If you find yourself lusting over images of microbladed brows only to be met with disappointment that it doesn't take well to your sensitive skin, we've got one word for you: microshading. Think of microshading as the long-lost sibling to microblading—while the two have some differences, they both use tattoo ink to fill in sparser areas of the brows. The treatment has been making waves in the beauty industry for its ability to deliver fuller arches, and is especially effective for oily, sensitive skin.
It's called "shading" rather than "blading" because the process is more like creating a shadow or gradient appearance with teeny-tiny dots of pigment instead of fine hairs like microblading—almost like you used a brow powder. Intrigued? To learn all there is to know about microshading, we tapped brow expert Joey Healy for details.
Meet the Expert
Joey Healy is an eyebrow specialist and owner of Joey Healy Eyebrow Studio in New York.
Keep scrolling to learn everything you need to know before microshading your brows.
What is Microshading?
Microshading is a brow treatment where a brow technician uses a very fine pen to make individual tattoo marks that resemble tiny dots onto the brows.
What Is Microshading?
Microshading, sometimes called "Powder Brows," uses an electric or manual pen to create dots onto the brows with semi-permanent ink, giving somewhat of an airbrushed look to the brows. "Microshading is like an impressionist painting—the more dots there are and the closer they are together, the darker the results are," says Healy. The cost of the procedure can range anywhere from $300 to $1000 depending on where you're getting your treatment done and skill of the technician.
Benefits of Microshading
Microshading comes with a number of potential brow benefits:
- Lasts longer than microblading
- Ideal for sensitive, oily skin types
- Gives the appearance of fuller brows
- Helps with eyebrow symmetry
Healy notes that microshading works well for everybody and is thought to offer longer-lasting results when compared to microblading. But it's especially effective for those with oily skin, as this skin type may not do well with semi-permanent tattoos. Then there's the ouch-factor. "For people with sensitive skin, microblading drags a blade across your brows and it is similar to paper cuts," explains Healy. "That dragging motion can be more painful if you have sensitive skin."
How Long Does Microshading Last?
Mircoshading is thought to last longer than mircoblading—about one to three years with proper care and maintenance. While the first few days may look like you have harsh lines on your brows, the color will gradually fade into a softer, more dimensional brow as it heals. Healy recommends getting a touchup every eight to 12 months especially if you have oily skin, as it can tend to fade quicker on skin that skews greasy. And if you're looking to prolong the results, Healy says to stay out of the sun and avoid using harsh chemicals on the face like AHAs and BHAs.
Microblading vs. Microshading
Microblading involves creating short, hair-like strokes on the brow—the goal is to mimic the look of brow hair. Microshading, on the other hand, gives a more solid, bold appearance. "Mircoblading can appear more natural because there is space between the hairs and it appears more blended to the naked eye whereas microshading can look more like an Instagram brow," explains Healy.
That said, the two can be done in conjunction with each other. "Oftentimes, the beginning of the brow will look very unnatural so it's best to do strokes in this area (aka microblading), but the outer half of the brow toward the ear would fare better with microshading to get solid pigments," says Healy.
Microfeathering vs. Microshading
Microfeathering, a form of microblading coined by brow artist Kristie Streicher, delivers just that—a feathered brow look achieved by conservatively filling in the sparser areas of the brows (versus microblading, which yields a more dramatic outcome). While both microfeathering and microshading are more natural than microblading (still with us?), feathering differs from its shading counterpart because it utilizes the existing brow shape as a base. For those with reduced eyebrow growth (or those who have plucked one too many "stray" hairs), microshading offers a way to create a completely new eyebrow.
How to Prepare for Microshading
Before your treatment you should have a consultation with your brow specialist to outline your brow goals (this should be done makeup-free). Healy recommends discontinuing the use of retinols or acids on the face pre-treatment to ensure your skin isn't sensitized. You should also steer clear from working out, alcohol, caffeine, and aspirin at least 24 hours pre-appointment. Also, make sure your skin is free of sun exposure and resist the urge to touch, tweeze, or wax your brows before your treatment—no matter how much they need it.
What to Expect During Microshading
Depending on each individual treatment, microshading can last one to two hours. "A topical numbing agent is usually applied to the brow before the treatment," notes Healy. "Pain and discomfort are relative, but it doesn't feel great. You may feel pressure as the technician is applying the ink, and you may feel sore afterward depending on the skill level of the technician." Right after microshading, you'll notice the area being a bit swollen and red. You'll see your real results roughly one month post-treatment—this is because your skin will need ample time to heal.
Microshading comes with the same side effects as microblading. For one, the color may degrade over time and can appear blue or pink. Also, since the treatment involves the use of a needle, infection is always a risk. Your skin may scab post-procedure as it heals, but once scabbing diminishes, you'll be left with a bold result, which will lessen in intensity over a week or two, according to Healy. Some pigments used for micro shading may contain paraphenylenediamine (PPD), a colorant used in hair dyes that helps the color stain the skin. Though relatively rare, some people have a sensitivity to it, so it's always best to conduct a patch test prior to your treatment.
Avoid getting your skin wet for at least 24 hours post-procedure, including in the shower. Since you won't be able to cleanse your skin, it's best to avoid makeup to reduce the risk of getting the area wet. Also, avoid any activity that could cause excessive sweating or moisture—that means skipping your morning hot yoga class. "You'll want to care for the brows with anti-bacterial ointment right after you get them done for the first 24 hours, and then use a light moisturizer," advises Healy. "Also, avoid chemical peels afterwards, as well as itching or picking at them—you should treat them like a body tattoo."
The Final Takeaway
Gone are the days where an angled brush and brow pomade was the only way to achieve a bold brow. Micoshading and microblading are effective at faking a fuller brow, but because both are semi-permanent tattoos, be sure to look for a skilled technician to understand which process will work best for you.
Mukkanna KS, Stone NM, Ingram JR. Para-phenylenediamine allergy: current perspectives on diagnosis and management. J Asthma Allergy. 2017;10:9-15. doi:10.2147/JAA.S90265