I had resigned myself to drawing on my eyebrows every morning with an eyebrow pencil when a fellow beauty writer tipped me off to a buzzy new treatment called powder brows—otherwise known as ombre brows or "microshading"—that promised me perfect, natural-looking eyebrows that are virtually painless to acquire.
Intrigued, I called the eyebrow queen of New York City, aesthetician Karolina Bula, who performs all kinds of brow treatments at her studio including microblading, nanoblading, and microshading. After a quick consultation, she got to work on my eyebrows, answering all my questions about powder brows in the process.
What Are Powder Brows?
Powder brows achieve a somewhat similar result as microblading—fuller eyebrows in the form of semi-permanent makeup—but have some distinct advantages. While microblading uses a bladed needle to draw hair-like strokes of pigment along the skin, powder brows use a tattoo gun to create pixelated dots on the eyebrow area. This process deposits pigment into the skin, which heals into a powdery finish that lasts longer and delivers a more natural, filled-in look.
“Powder brows are defined but still soft looking,” Bula says. “They are an amazing permanent alternative for anyone who wants long-lasting and waterproof brows. They are a magical solution for a busy mom, professional, or anyone else trying to get out of the house in a rush in the morning.”
Powder brows also tend to be less painful than microblading, because achieving them doesn't require "scratching" the skin. Because of this, the method is recommended for anyone with thin or sensitive skin, as microblading may feel especially intense on these complexions.
What happened when I tried powder brows
My first microshading appointment took about two and a half hours from start to finish. Bula first analyzed my face and brows, then drew in the shape for my finished eyebrows to make sure I liked the design. Once we had settled on a thick but natural-looking brow, she set to work, cleaning the area and applying numbing cream. I braced myself for pain, but the process was so gentle, Bula actually had to actually confirm to me that she’d started working. No joke, I almost fell asleep.
When we were finished and Bula handed me a mirror, I gasped. My eyebrows looked absolutely perfect, completely natural, and had given considerable structure and definition to my face.
Ahead of my application, I'd heard horror stories about scabbing and fading during the healing process, so I was slightly nervous about what was to come. Thankfully, though, my brows remained in excellent condition for the weeks following my appointment—which could likely be attributed to a few different factors. Bula notes that the way powder brows heal depends largely on the technique of the practitioner, how diligent you are about aftercare, and your individual skin and body.
“Typically, the eyebrows will look bolder than they will after healed for the first seven to ten days,” she says. “Scabbing starts around day five, and is typically done between days seven and ten. After the scabs are gone, your eyebrows may become grayish and much lighter than you’d want, as the skin-shedding process begins. As the shedding process progresses over the course of 28 days, it will reveal the pigment. Fully healed results are visible in about three or four weeks, which is when we determine if you need a touchup.”
As Bula mentions, results will vary, and I experienced very little scabbing or fading. For anyone dealing with a more intense healing process, though, Bula recommends covering the area with sunglasses (never with makeup, as that will make things worse), avoiding picking and scratching, and keeping your eyebrows dry. She also suggests sleeping on your back, as many people who sleep on their stomach or side wind up needing touchups.
Beyond that, caring for my brows post-appointment was fairly straightforward. On the first day, I wiped my brows with a few drops of bottled water on a cotton round every 30 minutes. Because microshading involves creating micro-wounds your skin, there will likely be some lymphatic fluid that seeps out, which can cause crusty scabs as it dries—wiping with water will help you avoid that. Then, before bed, I treated my brows to a special kind of cleansing. "Before you go to sleep the first night, wash your eyebrows by taking a gentle cleanser and mixing it in your hands with water, then washing your eyebrows with your fingers and massaging gently, rinsing with water, and patting dry,” says Bula. On day two and beyond, I repeated the cleansing process every morning and night for 10 days and applied an ointment from Bula that helped speed up the healing process.
Typically, results are visible in three to four weeks, at which point you'll know if you need any touch-ups (these are typically scheduled six to eight weeks after your first appointment). There was a tiny bit of light fading and flaking at the top of my eyebrows, so I decided to go in for another session. It took forty-five minutes, and my brows fully healed without any additional flaking or drama. And because microshading lasts for up to three years, I'm now set until 2025.
In all, I am thrilled with my new eyebrows. The application was easy and painless, the healing process was smooth, and my eyebrows look natural, full, and perfect. Pre-powder brows, I never missed a day filling in my eyebrows with pencil, but now, I don't even need it—I wake up every morning with the arches of my dreams, no makeup required. Consider me—and formerly overplucked "decorative curtains"—a convert.
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