Microblading vs. Eyebrow Tattoo: What’s The Difference
Originally published on February 23, 2018. Updated February 23, 2021 with additional information and comments from professional makeup artists
The eyebrows play a significant role in the aesthetics of the face. The shape, fullness, and symmetry of the brows all work together to highlight the eyes and frame the upper face. If you have thin or patchy eyebrows there is a non-invasive treatment that can instantly improve the eyebrow area: microblading.
Microblading is a popular eyebrow enhancement technique that improves the shape, definition, and thickness of the brows. The microblading technique uses a specialized hand-held tool with a unique blade to deposit dye into the second dermal layer of the skin, creating very fine strokes that mimic the appearance of natural eyebrow hair.
People often think microblading is a type of tattoo. While the techniques may sound similar, microblading and eyebrow tattooing are very different. This post will compare the major differences between microblading and eyebrow tattoos.
What is Microblading?
Microblading is a technique performed by an aesthetician which leads to natural looking, fuller eyebrows. After applying a numbing cream, tiny incisions are made in the brow which mimic your natural hairs. These incisions are then filled with pigment.
Microblading is relatively painless, thanks to the numbing cream applied beforehand and the shallow cuts of the microblade. You should experience little to no bleeding. A minimal amount of pigment is used, which allows color to stay put within the incisions, without bleeding outward.
Microblading fades over time, and the results of microblading can last anywhere from 1-2 years. However, patients can opt to extend their results for longer by undergoing periodic “maintenance” treatment sessions.
View Microblading Photo Gallery
What is Eyebrow Tattooing?
Eyebrow tattooing is just like any other tattoo. Your tattoo artist uses a tattoo needle which is supplied with ink and hooked up to a power source. The needle repeatedly penetrates your skin with a quick tapping motion to apply ink to the deeper layers of the dermis.
Tattooing is permanent, although colors may fade and lines may blur over time. Once you have an eyebrow tattoo it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to remove.
Microblading vs Eyebrow Tattooing
When considering which is best for you, it’s helpful to understand the differences between these two eyebrow-enhancing techniques.
Permanent vs Impermanent
For most people, the most significant difference between microblading and eyebrow tattoos is the longevity of the results each provides.
Eyebrow tattoos are permanent. Once the ink is tattooed onto the skin it is there for life (although undesirable fading of the ink as mentioned above is possible). Once you have an eyebrow tattoo, it’s forever unless removed via tattoo removal treatments.
This is very different from microblading, where the results typically last about 6 months to a year. Because the pigment doesn’t go as deep, it fades as your skin cells naturally turn over. Simple “touch up” treatments can be done annually if the microblading patient wishes to maintain their enhanced brow. The semi-permanent nature of microblading allows patients the ability to change the appearance of their brow as trends and styles change.
Microblade Pigment vs Tattoo Ink
Microblading pigments come in organic or inorganic varieties, in a range of several colors. As microblading ink slowly fades it does get lighter, but the tone stays the same. Microblading pigment is specifically designed to fade into a lighter version of the color used so the patient retains a natural appearance. Thus, the result maintains a natural appearance until it fully fades away.
Tattoo ink is used for eyebrow tattooing while microblading uses a specialized pigment. Ink differs greatly from pigment in the way it fades over time. As tattoo ink fades, it often develops a blue-green colored tint, especially around the edges of the tattoo. Black tattoo ink is notorious for turning blue or green, as the red pigments that keep it dark fade faster. This can leave people with some oddly colored eyebrows that often look as though they were created with a Sharpie. This can result in very unnatural looking brows.
Blading vs Needling
Microblading is done with a hand tool which cuts only into the uppermost layer of the skin. This is not only far less painful than tattooing, but causes less damage to the skin and results in a quicker recovery process. Also, less pigment is needed, which prevents color from ‘bleeding’ into adjacent skin cells.
Tattooing is done with a machine, which penetrates more deeply into the skin. This makes tattoos generally more painful than microblading. The depth of the punctures encourages the use of more ink than needed, which causes color to ‘bleed’ into the surrounding area. Recovery time is also longer, as your skin will need to heal from the injury caused by the deep needle punctures.
Fine Lines vs Filled Brows
Trained microblading artists are skilled at hand-drawing fine lines which mimic the natural look and shape of each individual eyebrow hair. These lines blend in with your natural eyebrows to create a look that’s often indistinguishable from the real thing.
Even the most well-trained tattoo artists find it difficult to achieve the fine lines of microblading with a tattoo needle. Tattooing simply doesn’t lend itself to the same precise technique. Tattooed brows tend to have more of a solid look, and appear as brow filler more so than your natural brow.
Microblading creates a more natural end result compared to eyebrow tattooing, which results in brows that appear “drawn on” and flat. This is because the microblading technique creates individual hair-like strokes that are identical to hair growth pattern of the surrounding eyebrow hair. A good microblading technician can make treated areas look like a more dense version of the natural brow hair.
Getting a tattoo can be relatively painful, especially if they are placed in a sensitive area like the face. The microblading technique involves much less discomfort, especially if the brow area is numbed with lidocaine prior to treatment. Most patients describe the feeling of microblading to be similar to tweezing.
Microblading Pros and Cons
✅ Less painful
✅ Quick recovery
✅ Natural looking
✅ Won’t change color
❌ Requires touch-ups
❌ Generally more expensive
Eyebrow Tattoo Pros and Cons
✅ Good for mid-brow fullness
✅ Generally less expensive
✅ Permanent result
❌ Looks more like make-up than a natural brow
❌ Requires longer recovery
❌ Ink can bleed or change color over time
Which Should I Choose?
Both microblading and eyebrow tattooing have their pros and cons. A review of each can help you choose which method of eyebrow enhancement is best for you.
Once you’ve made your decision, select an aesthetician that specializes in microblading, or a tattoo artist that focuses specifically on eyebrows and permanent make-up. Ask to see before and after photos of their past clients, and familiarize yourself with their reviews before committing to the procedure.