Wiping off that blue eye shadow and donating your boot-cut jeans were easy enough once the fashion tides turned.
The overzealous brow plucking is a little harder to atone for.
Enter microblading, the semi-permanent make-up technique that’s risen in popularity alongside the trend toward fuller brows.
Using a blade-like line of tiny needles and ink matching your natural eyebrow color, an esthetician — requiring the same certification from the Southern Nevada Health District as a typical tattoo artist — creates the appearance of individual hairs by hand.
The technique can be used to fill in patchy brows, to create a more defined arch or to draw a new eyebrow entirely in the case of complete hair loss. The goal is a natural, three-dimensional appearance.
“When a client comes back and says, ‘My friends could tell something was different but they couldn’t tell exactly what,’ ” Henderson-based microblader Audrey Collins says, that’s the perfect reaction. Collins operates her own microblading business, A. Collins 3D Brows, at BodySpa Salons at Green Valley Ranch.
She began microblading nearly two years ago after training under her sister-in-law, an established microblader in St. George, Utah. Her sister-in-law simply had to post a video or photo of the process on Instagram to attract a handful of new clients. In Las Vegas, the procedure is just now rising in popularity, largely thanks to social media, and Collins hoped to tap into that trend.
Unlike a traditional tattoo, microblading deposits the ink under the first layer of skin, rather than under the deeper second layer. The results last one to two years, depending on your skin type and the type of products you use regularly. Chemical exfoliants that speed the rate of skin cell turnover, such as alpha-hydroxy acids, can cause the tattooed eyebrows to fade more quickly.
The process involves about a two-hour appointment. The microblader numbs the area with a topical anesthetic before outlining the new brow with a brow pencil. Then, the microblader fills in that outline with short strokes of the blade, typically going over the area a few times to complete the desired fullness.
Angie Lapp, a client of Collins’, had her brows microbladed to extend them and fill out her natural eyebrows. She was hoping for “less time in the bathroom getting ready for work or going out,” Lapp says. “I was just basically drawing them in and brushing them, and then at the end of the day they’d be all messed up, I just didn’t want to have to do that anymore.”
Getting traditional tattoos hurt much more, Lapp says. She rated the pain level throughout the procedure at one or two on a scale of one to 10, which Collins says is typical for her clients.
The tattooed eyebrows go through the same healing process as a typical tattoo, first scabbing over and peeling before taking on its true color. The procedure costs $400 and up.
The traditional eyebrow tattoos many think of when they hear permanent make-up — those that appear shaded or powdery, and in unfortunate circumstances have turned blue-gray — entail a similar process and price tag. The main difference is the tool used. Traditional cosmetic tattoos are done with a machine, versus by hand, which implants the ink deeper in the skin than microblading. The result will last closer to five years, but may also be less natural looking.
Clients range in age from late teens to early 80s. While younger women may want to fill out their brows and create a certain shape, older women, who may have been victims of gratuitous plucking or have just seen their brows thin with age, can use microblading to spruce up what’s there.
Eyebrows, and their shapes, can have a significant effect on a person’s overall look. To create the most flattering shape, microbladers will measure the outline of the eyebrow prior to going in with the ink and blade — aligning the beginning of the brow with the tear duct, the arch with the outer edge of the pupil and the tail end of the brow with the end of the eye.
“Eyebrows are like the window covering to the eyes. They’re what actually frames the face. They can take years off,” says Tamara Ferrigno, a microblader with MM Brows in Henderson. She and Collins are among dozens of dedicated microblading salons that have opened in the past couple of years. “It just gives a more youthful look.”
The procedure is appropriate for nearly anyone, barring any medical conditions that would make tattoos of any kind a bad idea, such as those with diabetes, circulation issues and people who are taking blood thinners or are pregnant or nursing.
“If I can draw the eyebrow on, I can give you an eyebrow,” Collins says.
Contact Sarah Corsa at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0353. Follow @sarahcorsa on Twitter.