November 2nd, 2016
It’s the latest beauty trend, the semi-permanent solution to sparse and undefined eyebrows, but exactly what is microblading? And why does everybody want it? Warpaint goes to arguably the best in the business, Karen Betts, to get the low down of 2016’s hottest beauty procedure and why she’s the master (or mistress) of the blade.
The surge in eyebrow grooming has come on a pace since all we relied on was a pencil and some tweezers. Make-up artists have now a phenomenal choice of brow enhancing powders, brushes, stencils, tints, scissors and gels. Every shopping centre and department store has a threading bar and most salons now offer precision eyebrow waxing for those who can’t take the pain of the cotton thread. The semi-permanent option has been around for the last couple of decades, but the flat linear technique that block drew the colour on became the source of many a mocking web feature.
Getting the perfect brow, whether its semi-permanent or pencilled on requires an artistic skill that belies many who attempt it, but for a make-up artist the new microblading technique could offer a lucrative new income stream and can be life-changing for those who have the fine feathered hair-like strokes to rebuild their brows.
Karen Betts has long been at the top of her game, a prominent permanent make-up artist who founded the Nouveau Beauty Group of companies, which includes one of the first and foremost eyebrow brands, HD Brows. Crowned Woman of the Year at the 2014 NatWest Every Woman Awards in recognition of her achievements as an entrepreneur, her two companies include a pioneering medical tattooing enterprise, several leading cosmetics brands and a salon training business. She has a long and exclusive waiting list and it’s not surprising as her carefully crafted brows are often mistaken as real hair. The art of microblading is her latest innovation and she has just launched her own tools, KB Pro as well as training, an ideal add-on skill for make-up artists looking to extend their offerings.
To see her at work and to get a real understanding of how microblading is a game changer we take our model, Antoinette along to meet Karen. Antoinette had gradually lost most of her eyebrows. Often linked with conditions such as thyroid dysfunction, alopecia and chemotherapy side effects, Antoinette suffers from none of these, which has made the loss of eyebrow hair all the more troubling, as she genuinely has no idea what caused the problem. “It was a gradual thing, slowly I began to notice my eyebrows weren’t as thick and I was drawing in more and more. I’d buy every type of pencil, trying desperately to get my brows even and symmetrical,” explains Antoinette, “I’d never really wanted to risk going down the semi-permanent route, probably in part because of the horror stories you see. I’ll not lie, there was a lot of nerves about meeting Karen and taking the step to have micro-blading. But the more I read about Karen I felt better. There’s a lot to be said about finding the right artist as well as the right technique.”
So what exactly is microblading? It’s a technique used to create the most realistic looking brows using fine ‘hairstrokes’ to mimic the look of real brows. Instead of traditional cosmetic tattoo treatments which use a machine, microblading uses a handheld tool to meticulously create fine hair strokes one by one. Pigment is then implanted into the channels created by the tool and the result is realistic 3D looking, permanent brows.
So, what makes K.B Pro Brows different? “The K.B Pro hand glyder has a removable depth guard for safer, easier, faster treatments,” explains Karen, “and I use the best blades and finest needles to create the strokes with less snagging on the skin.”
Antoinette’s treatment starts with a detailed consultation. Karen draws on her brows complimenting face shape and facial features. This is where Karen’s inner artist comes to the fore, as getting the perfect brow is a real skill, there’s a chance to lift the brow slightly, thicken the line bring them closer or further apart. Karen then applies numbing cream to make the process as comfortable as possible. “They may say no pain no gain but, in reality, the treatment will cause minimal discomfort with many clients saying it just feels like tiny surface scratches on the skin.” Karen explains.
A colour pigment is then matched Antoinette’s skin tone and hair colour. “The colour theory is extremely important, essential to ensure the natural skin undertones are taken into consideration for a natural, final and healed result,” Karen goes on. “The colours are completely mixable too, so you can get the exact shade you want.”
The glyder is then used to create the finest of hair strokes of different lengths and directions. “Applying the just the right amount of pressure for each stroke is key, too light and the pigment will fade too quickly, but too deep and the hair stroke may not be sharp enough,” Karen demonstrates.
Gradually Antoinette’s brows take shape, with Karen building up each individual hair. She’d decided to lift Antoinette’s natural brow line and this had the instant effect of opening up her face.
The brows must then heal, they do peel and Karen usually recommends a return top-up visit 6 weeks later, which again needs to heal, but after a few months Antoinette has incredibly realistic eyebrows.
We took her to meet Dominic Skinner, senior artist at MAC for a professional make-up that made the most of her new brows. “I don’t need to say just how important the brow is to the look of a face,” Dominic smiles, “They anchor it.”
When making up a face that draws on or has semi-permanent brows, the foundation application is very important. “If you just run over the brow with the base the chances are the colour is effected and can make the brow look grey,” Dominic goes on, “ I try not to put the foundation over the brows, rather make-up around it, much the same as with real brows.”
As Dominic works, Antoinette explains the difference her new brows have made. “They look like real hair, it’s almost an optical illusion. When people look closely they still can’t believe it’s not hair. Karen drew them in thicker and higher than I did with my numerous pencils but they look incredible, an artistic eye is so important.” And the biggest benefit of her new brows? “To wake up in the morning with brows, no more looking alien, no more drawing them on, it’s just so liberating!”