Tattooed eyebrows have come a long way in the past decade. The stamped-on effect of the previous generation has been replaced with lush, feathery tattooed brows that look downright natural. Microblading became a popular go-to brow tattooing technique for many, but now microshading is starting to steal the show and for good reason. Microshading is a gentler technique that creates a more natural, airbrushed look that closely resembles a powdered brow.
Curious about micro shading? Keep reading to learn how it differs from microblading technique-wise, as well as the costs, results, and aftercare to expect.
Microshading vs. microblading
Although both microshading and microblading fall under the cosmetic tattooing umbrella, they use different tools and techniques to achieve different results. Jamaya Moore, a makeup artist and certified cosmetic tattoo artist, says microblading uses a handheld tool with ultra-fine needles to implant pigment beneath the skin in hair-like strokes. Microshading, also referred to as powder brows or ombre brows, uses a tattoo gun to create pixel dots of pigment that heal to a powdery finish, which gives that soft, filled-in makeup look.
Some brow artists, however, combine both techniques to get the best of both worlds. For example, Anna Zhang, founder of Baby Face Brows in Brooklyn, New York, says she creates microblading strokes towards the inner part of the brow to create that natural fluff and then towards the center and the tail of the brow, she uses microshading.
Given that microshading is a cosmetic tattooing technique that requires some major precision skills, the procedure definitely doesn’t come cheap. But, when you factor in all the time you’d spend doing your brows every morning, it makes it worth it.
Microshading pricing varies widely, but the typical cost, says makeup and microblading artist Betsy Shuki, ranges from $700 to $1,500, depending on the artist, their experience, and the location. Shaughnessy Otsuji, a cosmetic tattoo artist and founder of Studio Sashiko, adds that annual maintenance appointments are also needed and are generally charged at a reduced price.
Because microshading is a significant investment and it is a semi-permanent result that will live on your face for the foreseeable future, Zhang highly recommends doing your research to find an artist you trust and who does good work, rather than just choosing an artist based on the cost alone.
1. It’s gentler on the skin
If the idea of microblading cutting hair-like strokes into your skin makes you cringe, microshading may be a better option for you. Microshading’s technique makes small dots of pigment rather than strokes. “Microshading is less invasive than microblading and gentler on the skin,” Shuki says. “This makes the microshading technique ideal for those with more sensitive and oily skin.”
2. You’ll look RTG when you wake up
Perhaps the most significant benefit and allure of microshaded brows, Moore says, is that you just wake up with waterproof, smudgeproof, and smearproof eyebrows. No need to spend that extra time in the morning perfecting your brows every day (the struggle is real, people). And if you’re taking a dip in a pool during the summer or sweating it out on your spin bike, your brows will stay in place.
3. It’s good for all skin types
“Microshading can be beneficial for clients of all ages, skin types, and skin tones,” Otsuji says. If you want semi-permanent brows that look like your daily brow makeup, you’re a good candidate for microshading.
Once your brows have healed after the procedure, Otsuji says you can expect a defined gradient brow or a softer, natural, shaded-in brow that blends with your existing brow, depending on the look you’re going for. “This service is customized for each individual client to suit their unique facial features,” she says.
Moore says the microshading procedure can last one to three years, depending on the client. There are a few different factors that affect microshading’s longevity. One is the ink and pigment used and how it’s implanted into the skin. “Inks and pigments are all formulated differently,” Otsuji says. “Some are designed to fade and lighten gradually while others are considered more stable and longer-lasting. The deeper into the skin the ink is implanted, the longer it may last.”
Your skin type also affects how long the microshading lasts. “Oily skin may fade faster than dry skin due to the fact that oily skin has a faster rate of skin cell turnover and higher moisture production,” Otsuji says. Lifestyle factors such as smoking, sweating, and sun exposure, Zhang adds, can also shorten microshading’s lifespan.
Your brow artist will give you specific aftercare instructions. Generally, though, the first few hours and couple of days after, your brows will likely look a bit red and swollen. This is normal, Zhang says. She recommends cleaning your brows morning and night with an antiseptic soap. Then rinse with water, pat dry with a clean towel, and apply a healing balm to moisturize the skin and speed up the recovery process. Repeat for the first 10 days. And, avoid putting any makeup or skin-care products directly on the brows during this time.
However, outside of the cleaning process, Zhang emphasizes that it’s important not to get your eyebrows wet for the first 10 days. That means no saunas, facials, hot showers, excessive sweating, or swimming until they heal. Like with regular tattoos, you may experience some scabbing and itching, but resist the urge and leave the area alone until it heals, which typically takes 10 to 14 days.
Otsuji says side effects are typically minimal, but there is always risk with any form of tattooing. “Any service involving skin trauma must be taken seriously as infection and/or irritation can occur,” she says. “It is important that you do not receive any type of brow tattooing if you are pregnant or nursing, currently on Accutane, or taking any blood-thinning medications. It is also a good idea to check in with your doctor before proceeding with this service and let your artist know if you have any known allergies.”
Once your brows are fully healed, Otsuji advises not using any chemical exfoliants directly on the brow area and applying SPF daily to help the results last longer.
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