More and more women are binning their eyebrow pencils and going under the scalpel. But is it worth the sting?
“You have tensed up!” the therapist says, snapping on her latex gloves. I look down at my balled-up fists and laugh nervously, trying not to think about the small scalpel that she is holding near my ear. Soon she will dip the blade in pigment and etch short strokes into the skin underneath my eyebrows in an effort to make them appear naturally fuller and more shapely. This is a procedure known as “microblading”. Provided I don’t sweat excessively or sleep on my face and rub it all off, the tattoo will, I’m told, last up to a year.
Semi-permanent cosmetic tattooing has a long history. Sutherland Macdonald, the first tattooist in Britain, boasted in 1902 of his ability to produce in ladies an “all-year-round delicate pink complexion” with a “slight pricking” of a needle. It has also long had an image problem, evoking an older woman who looks at best permanently surprised, at worst like a terrifying marionette, thanks to her overly thick lip-liner and needle-thin, over-arched, carbon-black eyebrows. But in recent years cosmetic tattooing has itself undergone a make-over. New techniques which use impermanent pigments rather than tattoo ink achieve a subtler look. Freckles can be applied to give the wearer the semblance of sun-kissed skin. The lips can be tinted to provide more definition.