It’s a game-changer,” whispers a friend conspiratorially when I post a picture to Insta-stories of my freshly microbladed brows. Ping, ping, ping goes my direct message box with questions from friends, relatives and total strangers asking for more details. Does it hurt? How does it work? Weren’t you scared it will look fake? How much does it cost? Who should I see? And finally: why has it taken you so long? This from game-changer girl who has long been convinced that microblading is destined to go the way of excess body hair removal – an essential that (politics aside) most of us subscribe to. If microblading seems shrouded in mystery, it is perhaps because of the bad rap that permanent make-up or eyebrow tattooing has earned, thanks to images of the unnatural-looking, unrealistically-coloured and overly-graphic brows it often yields. I’ll be honest, it was the fear of having two one-dimensional slug shapes superimposed onto my face in a colour that barely resembles my natural brows (only for them to fade to an unattractive blue), that caused me to file away microblading in the mental compartment marked not-on-your-nelly.
That is until I meet Suman Jalaf, one of the UK’s leading microblading experts, who has carried out over 1,000 treatments in her career. Suman has long tended to the brows of discerning royalty in Abu Dhabi and is gearing up for a UAE launch in the capital’s Dr Rocco’s Dental Centre in Al Muhairy shopping centre later this year. Royal credentials aside, what swung it for me was her own exquisite brows. Perfectly proportioned and goddess-like in the sweep of their arch, ‘This is not a woman who will give me slugs’, I thought on meeting her.
Like the best beauty practitioners, Suman explains how she treats each face individually, crafting the brows to correct asymmetry and bring balance to features that might be slightly off. For me, this meant extending my eyebrows out towards my ears to elongate my close-set eyes, while avoiding a steep downward slope so as not to exaggerate my long face or make my eyes look droopy. “The arch of your brow should be two thirds of the way along from the start point near your nose. The biggest mistake I see is a centred arch, giving the dreaded ‘rainbow shape’,” Suman says. So precise is she is at facial appraisal that she has been known to send clients off to a recommended dermatologist for ‘baby Botox’ in order to bring one brow up a crucial millimetre.
“I am very much against uniform brows,” says Suman, who evaluates face shape, features, skin type, facial expressions and even how different hair types grow in order to map out optimum brow proportions. The treatment starts with the application of a topical anaesthetic cream, which stays on for 50 minutes while Suman threads my existing brows into submission and sketches out the fuller shape she wants to achieve using an eyebrow pencil. She uses a brow ruler (yes, really) to map out the sizing between the arch, the bulb (where the brow starts above your nose) and the tail, checking that height and width are symmetrical. “It’s like brow architecture,” Suman explains. Nothing is set in stone at this stage so you can check the shape and make adjustments.
Before starting the actual procedure, Suman warns me that it’s the sound that freaks most people out, likening it to the noise made by peeling potatoes. Trying to put the image of my skin being scraped like a spud out of my mind I brace myself. And she’s not wrong, the minute scratches made by the microblading pen do – from my limited experience – sound just like peeling potatoes. Weird noise aside, the pain is pretty bearable. Occasionally it stings where the numbing cream has not done its job but it’s really not hideous. And if the pain is too much, Suman says that she can apply a secondary numbing cream to the cut skin, which gets to work in five minutes.
Unlike traditional tattooing, which penetrates the dermis, resulting in permanent pigmentation, the scratches made during microblading are superficial – like tiny paper cuts – and allow the therapist much more control to create hair-like incisions by using a manual tool rather than a machine. The ‘hairs’ are painstakingly drawn on in between your existing brows using a technique likened to embroidery, so there is no danger of slicing through actual hairs. For me, Suman mixes two colours to create a shade that matches my light brown brow colour. She works with dyes from the Netherlands and Switzerland and cautions against using cheaper Korean or Chinese-made pigments. The colour is applied over the area, where it seeps into the tiny scratches, creating new, super-fine ‘hairs’. She warns me that my brows will look heavy for the first week, as the shade is up to 50 per cent darker immediately after the treatment, but will lighten over the next week, with the final healed colour becoming apparent four-to-six weeks after the initial application.
For the first four days after the treatment you need to avoid getting your brows wet, which means removing make-up with wipes and swerving super-sweaty exercise. It’s probably advisable to wash your hair directly before the appointment, or plan on salon blow-dries post-treatment, to save your brows from a soaking in the shower. Over the next fortnight Suman tells me to stay away from extreme heat or moisture and apply rosehip or coconut oil after day four to promote healing and minimise any itching. She warns me that once my brows have settled, around 10 days after the initial appointment, I will probably miss the heavier look that’s apparent immediately post-treatment. I’m sceptical but waking up every day with fierce brows pulls you together in a way that is truly game-changing. Without make-up I still look polished, and when I do want to make the effort I find myself reaching for more daring colours and pushing the boundaries more than I would normally. Even once my brows have settled to an incredibly natural, yet far more defined, finish, I am still motivated to up the beauty ante in line with my new, sleeker look.
Suman recommends a follow-up appointment, included in the cost, around six weeks later, which should extend the effects of the treatment to around 18 months, although she cautions that results will not be as long lasting on oilier skins. Is microblading really a new essential step in grooming? In (or should that be over?) my eyes, absolutely.