles), but unlike tattoos, the needles reach only the superficial layers of the skin. This is why it’s only semipermanent, opposed to permanent traditional cosmetic tattoos. Think of each stroke as a little paper cut. (We know what you’re wondering: Yes, it hurts, but your brow artist can numb the area first.)
What happens during a microblading session?
First, your brow artist will shape the brows you’re currently working with, then will typically apply a numbing cream. While this gets to work, they’ll discuss color and shape options with you. Then your artist will go in with the needle pen, and deposit the pigment on your skin. The whole process takes a little over an hour.
Microblading aftercare and healing:
If you’ve ever gotten a tattoo, expect similar aftercare for your microblading. “On the first day after microblading, clean your eyebrows with distilled water on cotton pad gently and apply aftercare cream every four hours,” says Shuki. On the second day, repeat that three times. For the next five days, do this morning and night. Your brow area might be red and scabby, so try not to schedule big things (e.g., a huge job interview or engagement photos) for the first week or two. “Also, avoid going to the gym, any excess sweating around eyebrows will prevent pigment retention and can cause infection,” adds Shuki.
How long does microblading last?
You’ll need a touch-up in about a month (the cost of this is typically budgeted into the fee of the initial service). Then microblading can last anywhere from 12 months to three years, depending on your lifestyle. A few ways to extend it: Stay out of the sun, since it can fade the pigment, and avoid putting exfoliants (like retinol and glycolic acid) near your brows, because they’ll lift the top layers of your skin with continued use—and the color with it.
Prices vary based on location and artist expertise, but expect a quality job to run somewhere between $700 and $1,500.
Anyone who wants to lightly fill out the brows they already have.
What is microfeathering?
Microfeathering is a form of microblading and a technique created (and trademarked) by eyebrow artist to the stars Kristie Streicher. She’s best known for her feathered brow, a no-needle shaping method that’s all about a natural, fluffy-looking brow. This is similar to that, but with pigment. Like microblading, she uses a fine blade to create tiny incisions. “Pigment is then deposited into the incisions, resulting in an incredible natural-looking ‘eyebrow hair,’” says Streicher. Unlike microblading, which typically creates most of the brow for you, Streicher uses your existing brow hairs as the “starting base” and simply fills it in as needed.
What happens during a microfeathering session?
Microfeathering is a little more high-maintenance than microblading, only because Streicher is so exact. She requires a consultation to ensure that there’s enough natural hair to help blend the pigment into your brows. (And there’s usually a growing-out period of 6 to 12 months so your existing brow hairs are all accounted for.) It’s also a two-part process. “During the first appointment, microfeathered strokes are created in some of the more dense area of the brow,” explains Streicher. “Six to eight weeks later, depending on how your skin heals and responds, additional strokes are then added.” Everyone heals differently, she says, so she can better complete the look once she knows how your skin will recover.
Microfeathering aftercare and healing:
Though you can expect less irritation than microblading, the aftercare is largely the same. Still plan for a few low-key days in case of redness, and avoid the gym or swimming. On your first day after the service, clean your brows with distilled water on a cotton pad, and apply an ointment like Aquaphor every few hours. On the next day, repeat the process three times, and work down to morning and night for the next week.
How long does microfeathering last?
It typically doesn’t have the staying power of microblading because “the pigmented strokes are much finer and natural-looking,” says Streicher. Depending on certain factors, like your skin type (oily skin won’t hold the pigment as well), age, and skin-care routine, microfeathering will usually last 8 to 12 months, max.
For the consultation, first appointment, and follow-up, Streicher charges $1,000.
Watch: Microblading, Microshading, and Microfeathering: What’s the Difference?
Anyone who wants brows to look more “done” (i.e., thick and filled in).
What is microshading?
If microblading is like painting and microfeathering more like sketching, microshading is like an Impressionist got ahold of the blade. It’s like the pomade or powder to microblading’s pencil strokes—just semipermanent. The overall effect more closely resembles the sort of brow you’d find on any given Instagram influencer.
What happens during a microshading session?
“Microshading technique is done using either an electric hand tool or a manual tool, which creates a soft, powdered effect that resembles eyebrow powder,” says Shuki. Instead of the hair stroke typical with microblading and microfeathering, microshading employs a stippling method, which uses repetitive dots of pigment.
Some people could benefit from a combo of microshading and microblading, says Shuki. That candidate would have thinning eyebrows with drier skin—so, likely on the more mature side. Thinning brows can benefit from the extra oomph of shading. If you’re on the fence between the two, nothing beats checking out photos on Instagram. They’ll give you a good understanding of a brow artist’s style, so you’ll have a better idea of what to expect when you make an appointment. Plus, it shows the quality of the work, since pictures can’t hide a botched microblading or microshading job. (Also, spring for an artist with a license or certificate from the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals or the American Academy of Micropigmentation, which shows that they’ve undergone the proper training.)
Microshading aftercare and healing:
Microshading has the same healing process as microblading and microfeathering, so get that Aquaphor ready.
How long does microshading last?
All good news here—there’s no difference in the lifespan of microshading and microblading. So, excluding the first touch-up, you have a solid year before you need to see your brow artist again.
Even if you do get both microshading and microblading, the price is about the same as it would be for just microblading. Expect to pay anywhere between $700 and $1,500.
Deanna Pai is a beauty writer in New York City. Follow her on Instagram @deannapai.