The ’90s-inspired skinny brow may be trending, but that doesn’t mean you have to throw away your dream for bigger, bolder arches. If the latter is more your speed, you might want to look into eyebrow microshading — aka the close cousin to microblading. Essentially, it uses some of the techniques used in microblading for an elevated yet more delicate look. The end result is shaded brows, also known as “powder brows.”
Like microblading, brow microshading involves the use of semi-permanent ink that’s tattooed onto your arches for added fullness. “Microshading is the process of implanting pixel dots on the skin to create a more bold and powdered looking brow,” explains Barbie Zarraga, brow artist and founder of Browaholic Studio. Think of it as giving you that just-filled-in-your-brows look without having to use makeup.
Joey Healy, celebrity brow specialist and owner of Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio, adds that microshading is sort of like an impressionist painting — one made up of lots of little dots. Think of it like brow powder: The dots fill in sparse areas for thicker arches. The more dots you have on your brows, the darker the effect will be.
Ready to book your appointment? Read on for everything you need to know before microshading your brows.
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Microshading Vs. Microblading
According to Zarraga, microshading and microblading offer “wildly” different results despite having similar names. “When we talk about microblading, we refer to the process of drawing hair-like strokes on the skin,” she explains. Microshading’s dotting process allows for more precision and results in more of a makeup-looking effect than actual faux hair (which you get from microblading).
So how would you choose between the two? It’s up to personal preference, but Zarraga suggests microshading for those seeking a more streamlined beauty regimen. “Microshading is a great option for those who are trying to make their makeup routine easier or faster because [the brows] are more defined,” she says.
That said, you can combine the two treatments together. According to Alixandria Capparelli, brow expert, makeup artist, and founder of Hairy Little Things, you can achieve a natural-looking brow with microblading in the beginning to middle of the brow, which then transitions into a powdered effect on the body and tail.
What’s The Microshading Procedure Like?
Microshading requires tattooing your eyebrows with semi-permanent ink. “Microshading is a cosmetic procedure where a technician applies semi-permanent makeup to your eyebrows,” makeup artist and brow artist Sharon Becker tells Bustle.
This also means it can take a while. Expect the procedure to take one to two hours, and to potentially experience some discomfort. “The technician applies a topical numbing agent to the brow before the treatment, but the client may feel some pain or discomfort, which is relative to each person,” Becker tells Bustle. “The client may feel pressure as the technician is applying the ink, or sore afterward depending on the skill level of the technician.”
Immediately after your appointment, you might notice that the area is swollen and/or red. Don’t worry — that’s normal. “Real results will be revealed about one-month post-treatment because your skin will need time to heal,” Becker clarifies.
Who Should Try Microshading
While microshading can work on all skin types and tones, some individuals will see more pronounced results. For example, if you have darker skin, the effects of microshading are less evident, Healy tells Bustle. “It’s generally more defined on lighter skin or medium skin tones,” he adds.
If your skin is oily or you’re very active and thus sweating regularly, Healy says it can affect how long your microshading results last. If you have sensitive skin and/or are prone to reactions, Healy and Becker suggest patch-testing before your appointment — as with all cosmetic makeup procedures, there is a possibility of having an adverse reaction to certain ingredients used. “Some pigments used for microshading may contain paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a colorant used in hair dyes that helps the color stain the skin,” Becker explains. “Some clients have a sensitivity to PPD, so it’s very wise to do a patch test before committing to an appointment and the aftermath.”
Capparelli also notes that microshading is an ideal option for individuals who have lost hair, or have very little brow hair to begin with. “The microshading gives the client definition and a nice shape,” she says.
How Much Does Microshading Cost?
The cost of microshading depends on your brow artist’s skill and experience, where you’re located, and the look you’re going for. For context, Capparelli’s Southern California-based salon charges $550 for microshading, though you can expect to spend anywhere from $300 to $1,000.
How Long Do Results Last?
As noted above, results differ for each individual, and if you’re naturally oily and/or sweaty the permanent makeup might fade quicker. That said, microshading tends to last longer than microblading, Capparelli tells Bustle — about one to three years with proper maintenance. That said, Zarraga suggests touch-ups every six to 12 months, as this help refresh the color.
Before Your Appointment
For at least 24 hours before your appointment, discontinue the use of retinols and harsh chemicals on the face, says Becker. Also be sure to avoid working out, consuming alcohol or caffeine, or taking anything that can thin your blood. “You should avoid Aspirin, vitamin E, NSAIDS, caffeine, alcohol, and heavy sun exposure,” Capparelli concurs. “After your service, you need to avoid sweating, water, and sun exposure for 7 to 10 days.”
Capparelli also reiterates the importance of knowing whether your brow artist is a licensed professional. “Anyone performing semi-permanent makeup services needs to have a Blood Borne Pathogen License and a Health Permit to safely perform these services,” she says, adding that you should request to see pictures of your artist’s previous work. “See if the photos are what you are looking for and if the photos seem consistent with your standards. You also want to see photos of the healed work as this is super important.” It is semi-permanent, after all, so you want to be happy with the results.
Potential Side Effects
As is the case with any semi-permanent makeup service, side effects are possible. That said, Capparelli asserts that adverse reactions are very rare. “Side effects include a sunburn-like feeling on the brow area for 24 to 48 hours, and slight swelling depending on your skin and how it reacts,” she says. It’s also possible to scar if your technician goes too deep into the skin, though this is unlikely.
“Microshading can come with the same side effects as microblading,” Becker adds. She notes that brow color may degrade over time and can appear blue or pink. Plus, since there’s a needle involved, there’s a risk of infection and your skin may scab as it heals. “Once scabbing diminishes, you'll be left with a bold result, which will lighten in intensity over a week or two,” she says.
Microshading Aftercare: The First Week
You’ll basically want to treat your brows the same way you would a body tattoo, Becker tells Bustle. “Avoid chemical peels afterwards, as well as itching or picking at the brows, and follow the care instructions provided by your technician,” she says. “And until you make it to the seven day mark, avoid exposure to sunlight, and wear a hat when you do go outside.”
You should also avoid getting your skin wet for at least 24 hours post-procedure (so no showers), as well as wearing makeup and anything that could cause excessive sweating or moisture, like working out. “For the first 24 hours, you'll want to care for the brows with anti-bacterial ointment, and use a lightweight moisturizer,” says Healy.
After one week, you can (and should!) begin putting sunscreen directly on top of your new brows to protect them from fading. “Follow after-care instructions provided by your technician, and consider using their recommended products (as you would a tattoo artist),” says Becker. “Abstain from swimming for 7 days to avoid wetting your new brows and also putting yourself at risk of infection.”
Wearing regular SPF on your brows can help your treatment look fresh for longer, says Capparelli, who recommends Goop’s Unseen Sunscreen. “I also recommend that oily-skinned clients invest in oil blotting sheets and use them on the brows at least once a day, as oils metabolize the ink at a faster rate,” says Zarraga. TL;DR? Keeping your arches dry and protected will ensure your results last as long as possible.
Sharon Becker, makeup and brow artist