(First published in the February 21, 2019 issue of City Pages)
Increasingly popular beauty procedures go more than skin deep
Skin Mint owner Jenny Thomas on microblading: Be leery of any technician who doesn’t perform a thorough health history and skin typing analysis
For Tressa Klopatek, having her eyebrows filled with a semi-permanent technique called microblading was life-changing. For much of her life, Klopatek had a tendency to tug at her eyebrows to the point where some areas were “literally bald,” she says. “It was a bad habit, I would pull the hair out.”
To her, microblading “looks like a hair transplant,” she says of the treatment she had done three months ago. Her before and after photos are telling. And now Klopatek’s morning routine no longer requires the task of arduously filling in her brow line with pomades, pencils and powders.
Microblading is a semi-permanent cosmetic that uses a sharply bladed, sterile apparatus to make tiny hair-like strokes in the skin. A pigment is then applied to recreate the look of hair.
The microbladed eyebrow will wear differently on an individual depending on aftercare, body chemistry, and their skincare regimen, says Jenny Thomas, owner and master aesthetician at Skin Mint Aesthetics & Spa in Weston. After the first initial session, “they can opt to do a six-month retouch or wait to 12 months when the brow has softened to change the shape or color.”
The initial microblade session runs $350 at Skin Mint; retouch costs vary. After 12 months the cost to do the brows again is $200.
While it does last up to a year or more, it’s not permanent like a tattoo, which is a good thing, says Thomas. “Eyebrow trends change and our facial shape changes over time, we can gain or lose weight. A really high arch in 20 years may just not look symmetrical,” she says. “We lose collagen, that bounce and elasticity can throw off the symmetry. Colors change. If you had a black eyebrow tattoo done, in 20 years it could look purple or blue.”
Plus there’s always changing styles to consider. Right now, for example, arches and thick, full brows are trending.
To start the process, Thomas brings a client in for an initial consultation and facial measurements, looking for where the bulb (inner end) is supposed to start, where the arch should be, and then following a person’s bone structure to see where the tail of the brow should stop. From there, Thomas finds a template that best fits the client’s measurements and preferences, including color swatches.
The healing process takes one to two weeks.
“I opted for a natural brow. It’s not harsh and you can see the individual hair,” says Ashley Bores, another client at Skin Mint. She points to her face, smiling. “I wake up with perfect eyebrows.”
The time saver alone makes Bores a fan of microblading. “Most women can handle basic makeup application, but eyebrows require a lot more artistry,” she says. “Over the years you try to pluck and shape your eyebrows into submission so they look like they are related to each other and then you wind up losing that hair because you’ve overplucked it.” And then you spend a good deal of your makeup routine “filling in your eyebrows and you are never 100 percent happy.”
The two-hour procedure isn’t painful but, you can feel it, says Klopatek, “like you are being scratched.”
Susana Volkmann has been doing permanent makeup such as eyeliner for 12 years and microblading for about six. “(Microblading) is becoming very popular in Wausau,” says Volkmann who owns Susana’s Permanent Makeup and Skin Center Wausau. “My clients are very satisfied,” she says. “One of the things I hear the most is, ‘I wish I would have had this done sooner.’”
Before having the procedure there are some important things to look for. First, find out whether the person doing the brows is licensed and/or certified, Thomas advises. “These credentials should be posted somewhere in their salon,” she says. And, you should always ask to see previous work, a portfolio, references, and reviews.
Technicians should also have a health department permit showing inspection and compliance with all safety, sanitation and infection control procedures as well as certification and completion of the Blood Borne Pathogens training, she says.
It’s imperative the person doing it has a well-rounded understanding of who shouldn’t have the procedure done, Thomas says. “I would be leery of any technician who doesn’t perform a thorough health history and skin typing analysis… Pigments are highly dependent on certain health and risk factors such as iron deficiencies, oily skin types, whether they are pregnant or nursing, of age, have an autoimmune deficiency that may complicate healing, medications they are taking, allergies, whether they’ve had Botox in the last two week… technicians who ignore these red flags may not have undergone proper training.”
Because it does involve pigment and scoring the skin, not everybody is a candidate for microblading. People who have skin conditions near the area or other certain medical conditions might have to avoid this treatment. And because it’s a pretty significant commitment of money and time (as in, the effect will last a long time), it’s best to do some research to see if it’s a good fit for you.
Microblading, when done by a properly trained, licensed and insured professional, can be an amazing thing, says Nicole Stephens, a licensed cosmetologist and owner of Brush & Bashful. But when done by someone without the proper training or licensing, it “can be horrible and dangerous with the potential to leave you with permanent scarring and loss of hair,” Stephens says.
Right now, in the state of Wisconsin, there is a discrepancy about whether microblading falls under tattooing or cosmetology, Stephens says. “The state has not given a clear answer on this but if you read the definitions in state code, in my opinion, it falls under tattooing,” she says. “Anyone providing the service should be extensively trained and certified. I don’t feel it should ever be performed in someone’s home.”
She has seen beautiful microblading that has been life-changing for those who can’t grow brow hair, but also has seen horrible work done by people who have no place doing it. “I’ve seen people have to get corrective cosmetic surgery (including laser) to fix what was done,” Stephens says.
“Medicine” for lashes
Back in the early 2000’s, television commercials with actress and model Brooke Shields touted a product called Latisse that promised thicker, longer eyelashes.
Latisse was discovered when doctors began prescribing bimatoprost (the active ingredient in Latisse) as eye drops to treat glaucoma and ocular hypertension. One desirable side effect: Patients would return with thicker, darker and longer eyelashes. In 2008, the FDA approved the drug to treat hypotrichosis, the medical term for eyelashes lacking in quantity or quality, and soon was being used for cosmetic purposes as well.
It can be pricey, though, at approximately $120 for a month supply, and requires a prescription.
Several years ago I tried Latisse to see if it would add volume to my lashes. It took about 12 weeks and then suddenly I had more lashes than there was space on my eyelids. My lashes had grown so long and full that my eyelids ached and I had to trim them so they wouldn’t hit my sunglasses.
The active ingredient in Latisse was originally used to treat glaucoma, and had a side effect of longer, thicker lashes, as seen in this photo.
I never experienced any side effects from Latisse, but some people report discoloration of the eyelid and the drug could even permanently change the color of the pupil itself.
There are a plethora of other non-prescription serums that claim to augment lashes as well. But buyer beware. Some just don’t work or can irritate the eyes, so doing research to find a quality product from a reputable source is key.
How about other, less medical-like lash treatments?
Eyelash extensions are a more temporary and quick option, and there are many looks to choose from, says Thomas, who does lash extensions at her salon. “We have the classic extension, which looks like you are just wearing mascara; a hybrid for a fuller effect like a strip lash; and a volume extension which would look like Kim Kardashian,” she says.
The procedure for lash extensions takes roughly two hours since each lash is applied one at a time with a medical-grade glue onto the natural lashes.
Extensions are made of mink or silk fibers, and vary in price — $120 to $140 for the initial application with fills recommended every two weeks.
Lash tinting and lifts also are becoming popular and are basically altered versions of regular hair coloring and perming, done with products designed for the sensitive area around the eyes, says Marie Kieffer, owner of Verve Salon and Spa in Wausau.
“Doing the services together gives you the biggest impact as you get the darker color and the curl, making your eyes pop,” she says. A tint and lift is $80 and takes approximately 45 minutes and the results will last up to two months. You can find do-it-yourself kits online, but Kieffer warns there’s always a risk when using chemicals near the eyes, and recommends leaving this beauty treatment to the professionals.