Catching a glimpse of my face in the mirror, I can’t help but laugh. My reflection stares back at me with eyes outlined with thick, white eyebrows. But this isn’t a new beauty fad. It’s numbing cream, which is preparing my skin for the procedure ahead. Patricia Kerr, a licensed linergist and founder of Brows By Patsy, enters the lounge and greets me warmly. As she leads me to the treatment room, we discuss the results I’m after. Disclaimer: this isn’t my first time undergoing micropigmentation. On previous visits, we’ve spent hours trying to achieve my desired shape, down to a hairline. This time, I’m here for my annual top-up, and a touch more arch. As Kerr sets up her station, I lie back. She wipes off the excess cream, sterilizes the area and, picking up an eyebrow pencil, begins to stencil in the shape.
As a seasoned patron, I requested a darker shade than before. I have full trust in Kerr’s technique, and know that the fading process means that in two to three weeks the outcome will be exactly what I desire. The whirring of the machine brings me to attention, and Kerr begins. As we chat away to busy my mind, the needle plants the pigment beneath my skin. There are sections of the brow that I don’t feel as the needle pierces, and others that are uncomfortable – but not painful. You could compare it to scratching a sunburn. Just over an hour later, she’s finished. Handing me a mirror, I gaze at my patch-free, masterfully shaped brows. Perfection.
Before my visit and in search of inspiration, I looked to eyebrow icons of the past. I stopped short at the January 1987 issue of Vogue US, with Cindy Crawford on the cover, photographed by Richard Avedon. She was at the height of her career, with 11 international Vogue covers behind her. But this one stood out: she’s working a power suit, along with a major bouffant, and wild eyebrows. Thirty covers later, I stopped scrolling. My eyes poured over Crawford on the cover of Vogue US’s February 1994 edition, shot by Herb Ritts. It’s beautiful, but something is missing. Her signature mass of eyebrow hairs has been plucked away. It shouldn’t be a surprise; it was the 90s, after all. She was still a beauty icon, but like many, her brows had defined her facial features. It’s no wonder, then, that by the early 2000s, she reverted back to her natural, thick brows. Others weren’t so lucky. Many over-enthusiastic pluckers caused irreparable damage.
Cue the era of Cara Delevingne and her statement natural brows. Although the trend came into fruition more than a decade ago, the British model cemented the natural brow look when she was cast for the Burberry Spring 2011 campaign. The beauty industry took notice, and eyebrows became the focal point of the face. As with every movement, the cosmetic world kept up with demand, creating various products and treatments to fake a flawless set of eyebrows for those without. “Brows have become big business in recent years, because their shape can make or break your look,” explains founder of German-based beauty brand Zoeva, Zoe Boikou. Eyebrows help balance features, and improve the appearance of symmetry, length, and density. Most of all, they enhance natural beauty. Also serving to lift the face, brows can help develop a sense of youthfulness and for many, this means wearing less makeup.
Women of the Middle East, in particular, are embracing bold brows. Genetically blessed with thick, dark hair, they spend hours perfecting the shape and color of their brows. “For a clearly defined look, it is crucial that the eyebrows start, arch, and end in the correct place,” Boikou says. From pots of paste, to pencils, brushes, tweezers, threading, and waxing, the process can be tiresome. The solution? Semi-permanent makeup. Cutting down application time, it also ensures that those with the sparsest of brows can possess a defined shape and color. Microblading, specifically, has been in the limelight this year, hailed by celebrities from Madonna to Angelina Jolie. Mona Kattan, beauty entrepreneur and founder of The Dollhouse, loved her results so much, she is now hooked. It differs from micropigmentation in that a handheld tool with up to 14 blades is used to implant pigment into the skin with small slices. Explaining the difference, Kerr states, “Although microblading can create slightly finer hair strokes compared to the machine, the process of almost slicing the skin can sometimes leave results looking a little blurred over time. There is less control with how deep the blade can go.”
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Practicing both methods, Kerr notes that it comes down to personal preference and the needs of the individual. “We always conduct a consultation to determine which process is best and if there are any allergies present, and to ensure that the correct pigments are used.” Before considering semi-permanent makeup, the most important aspect is investigation. It’s crucial to understand your specialist’s training, equipment, and technique. As Kattan stresses, “Research the technician and make sure they have a long track record, and that they understand symmetry. Either do semi-permanent makeup right or don’t do it at all.”
Both processes have minimal downtime. I have, on all occasions, only had the slightest hint of redness, while many of Kerr’s clients visit her on their lunch breaks. It’s crucial, though, to practice proper aftercare. Apply vitamin E cream, stay out of the sun for long periods of time, and avoid other treatments (like chemical peels) during the healing process, which usually takes two weeks.
Depending on skin type, skincare regime, and the amount of sun exposure your eyebrows get, the treatment can last for up to a year. Starting at approximately AED/SAR 2 938 / US$ 800, and including a follow-up session two to three weeks later, it may seem steep, but as the saying goes, you get what you pay for.