Kelley Baker, a brow artist who works celebrities including Amal Clooney and the Kardashians, says she’s recently seen an increase in clients looking to get their microbladed brows removed. “People think it’s an instant fix because they see how it looks on Instagram, but they don’t really understand the aftermath and what can potentially happen,” she says. “Plus, you’re not going to get big, fluffy, Kardashian brows from a tattoo service.”
Joey Healy, another celebrity brow expert, has seen similar backlash in his New York City practice, and posits that the trend of microbladed brows may be going out of style. “Trend cycles are very fast, especially within the social media and beauty space,” he says. “A great example of the speed of these trends is with brow lamination. Everyone loved getting it done the first time or two, but after a few weeks, people started realizing that their brows were dry, damaged, brittle and breaking–so the trend faded away.” With that in mind, he’s not surprised that after five years, the microblading craze seems to be coming to an end. “People are witnessing the long-term results the treatment can have not only on your brow hairs but also the skin in and around the brow area,” he says.
Below, pros reveal the microblading risks you should know before trying out the treatment for yourself.
Microblading risks: Think before you ink
What can go wrong with microblading? According to Baker, so many things. Much like any tattoo, the etched line can (and usually will) bleed or expand, she explains. For proof, she says all you need to do is look at a tattoo that someone got during college to see how these things morph over time. These changes can lead to “muddy” or “blurred” looking arches, rather than desirable delicate strokes.
Healy adds that the color of your microbladed brows can shift and fade due to environmental factors like sunlight, which degrades the pigment. The undertones in the pigment can also start to change, giving your brows an unnatural-looking hue of blue, red, gray, or even orange.
Additionally, Baker says that while the treatment is billed as temporary, it’s actually pretty permanent—and will stay put as you age. “So when the skin changes as the face ages, your brows will stay put which in turn can make you look older,” she says.
Arguably one of the biggest reasons to consider skipping out on microblading, though, is the fact that pros don’t need to be licensed to perform the service—so unless you do proper research, you may be walking into a botch job. “You can take a day course and call yourself a microblade artist,” says Baker. This means you could wind up with a technician who improperly places the etching, resulting in a shape that doesn’t fit your features, or who uses a color that’s wrong for your skin tone. Even worse, Healy says, is that if microblading is performed in unsanitary conditions, it could lead to infections.
Another important thing to consider is how long microbladed brows tend to last. Healy says that once the treatment is done, if you don’t like it, well….that could be an issue. And even if you do like it in the short term, you may change your mind as brow trends start to shift. “For example, 2015’s popular “Boy Brow” is a now a bit dated—it’s more popular to have some arch and lift at the moment,” says Healy. “When you microblade, you’re really married to that shape.”
What to know about microblading removal
According to Baker, this is a big reason behind people choosing to remove their microblading—which isn’t exactly a seamless process. “I had a client who came in and their brows were so dark and opaque and there was nothing much I could do at that point,” she says. Sometimes, clients will try to tattoo a lighter shade over the microbladed hairs to conceal the ink, but that isn’t always effective. Healy says that while you can do laser removal to remove the pigment (the same way you would remove a tattoo), it can accidentally remove hair as well. “Having your microbladed brows laser removed is a bit ironic because it’s extremely difficult to avoid removing any natural brow hair that you do have in this area, which kind of defeats the purpose of having them done in the first place,” he says.
Another way to remove microbladed brows is to “bleed out the ink,” an uncomfortable process that can lead to scarring. It begins with a topical anesthetic to numb the area; then a technician goes on top of the micro-bladed tattoo to create little slits in the skin. Cotton soaked in an acid base solution is then applied and held on top of the open skin to bleed out the ink. “It’s painful, uncomfortable, and lead to scarring– in my opinion, really not a great option,” says Healy
What to consider if you do want to microblade
All of that said, there are plenty of people who love their microbladed brows, and there are certainly good candidates for the treatment. According to Baker, those who have over-tweezed their eyebrows, have alopecia, have undergone chemotherapy, or have super-blonde hair may benefit from microblading.
“I don’t want to knock all microblading artists because it’s a cool service for people who need it—but don’t simply jump on the trend because you see it on social,” she says. “Really do your research and ask the best questions [to your practitioner] like, ‘How long have you been doing this, what should I be cautious of, where did you get trained, are you a licensed aesthetician?’”
Make sure that you’re a proper candidate, that you do your homework on the best place to get the treatment, and understand that once you do it, it’s for life. And know that if you do want to thicken up your brows without professional intervention, there are plenty of at-home (and far less permanent) products to help you do it.