Beauty & the brows

Full, beautiful brows are on trend again and Hollywood celebs can’t stop buzzing about the precision results achieved with the microblading technique.

Using a handheld manual tool, microblading technicians create hair-like strokes of semi-permanent pigment to mimic natural brow hair, adding to or darkening the appearance of the existing brow.

That’s right, it’s a face tattoo. But don’t be frightened.

Tia Dalsing, owner of Embrace Salon, Spa and Lash Boutique in Dubuque, said she was excited to offer this high-end service, which is beginning to gain popularity in the Midwest. It seemed like a natural addition to her business, since lashes and brows both help define the face. But she said getting started was expensive and time consuming.

Abby Giblin is the salon’s microblading specialist. She is licensed in cosmetology and esthetics and holds a tattoo artist permit. She also took two microblading courses in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, to learn the technique. In addition to her professional training, the salon had to pass tattoo and health inspections to obtain a tattoo establishment permit.

Giblin said she starts by customizing a map of the client’s brow using their bone structure, existing brow shape and desired shape. Then she considers skin tone, existing brow color and hair color to determine just the right hue to use. After numbing the area, she gets to work on the 2-hour process of filling in and reshaping her client’s eyebrows.

About four to six weeks later, they’ll need to stop in for a touch-up. After that, touch-ups are only needed once a year.

The initial appointment costs $350 and touch-ups cost $100. Clients report some sloughing off of dead skin following the procedure and the results are darker for the first three days before lightening to the desired shade.

The pigment dissipates and fades away in about three to four years, Giblin said.

For people looking to achieve what she refers to as the “Instragram brow,” a combination technique is available. This option provides a more defined look by using a machine to shade in the tail of the brow. A third option called the ombre provides the most defined look, in which the entire brow is shaded using a machine rather than the hair strokes. The cost of an initial appointment for the combination technique is $375 and the ombre technique starts at $400.

Like any salon service, Giblin cautions clients to find a reputable and well-trained specialist to perform microblading. She also suggests asking whether the pigment being used will fade away naturally or if it will fade to a cooler or warmer tone over time, which can happen if the correct pigment isn’t selected.

“This is not something that you just want to jump into,” Giblin said. “You want to know who you are with and what you’re getting into because it’s a tattoo on your face.”

Most clients report to Dalsing that their morning routine is significantly shorter after doing microblading, especially when done in combination with lash extensions. And the mircroblading pigments are buildable so clients often start out with a more conservative amount and later add to their look as they grow accustomed to it and fall in love with their results.

Many of the clients interested in this service overplucked or waxed their brows in the past when a slimmer look was in style but Dalsing said after years of removing that hair, it typically won’t come back naturally. Blondes and redheads also seek out microblading to achieve a more pronounced brow and build upon their natural, lighter strands.

Giblin said her favorite part of this job is helping women regain their self-confidence and improve their self-esteem.

One client who had hair loss from alopecia spent 25 years without eyebrows. Giblin said the woman’s daughter gifted her the microblading service and the whole process was very emotional for them both. The client wore prosthetic brows on a latex backing and was visibly upset after removing them at the salon. But just seeing the eyebrow outlines that Giblin created sparked excitement and hope in the woman. And the results did not disappoint.

“She was very calm and the second she looked in the mirror, she put her hand over her mouth and I had to look away so I didn’t cry,” Giblin said.

Emily Klein Shedek is a former Telegraph Herald reporter and freelance writer.

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