A couple weeks ago I mentioned that I was going to get my first tattoo and it wasn’t a typical sort of tattoo and I was a little nervous about it. I said that if it didn’t go well, I probably wouldn’t mention it again, and if it did go well, I would tell you about it. Well, I was pretty sure, in the first few days that I had the tattoo, that I wasn’t going to broadcast it to anyone. But I also didn’t know how I was going to hide it either. It’s been about nine days now and, happily, the tattoo is healing nicely, and I am much less freaked out about it. I’m even ready to share it with you…
I got my eyebrows tattooed! The technical term is “microbladed.” Microblading is kind of what it sounds like — a small blade is used to make tiny cuts along the eyebrow (or brow bone) in which pigment is deposited to create very natural, hair-like strokes that either fill out a natural brow or, in my case, recreate or reconstruct an eyebrow.
(19-year-old me, full eyebrows).
There are lots of reasons someone might want to fill-out or reconstruct his or her brows. For me, after having thick brows through my early 20s (see photo above), my brows became pretty thin through my late 30s, through a combination of aging, hypothyroidism, and various grooming techniques (like threading and waxing). Then, in the last couple of years, the already-thin brows I was sporting starting falling out completely. A few months ago, I was diagnosed with a rare kind of alopecia that affects eyebrows and the hairline (my hairline has receded about half an inch to an inch), and can affect eyelashes too (mine are still intact). This kind of alopecia can “burn out,” or reverse itself eventually, but there’s no guarantee that hair will grow back, and, of course, there’s no way of knowing when that might happen. In the meantime, I felt naked and weird-looking without eyebrows. I could draw them on with makeup every day, which I did, but I never felt very good at it, it took a lot of time, and it always faded after a few hours (or more quickly, depending on weather).
(My brows – or lack of brows — the morning of my microblading appointment, no makeup).
My dermatologist specializes in hair transplants and he talked to me about doing a brow transplant eventually, but that felt too… permanent. Plus, the hair on my head is a different color and texture than what my brow hair would/should/used to be. And it would grow like the hair on my head, and I’d have to trim it every two weeks. That felt too strange and sci-fi. Was I going to be an old lady in a nursing home, needing someone to trim my brows every two weeks? I mean, I’ll probably need someone to trim my chin hairs one day, but still: why make extra work for everyone? Or worse, what if I couldn’t trim them myself anymore and no one else trimmed them for me and I was just some sad old lady with eyebrows that grew all the way down her face? I couldn’t let that happen!
So, I researched every other option and discovered microblading, which sounded kind of perfect (other than it not being cheap). It looks pretty natural, and after the healing process there’s zero maintenance, and it fades in one to three years, so if you don’t like it or styles change and you want to update your look, you aren’t locked in. I thought about it for a couple of months, researched places throughout New York that provide the service, checked out countless before and after pictures, instagram shots, and Yelp reviews, and finally settled on a company and even a specific “eyebrow technician.”
The procedure itself takes two to three hours and includes a personal consultation. My consultation lasted almost an hour while Daniela, my eyebrow tech, discussed shape and size with me and then very carefully drew new brows on my face to show me exactly what they would look like. She took my input and made some tweaks, and after we agreed on everything, she numbed my brows and started blading. It hurt like a bitch! They say it doesn’t (like in reviews and testimonials and the countless blog posts I read about it), but mine hurt a lot. I mean, not as bad a childbirth or anything, and not as bad as a kidney stone, but maybe on the level of having tartar behind your gum scraped out. For two hours straight: not fun. And not pretty either. At least, the immediate results weren’t.
After two hours of pain, I was given a hand mirror and it was all I could do not to burst into tears. I looked like such a freak! The brows were so much darker and bigger than we discussed. I was in such shock, really, that I didn’t even know what to say. So, I told Daniela she did a good job. Because, in an objective sense, it did seem expertly done (and I was still convinced that I had researched well and chosen one of the best, and I wasn’t yet willing to think otherwise). But the brows didn’t fit my face. They were so thick and big and dark. And I was used to having nothing, so to have such bold brows was a really big change. Daniela told me that over the next few days they would get even darker, but to not panic — it was all part of the healing process.
I did panic though! I got home and I cried and cried for like twenty-four hours. At one point, because it was so nice out and I felt bad being such a wet blanket when my family just wanted to enjoy the beautiful weekend, I put on some big sunglasses and we all went to the park and I crossed my fingers that I wouldn’t see anyone I knew. Of course, I didn’t get ten feet into the park before we saw some friends. One friend, Bill, said, “Ooh, I like your sunglasses,” as he REACHED FOR THEM TO PULL THEM OFF MY FACE!
“NOOOO!” I yelled and turned and ran away, pushing Joanie in the stroller.
“Where are you going?” everyone yelled.
“Taking Joanie to the playground!” I yelled back, without even turning around.
On the way to the playground, I ran into more people I knew, and I tried, probably unsuccessfully, to hide the top half of my face, contorting my whole body in weird poses to look casual but hidden as I stopped to say hi. I felt so exposed! It was so much worse than not having eyebrows at all, which was something I hated but eventually got used to. It felt like everyone — like everyone in the whole park, maybe in all of Brooklyn — was thinking the same thing: what the fuck did that woman do to her face?
(Joanie’s first response when she saw me was: “WASH!”)
“I’m never doing anything to my face ever again!” I wailed to Drew on night one, after getting ready for bed, careful not to get my new brows wet (you can’t get them wet for a whole week). “I don’t care how wrinkly and ugly I get! I’m not even getting so much as a facial ever again! I don’t think I’ll even ever get another haircut! I don’t want anyone touching anything on me ever again!”
“Ok,” Drew said, probably trying to figure out how to procure some Xanax for me (which he did, and which I managed not to take).
(Peeling! Also: hi, Miles!).
Just as Daniela said, the next few days were brutal. My brows were so dark and thick, I really could not show my face in public. I wore hats and sunglasses everywhere, even inside. We had a small seder at our place on Tuesday night (aka “Day Four”) and I even wore a hat for that. Fortunately, by the sixth day following the procedure, the scabs started peeling, revealing a much lighter, softer, very natural-looking set of brows. By Friday, I was even comfortable enough to take off my hat and sunglasses in public.
They still have to heal a bit more, and the pigment will change some in the next few weeks as it settles in. And once the healing is complete, I’ll need to go in for the second step of the process, which is a touch-up, where color is tweaked if that’s needed and any patchiness is filled in. If I opt not for the touch-up, the brows may fade much more quickly, so while I’m not crazy about going through the pain and healing all over again, I will probably choose that over losing the brows completely in less than a year.
At any rate, what seemed like an impossibility a little over a week ago is now a reality: I don’t hate my eyebrows. I even like them! And I think after the color settles and I get a touch-up, I’ll even love them. Best of all, Joanie is no longer looking at me and saying “Wash!” over and over.* (“She got the truth serum from YOU,” my friend Lesley said.) The other morning she even looked in my direction and said, “Cute!” which may have just been in reference to a new shirt I dressed her in, but I like to think she was talking about me and my not-scary-anymore brows. Thanks, Joanie — I’ll take it.
*It should be noted that both Jackson and Drew were very supportive through the whole thing. Drew was very understanding when I wanted to hide out for a few days, and Jackson never once said a negative thing about the way I looked, instead saying, “You look perfect, Mom. You always look perfect.” Haven’t I always bragged about what a smart kid he is?!