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Don’t Let Oily Skin Stop You From Trying Microblading

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You, too, can have fleeky brows

One of the basic tenets of beauty is that we should take care of our eyebrows because they frame our face. For too long, my face has been framed like a poster haphazardly hung on a dorm room wall. Thanks to genetics, not only did my brows not grow in as fully as I wanted, but they naturally look like a slightly more subtle version of The People’s Eyebrow (thanks, Mom). To get the look I desired, I’d get my eyebrows threaded and tinted, but I’m embarrassingly lazy when it comes to personal upkeep that I can’t do on my own—if I could give myself a dental checkup to avoid scheduling an appointment with my dentist, I would. I long fantasized about a world in which I could wake up with naturally perfect brows. So once I learned about microblading, my prayers were answered.

Or so I thought. The more I researched, the more it seemed that genetics would block my blessing yet again—based on what I read, having oily skin meant that the eyebrow tattoo wouldn’t heal properly (again, Mom). Still, I couldn’t find any first-person accounts of people with oily skin having microblading done, so I set out to see for myself if my journey to eyebrow fleekness would indeed stop at a dead end. Upon finding out about Better Brows NYC, I met with its owner, microblading artist Kendra Bray, for a consultation. Better Brows NYC was born from Bray’s own microblading experience that left her disappointed, and she even has a tattoo license despite it not being required for microblading artists, so I trusted her to know what was best for me. 

The good news: It’s entirely possible to get microblading done when you have oily skin—it’s just all in the technique. “With oily skin, sometimes the strokes can have the tendency to spread a little bit,” Bray said. “Knowing that, I’ll not put as many strokes, or put them as closely together, throughout the brow. Then I’ll wait, see how it heals within the skin, and then when you come back for the touch-up, we’ll see if you had some spread of the strokes, and see how many strokes we need to fill in.” Bray uses a different type of pigment for the tattoo on people with oilier skin, too: “For people with drier skin, I use a glycerin-based pigment, but on oilier skin, I’ll use a water-based pigment to prevent that spreading in the skin. The reason that I don’t use the water-based on everyone, is because it dries a lot faster, so it’s not as easy to work with, but for long-term results, it works better on oily skin because it already has so much moisture.”

Then the not-so-great news: Whereas microblading typically lasts two to three years, with oily skin, that time can get cut to about a year. “It also depends on how the person takes care of their brows after,” Bray adds. “People with oily skin tend to use products to help with the oiliness, like acids or retinols, and if they’re not careful and avoiding the eyebrow area, they could be putting these products on the brow, which will also make them not last as long.” She also mentioned that I could potentially need a second touch-up session, depending on how the first one healed. Still, it seemed worth it to at least try it out. Bray went through all of the steps I had read about in my research, and after about an hour—most of which was devoted to finalizing my desired brow shape and waiting for the numbing cream to take action—I had perfect eyebrows. 

Of course, I couldn’t get too attached to the brows, considering Bray’s warning about fading. Sure enough, by the time I was able to schedule my touch-up, much of the pigment was gone—though it’s worth noting that my touch-up happened two months after the first session, rather than the preferred one month, because Bray and I were both traveling (and I accidentally turned my shower head onto my face while my brows were still healing, causing some scabs to come off prematurely). Bray then decided to make the strokes deeper in my skin for the touch-up, which meant it actually hurt. Fortunately, Bray keeps a stress ball next to the bed where she does the microblading because, boy, was I stressed. But by the end, my brows looked great enough to make me forget about the pain. 

A month later, I was still really happy with my brows, but there were still spots here and there where the pigment faded, so Bray advised that I come in for one last touch-up. She did note that the strokes from the previous session didn’t spread too much, so she was able to put them closer together, in addition to putting the strokes deeper where they had faded. Somehow, the third session was completely painless—perhaps it was my excitement at knowing that I was finally on the cusp of having the eyebrows of my dreams. 

It’s been a little over a month since my last session, and five months since my first, and I couldn’t be more satisfied with my results. My brows are darker and thicker, and—best of all—I no longer look like The Rock entering a wrestling ring. Sure enough, it took some time and a little bit of pain, but the way I see it, it was a worthy investment. For those of you who are debating getting your eyebrows microbladed, just know that having oily skin shouldn’t stop you.  

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Photo by Andrew Cooper

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