Are eyebrow tweakments, like microblading, the new Botox? 

Forget smudgy pencils 
or fiddly threading. 
Semi-permanent treatments – similar to tattoos (yep) – promise long-lasting groomed brows, and a more youthful effect than 
even injectables can give. 
But do they work? 
Elle Turner investigates 
Forget smudgy pencils or fiddly threading. Semi-permanent treatments – similar to tattoos (yep) – promise long-lasting groomed brows, and a more youthful effect than even injectables can give. But do they work? Elle Turner investigates  Credit: Getty Images

Given that #eyebrows has 16.1 million posts on Instagram,  it’s interesting that #microblading has over half of that amount in its own right, with 9.1 million posts. Clearly something is going on.  Microblading, for the uniniated, is a semi-permanent treatment where a manual, handheld tool with ultra-fine needles is used to carve individual, hair-like strokes of pigment into the upper layers of the skin – creating the look of sleeker, fuller brows. While the cost of a decent microblading session can be anywhere from £400 to £1,500, it does last between 12 to 18 months – making it a worthy investment when you consider the time saved drawing in your brows each day.

It takes two treatments initially: the first to create the initial shape and colour, the second (six to 12 weeks later) to tweak the shape and add extra pigment where needed. Afterwards, you may wish to top-up every year or so. Think that sounds like something best left to the millennials? Think again: according to brow maestro Suman Jalaf, it’s perfect for women over 40. ‘Permanently groomed eyebrows are very youthful,’ she explains. ‘They’re like an instant facelift.’ 

If the procedure itself sounds more than a little daunting, take comfort: techniques around semi- permanent make-up like microblading have improved dramatically. ‘Instead of wider needles, there are ultra-fine, delicate alternatives and the inks have been swapped for natural-looking mineral pigments,’ says Tracie Giles, who runs a specialist studio in Knightsbridge.  Pain-wise, it’s a five to seven out of 10 depending on your threshold, and feels like needle scratches in your skin. Check whether your expert uses numbing cream, which helps to make it more comfortable. As for recovery, it takes around a week of using a specialist soothing cream for all of the redness to completely fade.  But once it has, the results are almost imperceptible, giving fuller brows that don’t look drawn-on. Sound good? Then it’s worth noting that classic microblading isn’t the only option, as new semi-permanent techniques are offering brow fans more choice than ever.

Digital tattooing 

This is similar to microblading, but instead of a manual blade, a handheld tattooing machine is used. Its needles can be configured into a wider range of shapes, including flat, sloped lines (like microblades), single (nano) needles that give ultra-fine strokes, or rounded, dot-like tips that are able to shade in colour. The pen-like machine pushes pigment deeper into skin than microblading, so it gives results that can last two years or more, depending on your skin type (treatments start from £400).

Subtler effects

Within both microblading and digital tattooing, new application techniques mean you can opt for a softer, gentler result. ‘Microshading, microfeathering and ombré brows are really taking off at the moment,’ says Daxita Vaghela, who’s known for having one of the lightest touches in the business. Microshading swaps brow strokes for tiny dots of colour. ‘This is helpful for building up the colour in a convincing way, where drawn-on hair strokes might not look as natural,’ says Suman. Microfeathering is where pigment is applied exclusively to sparse areas rather than the whole brow, useful for those looking to enhance their existing brows rather than start from scratch. Ombré brows, meanwhile, is a graduation of colour rather than one solid shade, achieved using  a stippling technique, which gives a finish similar to brow powder. 

Microblading vs digital tattooing: which technique is better? 

This depends on your skin type – oilier skin loses pigment quicker, so might be better with the longer-lasting digital option – and the finished effect you desire. Microblading is great for crisp, hair-like strokes; tattooing is ideal to create depth and shading. ‘Personally, I like a combination of the two,’ says Tracie. ‘What’s changed drastically in all forms of semi-permanent make-up is being able to neutralise the colour,’ says Sherrille Riley, founder of Nails & Brows Mayfair, a beauty spot loved by the Duchess of Sussex. ‘This means there’s less chance of fading to an awkward shade.’ 

So is it all worth it? 

‘Whichever technique you choose, it’s surprising how much a good brow shape brings your features into harmony,’ says Sherrille. ‘Well-groomed brows will take years off you.’  Shavata Singh, founder of Shavata Brow Studio, adds: ‘It’s like when you put on a dress and it makes you look a bit heavy, whereas another dress makes you slim. The dress hasn’t shaved weight off your hips – it has drawn attention somewhere else. It’s the same with brows.  ‘If someone has heavy lids, I make the brow slightly thinner, which opens up the eyes and makes them look less tired. If somebody has crow’s feet, I’ll make the shape a bit shorter and arch higher to create a lift and draw the eye upwards.  ‘I’m 50, I’ve done it myself – I know it works.’ 

Which brow tribe are you?

The over-plucker 

Thin and sparse, brows lack definition and so won’t frame features. How to rectify: Stop plucking! Invest in a brow treatment with castor or sweet almond oil to strengthen the hair follicle.

Pamela Anderson Credit: Getty Images

The natural  

A straighter, fuller brow is youthful because of its relaxed, less structured shape.  Get the look: Use no more than a clear or tinted brow gel to brush brows upwards for a barely there lift. 

Cara Delevigne Credit: Getty Images

The classic 

Neat, bold but not too ‘done’, this timeless shape suits everyone. Get the look: Using a precise brow pencil, fill in gaps tentatively to tidy up sparse areas and give definition where needed. 

Duchess of Cambridge Credit: Getty Images

The tadpole

A heavy chunk with a thin tail, this makes eyes appear smaller.  How to rectify: Make the head thinner and start growing out the tail. Fill in hair-like strokes with a pencil to even out the brows.

Kaley Cuoco Credit: Getty Images

The over-archer 

A severe angular shape, it can give a shocked appearance. How to rectify: Take hair from the top and let it grow underneath for a gentler shape. Pencil in the arch slightly to soften it.

Angelina Jolie Credit: Rex Features

The semi-circle 

A half-moon shape with no defined  arch, this looks  old-fashioned.  How to rectify: By growing out, you can move the arch and make brows fuller and more youthful.

Drew Barrymore Credit: Getty Images

Five of the best products for at-home perfecting

Best for covering greys 

Shavata Brow Studio Day Long Brow Tint, £19

Shavata Brow Studio Day Long Brow Tint, £19

Best for encouraging re-growth 

RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum, £37

RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum, £37

Best for shading in gaps

Nails & Brows Mayfair Brow Filler, £20

Nails & Brows Mayfair Brow Filler, £20

Best for a bit of lift

HD Brows Brow Highlighter, £16.50

HD Brows Brow Highlighter, £16.50

Best for fluffing up and setting in place

Glossier Boy Brow, £14

Glossier Boy Brow, £14