Can’t live without your eyebrow pencil and refuse to leave the house without your brows done? You may want to consider looking into a semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo. While you might be totally cool setting aside 10 minutes every morning to perfect your arch, microblading or microshading could cut down on time and give you the brows of your dreams for years to come. But don't just go sign yourself up for one or the other. There are a handful of difference between the two treatments—and you're going to want to pick the eyebrow tattoo that's best for you.
A decent chunk of your decision will boil down to your desired results. Microblading delivers a natural, hair-like look, whereas microshading, which is also known as powder or ombré brows, mimics the appearance of makeup. Practicality plays a huge role, too. “Those who have oily skin, large pores, mature skin, active lifestyles, or are exposed to lots of UV rays or chlorine are better candidates for strictly microshading compared to microblading,” advises Christina Son, brow expert and founder of Sugarin Studio.
To help all of you inquiring, brow-obsessed minds out there figure out which semi-permanent cosmetic tattoo is the way to go, we had some of the best brow experts weigh in. Here, we’ll cover the difference between microblading and microshading, what you can expect from each treatment, how long your results will last, and a whole lot more.
The Difference Between Microshading and Microblading
Both treatments fall under the cosmetic tattooing umbrella; cost about the same depending on location (prices range from $500 to $2,500); and use a semi-permanent pigment that will last roughly two to five years. While anyone (except those on Accutane) can choose either option, there are few differences—ranging from the ideal skin type for the treatment to the overall aesthetic—that you should keep top of mind before committing.
While microblading mimics the appearance of real brow hairs using a handheld tool with super-fine needles, microshading (a combination of microblading and shading) uses a machine with pins to create fine dots. “When there are a lot of dots in one area, the color is darker. With fewer dots, it appears lighter,” brow expert Joey Healey explains.
Microblading is going to give a more natural effect, whereas microshading is going to look more like makeup—but smoother and more precise. It’s also worth considering exactly which areas of your brow you want to amp up or densify with the treatment. “Microshading can be beneficial especially in the arch and tail areas,” Son says. “It can also give a ‘brow lift’ illusion by focusing and adding shading to certain areas of the brows.”
“Microshading usually takes longer as shading is in addition to microblading,” says Son. That in mind, the whole shebang is going to vary from person to person.
Regardless of the method, expect to set aside anywhere from two to three hours for your first appointment. “This includes the consultation, pre-drawing, tattooing work, discussing aftercare, and answering any questions,” she adds.
Skin type is by and large the biggest deciding factor for whether microshading or microblading will be more successful for you. “Overall they are very similar in what they achieve, but it is known that microblading is better for dry skin and microshading is better for more oily skin types,” says Healey. “Microshading can also be better for someone with more sensitive skin because they [the cosmetic tattoo artist] won't be dragging that needle across your skin to make the hairlike strokes. Instead, they will be making dots.”
That in mind, there’s no rule stating that someone with oily skin can’t (or shouldn’t) do microblading. The color will likely just fade at a faster rate and you will need more touch ups following your original session.
What to Expect During Your Appointment
Regardless of which avenue you take, the process is going to be pretty much the same. Things are *always* going to kick off with a consultation—and don’t be shy during it. Now is your time to ask all the questions, whip out the inspo pictures, and describe in minute detail what you want.
If you’re having microshading done, Son says she will typically clean the client’s brows and “predraw” the shape on the face for the client to see, and make changes accordingly. Next up? It’s time to use a numbing cream. The process for both treatments shouldn’t hurt or be painful, but you may experience some discomfort. “Once the client is numbed, we would start the actual tattooing procedure,” says Son.
How Do I Prep My Skin?
There are a handful of skincare products and activities to avoid prior to your microshading or microblading appointment. “Before the treatment, stay away from waxing or threading so your technician can work on the shape,” advises Healey. Son adds that “it’s best to avoid any skin thinners, such as exfoliants, retinol, and glycolic acid around the eyebrow area for at least 72 hours [before your treatment].”
What Does Recovery Look Like?
Be warned: The brow color you leave with is not going to be the color you end with. Healey explains that your eyebrows are going to be a much darker shade for around two weeks post-treatment before they begin to fade. It’s also possible that you’ll notice a pink cast as the skin heals. That, along with slight swelling and flaking, is totally normal.
In terms of after-care, Son tells her clients to skip exfoliating products and acids around the eye area. “Avoid applying skin-thinning skincare products directly to your brows even when they are fully healed as it could affect the pigment retention and color,” she says. She also recommends staying out of the sun, wearing sunscreen, skipping the gym, and avoiding sweat-inducing activities for two weeks. Your provider will also give you instructions on how to keep the area clean and moisturized.
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Samantha Holender is the Beauty Editor at Marie Claire, where she reports on the best new launches, dives into the science behind skincare, and keeps up with the latest trends in the beauty space. She has previously written for Us Weekly, Popsugar, Makeup.com, Skincare.com, and Philadelphia Wedding. Follow her on Instagram @samholender.
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