BLADES OF GLORY — How microblading changed my show-going experience.
Let me set the scene: It was late August, in the thick of one of the hottest summers Vancouver had ever seen. Packed inside the small Rickshaw Theatre was a crowd of ravenous metal fans who had gathered to watch Belphegor play. The air in the venue was heavy, and not just because of the music. Belphegor brought the house down that night, and hundreds of sweaty metalheads emerged from the venue completely drenched, their clothes clinging to their bodies. I had been taking pictures all night and, despite my short hair and thinnest tank top, I was sweating buckets. I arrived at the train station after 10 minutes of walking in the midnight air with my hair a dry, salty mess and my shirt still acting as a second skin. I took out my phone to look at the time and caught my reflection. To my horror, my eyebrows had melted in the heat and humidity and had migrated to my forehead. I rode the train home that night looking like a Klingon.
I was a teenager in the early 2000s and, as any good teenager in that time, I fell victim to the torturous trend of over-plucking my eyebrows. Of course, I got wiser with age and stopped, but the carnage I had subjected my eyebrows to for years was not so easily repaired. I routinely filled my eyebrows, spending countless hours perfecting my arches and dousing my face in setting spray to ensure the longevity of my daily masterpieces, but to no avail. No product was ever a match for the rain, the heat, the snow, or any of the other weather conditions shoved in my face on a daily basis. After that fateful night, I vowed that I would never have to deal with smeared eyebrows ever again. I lied. I waited nearly a year before taking the plunge into a more permanent solution to my lack of brows, but it was worth it. I did my research and settled on microblading instead of regular tattooing to put an end to my brow woes. For the non-initiated, microblading is a semi-permanent tattooing procedure that uses a hand-held tool made of very small blades to deposit pigment and mimic hair strokes. As a soft-featured person, harsh, filled in brows never suited me and microblading offered a softer, more natural look that I was craving. I found an artist (Savanna Dillon at Studio Sashiko) who had a proven track record of taking oxford shoe laces thin eyebrows to new heights, and spent countless hours on Google and Pinterest to look at before and after pictures and really set the proper expectations for myself. When the day of my appointment finally arrived, I approached the day like any other tattoo appointment. The studio was spotless, which helped put me at ease.* The reception area was separated from the foot traffic coming into the studio and, in the back, multiple blonde women were making brow dreams come true. I joined them and got to talking to Savanna about what I wanted, what I was expecting, how I typically wear my brows, etc. Soon, she was drafting dark brows with a black pencil, taking in consideration the shape of my face, the hairs I actually had, my natural arch, etc. When she handed me the mirror, I was ready to walk out a satisfied customer. In a minute, she had done better at drawing on my brows that I did with years of practice on my own face. I was borderline insulted by her talent. She applied numbing cream on my already-better-than-ever eyebrows and let me sit for a few minutes. Because microblading is not made with a tattoo machine, there is no buzzing and no vibration in your skull. For the most part, microblading is painless, thanks to the numbing cream. On the areas where the cream didn’t take as much, the sensation is almost like a soft cat scratch. There is never any real pain, just slight discomfort that lasts a microsecond or two at a time. From the shape to the colour matching or my brows, Savanna nailed every hit on the head. When she handed me the mirror to look at my final brows, I almost cried. For the first time in many moons, my eyebrows were sculpted but natural instead of being bold and cartoonish. Before I left, Savanna walked me through the aftercare, which I was determined to follow to the letter. And I did. For two weeks, I was a slave to my eyebrows. My tender flesh was routinely washed and slathered with cream, I didn’t let a ray of sunshine touch my face, and I avoided any activity that could cause me to sweat even one drop. The zeal paid off. I knew going in that, with my oilier skin, the hair strokes weren’t going to heal as crisp hair, and I was fine with that. What I got were eyebrows that looked like they were expertly filled with powder and a precision brush, which is a soft and polished look that suits me well. It took two appointments, $600+ and countless hours of aftercare, but I ended up with exactly what I wanted. The first show I went to after my eyebrows were healed was a revelation. I could have my camera in my face the whole time without fear of smearing any product on it, I could wipe sweat from my forehead without having to go around my brows, my eyes didn’t burn anymore from product running in them, my glasses didn’t get filthy from sweating Dip Brow all over them, and crowd surfers raining down on me didn’t threaten my aesthetic integrity. Thanks to my semi-permanent tattoos, I am now able to enjoy the shows with the same abandon as any other bespectacled goblin. I had a maintenance-less cruise in the blistering Caribbean sun in February and spent my first fuss-free summer since my adolescence. For me, microblading was the perfect solution. Since my original appointment, I've had a refresher after 8 weeks and one after a year. Though my eyebrows pre-yearly refresher had faded significantly, they were still better than anything I've had since puberty. Better yet, I haven't had to look like Worf post-gym after a gig in 18 months, and that is priceless. * Studio Sashiko is well regarded as one of the best microblading studios in the world, so cleanliness was never something I was worried about, but if the parlour you choose doesn’t benefit from the same reputation, I urge you to go visit before you commit to an appointment.