Like most women, I’ve had a complicated relationship with my eyebrows. I was born with full brows, but in a particularly dark moment in the seventh grade, I snuck into my mother’s bathroom, stole her tweezers, and plucked them into a super thin, almost non-existent line.
My friends didn’t blink—it was 2002, after all—but my mother was horrified when she saw them, and told me I would regret it. True to my mother’s prophesy, my brows have never been the same—ever. I’ve been filling them in for years, and although they looked fine, they looked, well, filled in.
I resigned myself to my penciling-in fate long ago. But, 5 months ago, I discovered a solution to my eyebrow woes: Microblading, which is a semi-permanent tattoo. The procedure uses super tiny needles to draw on small strokes by hand, which mimic the appearance of individual strands of hair.
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We’ve all read the guides, but the experience of getting it done is, unsurprisingly, much different. I went to Piret Aava’s office, A.K.A. the Eyebrow Doctor. I’d stalked her Instagram and a fellow InStyle staffer vouched for her skills, so I knew my brows were in good hands.
Piret started by using eyeliner to draw the shape, which I requested—multiple times thanks to nerves—be “super natural.” After you approve the shape, she mixes a custom color for you (mine was called “chocolate truffle”). She then shows you the needle, which is a small pen-like object that’s actually made up of many other little needles, similar to those used for acupuncture.
Before Piret began the procedure, she loaded my brow region up with numbing cream, and then handed me two stress balls to hold. It was only then that I thought: Oh shit, is this going to hurt? The stress balls, clearly ineffective, gave way to a mini panic about what was going to happen: A stranger is going to tattoo my face. Tattoo. My. Face.
I’m a sensible gal; Piret wouldn’t have a one-year wait list if she weren’t the best in the business. After internally rattling off her credentials, I calmed down and let her do her thing.
The whole procedure lasted roughly as long as two episodes of The Real Housewives; the initial shaping outline took 35 minutes, and the actual microblading took another 40. When she was finished, she measured them to make sure they were even, and just like that, my eyebrows were perfect.
The number one question I got after was “Did it hurt?” In a word: Yes. While the procedure wasn’t extremely painful, there’s definite discomfort. For me, however, the sound was actually worse than the pain. Since your eyebrows are in close proximity to your ears, each stroke was accompanied by a crystal-clear scraping sound.
While the procedure was swift, the aftercare lasts over a week. Piret gave me strict instructions, explaining that I must keep my brows dry for seven days—avoiding water and sweat-inducing activities—and religiously apply Vaseline, like a regular tattoo. My brows peeled slightly the second week post-blading, making Piret’s stern no-picking warning all the more difficult to follow.
Everyone reacts differently to the dye, so 30 days after your initial visit, you return for a quick 40-minute touch-up to fill further define or darken brows. After that, you have perfect brows for one to three years.
Without exaggeration, microblading has changed my life. I save so much time in the morning not filling my eyebrows in, and when I go makeup free, I still feel put together. The shape enhanced my eyes and subtly changed my face—close friends ask what I did and why I look so good, and coworkers stop me in the halls to compliment my brows.
Although it’s an expensive procedure ($1,500 plus tax), it’s worth every penny. My brows have never looked better—even before great plucking incident of seventh grade. Even my mom agrees!