Microblading. Say, what? It’s only the hottest beauty trend for eyebrows right now. If you haven’t heard of it or want to know more, you’ll want to grab a cup of coffee or a glass of wine (unless you’re getting your eyebrows done in the next 24 hours, ha, ha) and read this post right now. Forewarning, this is kinda long. I’ve written a bible on microblading. This isn’t a trip to the nail salon — this is a serious medical procedure. I didn’t know a tenth of what I know now before I had it done and I (thought) I did my research! So I’ve set out to be as educational and informative as I could for any girlfriend who is thinking about microblading her eyebrows.
Microblading is a cosmetic tattoo performed on the eyebrows. Tiny wounds are made with a handheld tool and pigment is deposited beneath the skin. If it sounds a little scary it is . . . . a little . . . . but not much. I went under the knife to tell you about it. That’s what girlfriends are for, right? I had an amazing experience and I’m thrilled with the results.
What? Why Would You Tattoo Your Eyebrows?
About a year ago, inspired by the trend to have thicker, fuller eyebrows, I decided to grow in my eyebrows. After years of waxing and threading I felt they had become too thin. I described the process of growing in my eyebrows here. I had a lot of success growing in my brows using a microroller and Latisse but I still had a few areas that were sparse and my brows were uneven overall. My girlfriend, who is an esthetician, suggested microblading as a way to fill them in and achieve symmetry. I hadn’t yet heard about microblading but once I started reading about it and looking at images on Instagram, I knew I was game.
My Curiosity Is Piqued, But What Is It?
Microblading is a cosmetic tattoo. . . . on your face. But it isn’t performed like a modern-day tattoo with an electric tool. This is akin to tattoo-ing in the ancient tradition, like the stick and tap method Indonesians use, where ink is tapped into the skin. The tattoo is the hair-like stroke which is applied in a pattern resembling natural hair growth. Pigment is deposited under the skin and is chosen based on your skin’s color and undertone. The results will last from 1-3 years so, yeah, you’ll have it for a while.
I’d Like To Try It, Where Do I Go?
A word of caution. Microblading is super new and popular right now but it’s really important to go to someone who has an artistic eye and is well-trained because it is permanent. Even more important, you need to go to a reputable business where your artist is schooled in the proper blood safety protocols and uses disposable tools. In most states microblading isn’t even overseen by medical professionals — just cosmetologists. That’s a little scary. You don’t want to pick up a blood-borne disease or worse. So, number 1 rule: do your research!
A girlfriend in the industry recommended Dollistic in Washington, D.C. and suggested Emily Joy, who is co-owner of Dollistic, in particular. I was lucky that Dollistic is literally 15 minutes from home and extremely reputable. They have women from up and down the east coast vying for an appointment. One look at their Instagram and I knew I had found my place!
How Do I Get An Appointment?
You can make an appointment at Dollistic online or over the phone. Even though they book appointments four months out — getting an appointment can still be difficult for new clients. There is high demand because they have a strong national reputation and women come from all over the country to have their brows done or to have a botched job fixed. Plus a Dollistic cosmetic tattoo artist only sees 2 or 3 clients per day because they spend a lot of time consulting with each client and they really take their time creating a brow design. Quality is their focus and they want to make sure clients are satisfied. That shows through in the experience. They also prioritize existing clients over new clients (and many of them are repeat customers). For all of these reasons, availability is limited and appointments can be difficult to come by.
You should read their long list of pre and post-care instructions very carefully before booking your appointment. If you are planning a trip to the beach, get facials, or regularly receive facial injections like botox, you’ll need to time your appointment around these events. This is important because it can impact the longevity of your microblading. There are also dietary restrictions to follow prior to your appointment. That means no caffeine (including decaf coffee), vitamins or supplements, or exercise for 24 hours prior because it will impact how much you bleed during the procedure. Did she just say blood? Ew.
The Mental Preparation
I arrived at my appointment a bit nervous but super excited to finally be getting my brows done. I had been filling in the sparse areas with makeup for so long I was excited to finally be free of that. I followed the pre-care instructions to a tee. This is a big investment in time and money and I wanted to get it right.
I completed the paperwork and met with Lizzeth who co-owns Dollistic with Emily Joy. She educated me on what the healing process is like. This part is important. When you leave your appointment your brows will look amazing — though a bit darker than you may be used to. I have dark eyebrows naturally so that wasn’t at all scary for me. But for my fairer girlfriends this could be a huge shock especially if you’ve never really had eyebrows before. It really will change your appearance so you might want to mentally prepare for that. For example, as I was coming in another client was leaving. She was clearly in shock and more than a bit emotional having never had eyebrows before. It can be a huge change to your appearance and you might experience a range of emotions. Ever had a bad haircut? It’s a little like that. . . . but permanent.
I didn’t get emotional about my result after my first appointment but I have to confess that I freaked out about my eyebrows after my enhancement session. When I got to my car and took a few selfies I noticed that one eyebrow was higher than the other. I had a moment of panic (well, maybe longer than a moment) before I went back in to see Emily Joy. She talked me off the ledge. She explained that at the enhancement session she worked on one brow more than the other (because it had less natural hair to begin with) so there was more swelling on that side which made my eyebrows appear uneven. She advised me to give it some time to heal. If I wasn’t happy in four weeks I was reassured that she would go back and fix it. The Dollistic brow artists are so professional and, I swear, they have seen it all. Emily Joy’s reassurance settled me down. And, sure enough, she was right. By the next day things were already looking so much better. So the takeaway is that you can’t assess your satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with your microblading procedure until you see the actual results four weeks later.
Yes, you read that right — it takes four weeks to heal after your microblading session. Each hair stroke is a wound to the skin. Your skin will want to repair itself and new skin cells will regenerate to replace the damaged cells. When new skin comes in you might not be able to see the pigment that was deposited under the skin as well until the skin is fully healed. Anyone who has had plastic surgery or even botox can attest that there is a period of time after the procedure where the body is healing and the final results are blurred. It takes time for everything to settle down before you see the actual results. The same is true for microblading.
Two to three months later you come back for an enhancement session and you can make any corrections (or address any unhappiness with the result) then. Everyone metabolizes the pigment differently and this is an opportunity to address any fading. By the way, side note for anyone that uses vitamin c or any serums with acid on their face (check your product labels), these vitamins can cause your cosmetic tattoo to fade so don’t use them anywhere near your eyebrows.
The Experience In Detail
On to the nitty gritty. We began the process of pre-numbing my brows. The technician exfoliated my brows with a brush, cleaned them with rubbing alcohol, and applied numbing cream. She stuck plastic film over my eyebrows to help the numbing cream absorb and prevent it from running down into my eyes. Oh, and you get to wear this awesome cap too.
Next, I was introduced to Emily Joy. We retreated to her workspace downstairs and took “before” pictures. We discussed my goals and ideal brow shape. This is where I let her take over. I’ve been doing my brows wrong for years and I wanted an expert to correct my mistakes. I knew Emily Joy was an expert and I wanted to let her do her thing.
She began to work her magic. She’s an artist at work. She penciled in a box outline of her vision in wax pencil and then showed me her thoughts in a mirror. She took into account my face shape and length to design the perfect shape and arch for my brows. All of the idiosyncrasies of your face are evaluated in her design. I found the vision hard to imagine but I put my faith in her skills. I think this is why it is so important to go to someone with a great reputation and an artistic eye. This stage is lengthy but you can’t rush perfection!
We began the process of numbing again. This time Emily Joy made micro-tears in my eyebrows using one of her many tools. The little tears are an entrance for the anesthetic to take hold so you don’t feel any pain during the procedure. After a few minutes she began using a pen-like tool to draw “hair” strokes. You can see her depositing the pigment beneath the skin in this microblading video. I couldn’t feel very much of it because I was numb but I could hear it — it sounds like little scratches of a knife on a hard surface. It didn’t bother me but if you get squeamish easily this might not be for you.
When she was finished we made minor adjustments based on my input. Emily Joy really takes her time and listens to client feedback. She is conservative in her first client session because she knows that she can always add more but she can’t subtract. She also urges clients to wait to make further alterations at the enhancement session in 8 weeks after they’ve seen the final result. So smart. I probably would have made more adjustments on the spot but after living with my brows for a while I realize she gets a grade A after the first cut (no pun intended). I didn’t have her change much at my touch up. Once we were finished Emily Joy gave me a mirror and we took our “after” pictures. All in all I was there for a total of 3 hours, The follow-up appointment — the enhancement session — can be as long as 2 hours.
Results and Aftercare
I was truly amazed by how good my brows looked. I think the color and shape are perfect and the result is very natural. Yes, they are dark but I’m used to that. You can expect a little soreness, redness, and swelling in the first 24 hours. After all, someone’s been digging around in your brows so that’s realistic. In the days that follow you can expect to see some lymphatic fluid that gets crusty (not to get too gross but this is the fluid that appears on the skin similar to when you pop a zit), flaky skin, and general itchiness. You CANNOT scratch your brows. I got through that part by tapping my forehead just above my brows to trick my mind into thinking it was scratching that itch. Willpower is required here.
The aftercare is pretty simple. The protocol is to wash your brows with a gentle gel cleanser like Cetaphil three times a day for 8 days. Pat them dry with a napkin and then apply a dap of Aquaphor. You can apply makeup to the area again about 10 days later. To keep your new brows looking their best minimize your time in the sun (to prevent fading) and use sunscreen (which you should be doing anyway). You’ll want to avoid chemical peels, microdermabrasion, or skin vitamins that will cause your cosmetic tattoo to fade.
About the Artist and Dollistic
I would be remiss if I didn’t take a moment to tell you about Emily Joy because I think she is amazingly talented. She’s a market leader. She’s also a mom-preneur and overall boss babe. And a fellow midwesterner to boot. We instantly bonded over our Michigan roots.
She was selected and trained by Anastasia (Anastasia Soare, the eyebrow tycoon of Anastasia of Beverly Hills fame) to be the midwest representative of her brand. At once she became a hot commodity with women driving from all over the midwest to have Emily Joy design their brows. A few years later she was managing a spa in D.C. but looking for something different. She knew she was good at brows and had heard about microblading and wanted to learn more. She talked her way into getting trained from a Serbian expert, Branko Vavic of Phivrows, in the art of microblading in his first (and only) class in the U.S.. As Emily Joy explains it, he’s like the Michael Jackson of microblading. Training under him was no easy feat because he does not speak English so she had to learn through a translator.
In her quest to open her shop in DC (formerly called District Dollhouse) she faced many hurdles. For one, the licensing agency in D.C. didn’t have a category for zoning or licensing of a microblading establishment; for another, even the pigments she had trained on were not yet approved by the FDA. Just a few years after opening, the demand for microblading has skyrocketed. Emily Joy is protective of her craft and realizes that more oversight is needed over microblading procedures. She is a trailblazer in advocating for more regulation of microblading establishments.
My biggest takeaway is if you are considering microblading, do your research. Make sure your artist is using disposable tools and following proper blood safety protocols. Next, look at their work and ask for personal referrals. There are many stories on the internet of microblading gone wrong so this is definitely a case of buyer beware! Finally, don’t underestimate the importance of being mentally prepared for a big change in your appearance after your microblading procedure.
Am I glad that I did it? Yes. I’m a 100 percent satisfied customer. Brows are an important facial feature. Little or no brows can make you appear older than you are. I love that I don’t have to spend time filling in my brows anymore and I love that someone with a better eye than me created a shape that better flatters my face. I would do it again in a heartbeat.
I want you to know that I did not receive any compensation or promotional benefits from this post. I simply wanted to try it, share my experience, and educate my girlfriends about a topic I’m fascinated by.
Some photography by Anna Meyer
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