Writer Nateisha Scott days after her Blade and Shade treatment at Lush Brow Bar.
Beauty

Microshading is the new brow treatment to fill, define and sculpt eyebrows, but does it work?

It’s the semi-permanent alternative to microblading that promises to transform brows. Here’s everything you need to know about the treatment.

As soon as you mention wanting a permanent brow treatment, there is usually only one treatment that comes to mind – microblading. Circulated as a cult treatment for many, it is probably the treatment that most people opt for, but for me personally, I’d heard so many horror stories about the permanency of microblading and eventual colour fade, that I had to see if there was an alternative treatment to invest in. 

With other options such as henna brows, brow lamination and ombre brows being a popular option, I still failed to find a treatment that was long-lasting, required little maintenance and was versatile enough to carve out a brow (even if faced with sparse brows like my own). Digging that bit deeper, I came across microshading, a semi-permanent brow treatment with little limit on the brow or shape it could create – suitable for all skin tones, natural-looking and long-lasting, it ticked all the boxes on what I wanted to achieve for my brows.   

Regardless of whether you have patchy brows, barely-there brows or a full-bodied feathered brow – microshading takes care of them all. It’s the latest semi-permanent brow treatment available, which is the answer to long-lasting brows without the hassle of repetitive upkeep or constant application of your gels, tints or eyebrow pencils.

What is microshading?

Reading this with a raised brow? Let’s clear a few things up. As Tabitha Coker, brow expert and founder of Lush Brow Bar, explains, “microshading is a form of semi-permanent make-up using a tattoo style technique in which a technician uses a handheld tool that resembles a pen with the ink at the nib to implant pigment into the skin. The process involves continually placing tiny, pin-like dots on the brow to fill and shade out areas rather than drawing on hair strokes. More refined, the pen works on the skin and in-between the brow hairs to shade and fill the brow area until the fuller look is achieved – rather than individual hairs, a powdered, ombre look is mastered.”

What makes microshading different from microblading alone?

On the surface, microblading and microshading seem to do the same thing but in reality, they don’t. Microblading is the application of hair-like strokes throughout the brow, whereas microshading creates a powdered finish by adding pin-like dots to the brows. Not only that but microshading is often recommended over microblading for those with oily skin types; the pigment goes deeper into the skin, so it has a better chance of lasting.

Microshading is also extremely versatile with other brow treatments, often recommended with microblading and coined the ‘combination brow treatment’, it involves permanently etching in the brow hairs (microblading) before layering and shading (microshading) in the pigment for a more enhanced and bespoke effect.

How long does the microshading treatment take?

“The process can take a total of two hours that starts with numbing the brows to make things more comfortable for the client,” Coker explains. “While the numbing gel has a chance to work, a consultation is carried out to outline the process, expectations and possible outcomes including shapes and colours. The actual treatment begins once the brow shape is drawn out and approved by the client before going ahead with a sanitised blade and implanting pigment into the skin.”

How long does microshading last?

On average, microshading can last for anywhere between 12-24 months although this does depend on your skin type as well as how well you look after your brows once the healing and top-up treatment at the four-month mark is complete.

What aftercare treatment is required?

Like any cosmetic tattoo treatment, it is paramount that the ink takes to the top layer of the skin (i.e. the epidermis) as effectively as possible without contamination. That is why your technician will advise you to not exercise for 10-14 days after the treatment and to avoid skincare acids and even water around the brow. This will not only help the eyebrows heal, but it avoids the risk of fading and affecting the ink in the healing stage.

You can expect some scabbing which will fall away around a week into the healing process but it’s best not to apply make-up until they’ve completely healed. It is also very normal for the pigment to appear very light but this is normal as it takes a month for the full pigment to develop in the skin.

Once the brows have healed, experts recommend using SPF over the top and avoiding strong glycolic acid products and peels to stop unwanted colour fade.

Finally, you’ll need a second appointment (after four weeks) to complete the full treatment. At this session, the same process of applying pin-like dots to the brow area is carried out – but this time the technician will only work on areas of the brow that the ink hasn’t taken to re-pigment and refine the area. So, the first session only gets around a 40-70% ink retention rate, but at the second session, the skin will start to ‘recognise’ the ink thus retaining the desired colour and full effect of the microshading treatment.

Microshading review: what happened when I tried it?

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that my sparse and ill-defined brows were an insecurity of mine but I was acutely aware of the hairs they lacked. I came across Lush Brow Bar as a happy accident; I’d seen loads of their incredible brow transformations and treatments on their Instagram page. With an unofficial consultation in the DMs, myself and founder Tabitha walked through the types of treatments available landing on microshading and combination brow as opposed to microblading (the only treatment I knew of at the time) to give the brows shape, definition and a sculpted effect.

After sharing some images of what I wanted (i.e. a more feathered, ombre brow), she took her time to carve out my perfect brows: immaculately aligned and completely tailored to my face shape.

Writer Nateisha Scott before her Blade and Shade treatment at Lush Brow Bar.
Writer Nateisha Scott before her Blade and Shade treatment at Lush Brow Bar.
Before the Blade & Shade treatment.

When it came to the actual appointment and doing some research beforehand, I had a vague idea of what to expect – some pain and at least two hours in my technician’s care. Whilst nervous at what the pain would feel like, it was trumped by my excitement to transform my brows. 

I was initially taken aback at the two-hour slot allotted for the session but once noted that 20-30 minutes of that time was spent allowing the numbing gel to take effect, it cut the time in half and finished faster than I’d thought. I was in at 1 pm and finished by 2:30 pm – time flies during a transformation.

Writer Nateisha Scott immediately after her Blade and Shade treatment at Lush Brow Bar.
Writer Nateisha Scott immediately after her Blade and Shade treatment at Lush Brow Bar.
After the Blade & Shade treatment.

For the pain, it certainly doesn’t outweigh other cosmetic treatments, considering I wince at laser hair removal – the microblading segment felt as though someone was scraping a needle on the skin, not exactly the most comfortable 10-15 minutes (and probably the worst bit of the whole session) but the re-application of numbing gel massively helps the discomfort. 

When the microshading was applied to the brow, it was a breeze in comparison and felt more like a spoolie brush being pushed hard into the brow. After 40 minutes the treatment was complete and I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly time had actually passed. Focusing more on the preparation and structure of the brow as opposed to the execution is, for me, the mark of a great brow technician.

Writer Nateisha Scott days after her Blade and Shade treatment at Lush Brow Bar.
Writer Nateisha Scott days after her Blade and Shade treatment at Lush Brow Bar.
Post 'Blade and Shade' treatment at Lush Brow Bar.

Was it worth the money? Absolutely, my ‘Blade & Shade’ brow treatment cost £300 in total (£50 paid upfront and the remainder after the treatment) and it is probably the best £300 spent on a treatment that will last for the next two years, creates a full and defined brow without the need for any additional product, cuts my makeup time down by at least five minutes and is the ultimate beauty investment. I was blown away by the results and didn’t think that my brows (as sparse and patchy as they were) could create such a full and defined shape that equally looks bold and incredibly natural. 

Let’s just say I won’t be cheating on my brow tech with anywhere else – their expertise and work is *chefs kiss*