I won’t blame you for being, like, “What’s that?”
I initially had decided to get my eyebrows microbladed but this quickly turned into getting them powdered, a procedure I was, originally, completely unfamiliar with.
For context, perhaps it’s the new focus on eyes as the result of our mainly masked population that became the impetus behind this goal. Maybe it’s simply that I finally found an artist I trusted at NYC’s Ellebrow after nine months of research.
Microblading is most often used to fill in sparse eyebrows and make them appear thicker by the use of tiny semi-permeant tattoos that mirror the appearance of hair strokes. It’s semi-permanent because your body will eventually metabolize the dye and the actual process is less invasive than that of a permanent tattoo. On average, it lasts 2-4 years, with a recommended touchup 6 weeks after your first appointment and, then, on an as needed basis.
This process is often used to remedy hair loss due to genetic, alopecia, or even illness, such as cancer.
In contrast, I wanted my naturally thick eyebrows shaved down and colored into semi-imposing, clearly defined arches. I was going in with an end goal that, while seemingly achievable, still was the opposite of what the procedure was touted for.
Even so, I contacted NYC’s Ellebrow over Facebook. Their administer responded back to me in a matter of minutes, streamlining the experience. We quickly coordinated a day I could come in to see their senior artist, Cartoon. During the same back & forth, we defined the pricing expectations, what to do in preparation, such as avoiding blood thinners like fish oil, vitamin E, and aspirin for 3 days before, and logistics, like when to come in and how long to stay.
When I arrived at Elle Brow, I was the only client and my artist was the only person I interacted with, which fit into the narrative of a post Coronavirus landscape.
Cartoon, my artist, offered me a bottle of water and some mini-Hershey candies as I filled out 8 forms that went over my health history with a focus on anything that would make me susceptible to complications, my goals for being there that day, and general pressure testing.
I also quickly initialed away my rights; as typical to any med spa or tattoo parlor, Ellebrow asked that I confirm they would not be responsible for complications or damages before proceeding.
Of course, I’d done my research: Ellebrow had a rare five store rating, from 154 reviews, on Yelp. It boasted 4.9 stars across 101 reviews on Google. The latter it maintained over 27 Facebook reviews. From a random sampling of 10 reviews across each platform, the reviewers almost all left other reviews for separate businesses-a rarity and proof towards the business’s authenticity.
After about 10 minutes, my artist, Cartoon, came back to lead me into the workstation, separated from the beautifully but sparsely decorated waiting room by a room divider.
Cartoon quickly noted right away that I was effectively asking for half of my eyebrows to be removed off the bat. This fits into my aesthetic she didn’t think it was a strong match for the microblading technique.
Instead, she suggested the powder technique.
For reference, because this was new to me, powered brows are microbladed brows lesser known cousin.
Powered brows, sometimes known as ombre brows or micro shading, utilize a somewhat similar procedure to microblading but have some additional advantages. Many people prefer this method due to its soft and natural look and less invasive nature.
Cartoon made it clear that powered brows gave both better definition and better density in color, so they would be more likely to achieve my goal of a structured and severe brow line. Cost and longevity were comparable to microblading across the board, but the technique was less invasive.
I decided to trust her, to great effect.
But first I decided to ask some hard-hitting investigative questions for the sake of due diligence.
“Do you think it will look…good? Or, like, it won’t look really, really bad?”
Cartoon laughed in reply. “Customers love it. They sometimes get microblading and come in and say ‘I want powder now.”
Feeling that sort of immeasurable fear I always get when I’m about to, potentially, make a life altering (or image altering) decision, I followed up. “Are there a lot of complications?”
“For powder? Not really. You want a thin brow so we can start out thin and always add to it in the follow up.”
The age-old adage is to trust your doctor. But for any sort of body modification, trust your artist or get out of the chair.
I decided to trust Cartoon which, again, ended up being one of my better choices.
We moved from the surgical table, where Cartoon had stood to examine my brows, to a stool, which Cartoon quickly replaced with a chair, because I was about six inches taller than her.
It was here that we entered the most crucial part of any sort of body modification: defining the solution and making sure both the client and artist are on the same page. Cartoon used various tools, including a ruler and stencil to mark my eyebrows before diligently photographing them.
The dark lines she had stenciled in, on top of my unruly brows, represented where the tattoos would be, as well as their shape.
This was the hardest part of the process. There was a great deal of back and forth that lasted nearly the length of the process itself because I’m apparently not an easy customer and I was also terrified. “I think it might be…”, I’d venture.
“Too thick?” Cartoon got me.
She used a swab to wipe out the outline and, picking up her pencil, began again.
After about 7 or so tries, during which I dug up selfies from the self-proclaimed ‘golden age’ of my eyebrows (2016–2017, RIP), she had stenciled in my dream brows.
They were like my own brows but far sleeker, far thinner, far darker, far more dramatic.
“You’ll have to do more upkeep to make sure the powder shows through,” Cartoon warned. She was referencing the fact that my natural brows would grow in so thick and long they might completely ellipse the tattoo.
“I love it,” I replied. “I will.”
We transferred back to the surgical table, where I lay back down under Cartoon’s gaze and two bright setting lights. She applied numbing cream through quick micro-shots to my brows . “It might pinch,” she warned, before doing so. Indeed, this was the part of the process that hurt the most. The numbing shots are applied across your entire brows, evenly, giving you a preview of what’s to come.
After they were applied, Cartoon had me lay still for about 10 minutes to give them time to kick in.
Then, she began.
There isn’t much to say about this part of the process. For the hour and change that it took, I largely had my eyes closed. Towards the end of this process, I did feel sore, especially when my artist redid sections of my brows she’d gone over, but too much. It’s also worth noting that by this point, the numbing cream, which Google states lasts 60–90 minutes, was likely wearing off.
At multiple checkpoints, Cartoon offered to let me see how my brows were progressing, as she stenciled their new color and shape, though I declined. I’m, honestly, not sure why. Other than that, we didn’t speak much, although Cartoon occasionally asked if I was ok or in pain.
I always answered in the affirmative; my pain tolerance is high and as an avid fan of actual tattoos, I didn’t go into this semi-permanent process experiencing large complications, like poor reactions to the dye or the dreaded staph infections.
If anything, like all tattoos, it got a bit boring towards the end. I began to, mentally, track my progress through the physical sensation of where my brows had been touched and what felt the most sore. As Cartoon painstakingly made sure each detail was filled in, I wondered what I was going to eat that evening (I chose ramen).
“All done!”, announced Cartoon.
Immediately, I was on red alert. “Can I see it?”, I asked, raising my head slightly from its surgical setting. Cartoon smiled down at me. “Of course.”
She held a mirror over my head. I was surprised and, then, I allowed myself to be in awe. She’d done a brilliant job; my brows, which were often thick and unruly had become dark sleek creatures that perfectly emphasized the eyes beneath them. “I love it,” I whispered in a typically over dramatic fashion.
And then, I was almost finished.
I went over instructions for care with Cartoon; she gave me a small “self care” kit that included baby wipes to wash off my brows every 2 hours for the first evening, ointment to spread on them after doing so, Q-tips, and plastic nightguards to place on my brows.
For the next 10 days, I’d have to clean them meticulously as the tattoos healed, scabbing and eventually falling off. The more immediate need was getting through the healing process and avoiding anything that might comprise the tattoos. This included sunlight and swimming for 10 days, and anything that induced sweating for 5 days after.
The aftercare wasn’t brutal. Like most forms of body modification, powdering or microblading your brows depends on the procedure going well during the action and not trying to salvage it after. This makes sense.
Now, some details.
It’s not cheap.
For me, the initial appointment was $650 plus tip: there is also an expected follow up, which will range around $200 or 1/4ish of the original amount. Factor in the 20% tip, then tax, and you’ll come to my total.
Obviously, this is a great deal of money (my bank account, RIP). My disclaimer is that you can easily get your eyebrows microbladed or powered far cheaper than I did, and, likely, have just as skilled of as an artist perform the technique. According to Realself, the average cost for the procedure is $425 dollars, with 76% of users stating it was worth it. I paid 65% above national average. Keep in mind price is driven up by geography and artist expertise. Being a New Yorker was clearly doing me zero favors here.
Since about 70% of consumers will want/require a follow up visit, 6–10 weeks after the initial appointment again, remember, this isn’t free; costs range up to 25% of the original price, plus tax and tip.
Overall, I’d say the overall price for microblading or “powdering” your brows hovers between $450–1,200 depending on the severity of your case, your location, and your artists renown.
Do your research! Don’t trust Instagram and Yelp to be the end by which you can compare artists over; look for artists who have a wide range of reviews over years, with personal pictures submitted by costumers, to prove their validity.
Anyone can write a fake positive review online, including people who’s entire livelihood depends on good ones.
The fact remains that people will often say what it takes to get your money with little regard to the result of doing so; as a consumer, you need to be careful.
For example, an artist who has, say, 10 reviews by users who have reviewed other sites and have active online presences is worth more than one who has 40 positive reviews but zero hint of an otherwise digital footprint, indicating that they might be “fake” reviewers.
My shop, Ellebrow, was highly recommended to me by two friends who got microblading. It was cost a great deal but I did have some money to spare (thanks, 2020, for ruining all of my plans).
Still, not everyone does, so I’d urge my readers to do your due diligence. Check out online reviews; pay particular note to the artist’s responses when customers are unhappy and don’t let price be the sole motivator.
As with any form, no matter how severe of body modification, you might feel panic during the process or afterwards.
This is why I’d caution anyone considering such a process to use good judgement and to do their research. If you have both in place during, you’ll be fine.
It’s now a week since I got my brows powdered and I’m loving them; I’ve been careful to keep with the upkeep, including plucking my normally quickly growing brows down to the softly tattooed imprint. All in all, I’d highly recommend powdering towards you, my reader, if you feel the need to do so.
If not, lucky you!