How to get beautiful eyebrows and keep them during Hong Kong’s long, hot summer
The semi-permanent tattoo procedure gives the impression of strands of hair and can last for a year or two, but experts warn there can be complications. Here are the pros and cons
One way to look fresh and wide awake is having defined eyebrows but in Hong Kong’s summer humidity, even the heaviest-duty brow products can fail us. There is a solution: microblading. Here’s what you need to know before you take the plunge.
Eighteen months ago, I microbladed my eyebrows because I couldn’t be bothered to fill them in before I went to the gym (where I would sweat them off anyway), and after my post-workout shower. Unlike traditional permanent eyebrow tattoos, when pigment is injected deep into the skin, microblading and microshading – two popular forms of semi-permanent eyebrow microtattoo – deposit pigment manually into the upper dermal layer. As our bodies slowly metabolise the pigment, it starts to fade.
“It’s difficult to alter permanently tattooed eyebrows to fit facial features as they change with age, but we can redo semi-permanent brows so they best complement our facial features,” says make-up artist and microblading specialist Emilee Lee.
The difference between microblading and microshading is in how pigment is applied. Microblading, which is said to create the most natural effect, mimics strands of eyebrow hair. Emilee, one of the four co-founders of Tsim Sha Tsui-based beauty centre Fomegä Studio, says the procedure is suitable for brows of all shapes and sizes.
“We use sharp, flexible blades that are 0.018mm thick to give the most natural looking result with minimal impact on the skin. When microblading, we analyse the direction and density of hair growth to make sure our clients end up with even looking brows.”
Emilee recommends microshading as an option for clients who have relatively full brows, but want to fill in sparse areas. The blade used for microshading is shaped so that the resulting eyebrows look like they’ve been filled in with brow powder. The results of both procedures can last up to two years, depending on your metabolism.
“The pigment could fade faster on oilier skin. But there are ways to keep all microtattoos looking fresh for as long as possible on all skin types: don’t use whitening or exfoliating products in the treated areas, and protect them with SPF,” says Emilee.
A numbing cream applied before microtattooing essentially makes the hour-long procedure pain-free.
The real sting came the day after my first microblading session, when my eyebrows looked painfully dark. Emilee gave me an ointment to apply during the first five days after the procedure, which is when scabbing occurs. Scabbing should last no more than two weeks, and mine lasted about a week. It’s a little like eyebrow dandruff: nothing noticeable.
Fortunately, my brows started to look progressively natural after the third day, and, within four to six weeks (the approximate length of the skin cycle), I looked like I was born with them.
There are no regulations or officially recognised courses for practitioners in Hong Kong. “The FDA [Food and Drug Administration} has not approved any pigments to be injected into the skin for cosmetic purposes, and there are no good regulations on this area at the moment,” says Dr Mimi Chang, specialist in dermatology and honorary clinical assistant professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
“However, if you, for example, suffer from hair loss and feel like you could benefit from microblading, find a practitioner with good hygiene practices and who utilises high-quality pigments. Consider doing a test spot to see how your body reacts before undergoing the actual procedure.”
According to Dr Chang, even healthy individuals could develop complications from microtattooing. When undergoing magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), microtattoos could cause skin irritation and interfere with MRI images of the eye, especially when impure pigments are used.
Other complications include infections – such as hepatitis, HIV, warts and staph – which could result in permanent hair loss; and, as a reaction to the pigment, the formation of keloids, or allergic contact dermatitis. In serious cases, the latter could even require the surgical removal of the tattoo.
Dr Chang says some people should avoid microtattooing. “People with suppressed immune systems (such as those who have chronic infections, diabetes, or are undergoing chemotherapy and/or taking immunosuppressants), active infections or dermatitis, and underlying eye conditions, are poor candidates for the procedure,” she says.
People with allergies to hair dyes or tattoo pigments, keloid formation, and dermatological conditions such as sarcoidosis, psoriasis, and vitiligo, as well as patients on anticoagulants, should also think twice.
For me, the procedure worked and I recently returned to Emilee for a refresher – just in time for beach season.
Five Hong Kong shops offering eyebrow microtattooing
17/F Tern Commercial Building, 39 Granville Rd, Tsim Sha Tsui, tel: 5539 2491
Careyou Beauty Eyebrow Salon
Shop 311A, Landmark Atrium, 15 Queen’s Rd Central, tel: 2857 6966
19/F Solo Building, 505 Hennessy Rd, Causeway Bay, tel: 5614 2195
Absolu Pure by Patrick Henri, 10/F, 28-34 Wing Lok Street, Sheung Wan, tel: 6190 6765
Unit A, 5/F Wing Cheong House, 53 Queen’s Rd Central, tel: 2799 0800