20 In Beauty

Everything You Need To Know About Eyebrow Tattooing

I’ve been having my eyebrows tattooed for years.  I have to.  Why?  First, my eyebrows are rubbish because I am so fair.  Second, they are rubbish because I over plucked them in what I call the “Mariah Years.”  Mariah Carey plucked her thick, bold, eyebrows into skinny little rainbow arches to match her song and her outfit, and everyone else in the 90’s did as well (including me).  Third, my eyebrows are rubbish because they are thinning with age… unfortunately, the rest of me isn’t.


My salvation came about 10 or 15 years ago when I read about Sophie Thorpe, the High Priestess of Brows, who does all the models’ and actresses’ and celebrities’ eyebrows.  People who make a living out of their face being on billboards can’t afford for things to go wrong, so I knew Sophie must be a safe pair of hands. Given the state of my brows and my utter boredom at penciling them on every day, hoping they are symmetrical, and hoping they don’t smear or wear off, I didn’t have much to lose.  I went to see her, and she gave me exactly the eyebrows my face needed.  Here’s what happens when you have your eyebrows tattooed (with Sophie, anyway):

You walk in and this positively gorgeous woman with perfect eyebrows and a faint Yorkshire accent greets you, tells you that your eyebrow pencil colour is completely wrong (she’s right; brow pencils are usually too orange, especially the colours made for blondes) but that you won’t need it anymore anyway.  You lie on a massage table on your back, and Sophie sits at the end of the table, seeing your brows from the top of your head, viewing your brows from upside down, as it were (this is crucial, I’ll explain why later).  From this angle, she’s not looking at the rest of your face, she’s only focusing on symmetry. Using tiny needles and MINERAL PIGMENTS, not regular tattoo ink, she colours in your brows with fine, short lines, drawing back in all those little hairs you plucked away during the Mariah Years.  Some people take Aspirin (or something stronger!) before they have the treatment, but I don’t bother because I don’t find it that painful.  It takes about an hour to do both brows.  When you first get up from the table and look at your brows in the mirror you think “OMG! They’re SO DARK I look like a cartoon!”   Sophie assures you by telling you that the whole top layer of pigment will eventually flake off with dead skin, and you’ll be left with the right amount of pigment still inside the skin.   Then, by that evening, you’ll be totally used to seeing them so dark (all Gwen Stefani-ish) that you almost won’t want them to fade to a normal colour.  For the next few days, they remain quite dark, and maybe just a bit swollen and red if you have sensitive skin.  To treat your newly tattoos (woo hoo!)  massage a little healing balm (similar to Vaseline)(she will give it to you) on your brows after showering and before bedtime, and blot the excess away with a tissue.  Avoid getting them wet for the first three days so that the pigment sets nicely in the skin. Washing your face or having a shower is fine.  Swimming or sweating for hours is not.

Eyebrow tattooing is semi-permanent makeup, meaning that the micro-pigments only penetrate the first few layers of the dermis.  The colour will last for a year or two (it varies from person to person) before it gradually begins to fade.  Now, you can find places to get your brows tattooed with regular tattoo ink, but don’t do it.  They may look ok for a couple of years, but with time and any amount of sun exposure, these ‘permanent’ pigments fade and either turn green or orange (black permanent pigments fade to grey-blue or green, brown permanent pigments fade to orange or pink).  Blacks, browns, and taupes, the colours you need for eyebrows, are tricky colours in permanent tattoos because they use a combination of so many colours to get the right tone; some of those tones fade, some don’t, but that colour you start with won’t be the same a few years later.  Just get the semi-permanent mineral pigments and know that if it all goes horribly wrong, at least it isn’t forever, thankfully.  I learned the hard way…

Once, I was really eager to have my brows done, and I didn’t have the patience to wait for Sophie, who always has a crazy long waiting list.  I found a good salon that offered the service, and put my face in the hands of a young, beautiful, Iranian girl with the most perfect eyebrows.  Just because she had perfect eyebrows didn’t mean she could give them to me!  It was a disaster.  For starters, she had me lay on my side, and then started to work, applying the pigment with tiny buzzing needles in my eyebrow skin.  I asked how she could possibly make my brows symmetrical, since one side of my face was squooshed into the table and the other side was sliding over.  She told me this is how she works and it would be fine.  I should have jumped up and run out of the room then and there, because it just isn’t humanly possible to have symmetrical brows tattooed whilst laying on your side.  Also!  I would never let a young girl do my brows again.  Not because of a  lack of experience, but her generation sees big dark Cara Delavigne eyebrows and Kate Middleton eyebrows as the norm, and you don’t stick those big dark things on an older woman’s face.  You just don’t.  You want elegant brows, not statement brows at this age.  They make you look crazed.  Or surprised.  Or menacing.  Or all of the above.

Here are some before and after photos of my recent tattoo experience for your entertainment.  These are close up, unforgiving, unfiltered, and nearly-makeup-free photos so you can really see what my eyebrows look like pre and post tattoo.  I obviously have on mascara and eyeliner, because “no makeup” in my world always includes mascara.  Why?  Because this is what I look like in the morning with no mascara and no brows:

goats chèvre ile de reMe, having breakfast

eyebrows, no tattoo

brow tattooHours post-tatoo, a little red and swollen

brow tatoo Close up of redness and swelling around brow, two days later. And lines!

eyebrow tattoo Flaky and a little red, two days later.  Also, Hi eczema!

a week later, tattoo brows Five days later, starting to look normal, even if they’re still darker than the final version

How about you?  Would you consider tattooing your eyebrows?  After I started doing mine, several friends started having theirs done.  My friend’s mother even pays Sophie a visit every few years when her brows need refreshing, and she lives in Capetown! No wonder Sophie is so busy.  If you decide to get yours done, make sure you do your homework on finding someone good, and learn from my mistake: examine what the technician is doing with a hand mirror every 10 minutes or so, to make sure they’re drawing the lines where YOU normally do, and that everything is symmetrical. And don’t let them do your brows while you’re laying on your side!  A makeup artist said to me once that your eyebrows should look like sisters, but not identical twins.  Mine definitely aren’t identical twins, but tattooing helps them look more similar.


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  • Reply
    Suzy Turner
    December 2, 2015 at 2:13 PM

    WOW they look fabulous! What a great job… it’s surprising what a difference it makes. I’ve been neglecting my eyebrows for years… I’m not sure what to do with them, to be honest. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to start paying more attention to my brows and my face in general… it’s time to start pampering myself, something I’ve never really done. But hey, I’m 40 in a few weeks and I think it’s time!
    Great post – thanks for sharing with us!
    Suzy x

    • Reply
      December 2, 2015 at 5:54 PM

      Thanks Suzy! When I turned 40 I treated myself to a package of a year’s worth of facials… I decided it was time to work on my skin, finally! Maybe do a facials and a brow gift to yourself? xx

  • Reply
    December 2, 2015 at 3:08 PM

    Dear Lisa,
    I don’t know where to start. First of all, you’re hilarious. I mean the first picture LOL! Secondly, THANK YOU for the insight. That’s some penetrating info there! Third of all you’re right on every point you made. Yes, we need to frame our face, because with the age related thinning of the eyebrows, we have to find a solution to add a bit of volume (and colour) up there. And lastly, I sort of abandoned now, but back then when my beauty was useful for something (aka making money) I always had my eyebrows tinted with natural henna. I loved it because my eyes instantly looked bigger, refreshed and had a frame. The only problem with henna was that it tinted the skin too, so I wouldn’t recommend it for mature women, as otherwise like you said it wouldn’t look natural. I absolutely loved the post! And the pictures. I couldn’t do close up pictures make-up free on top of it because my face is so full of wrinkles, it would just scare people away. But with you it’s a whole different story. You look absolutely beautiful and your skin impeccable. Plus, I love your cashmere? vest:) xx Abby

    • Reply
      December 2, 2015 at 5:59 PM

      Awwww, thank you so much, Abby. I’m always amazed how much of a difference eyebrows make to your face. It is a little grisly posting ENLARGED close-ups of your wrinkles on the world wide web though, LOL! The vest/sleeveless coat thingy is from ZARA, can you believe? I hope I can do a post on it soon…I just need a sunny day to get some good pictures. xx

  • Reply
    December 2, 2015 at 6:53 PM

    Great info! I have dark blonde hair and have always been lucky to have thick,dark brows. Of course they’re thinning a bit with age, so I’ll just see how that goes. I have one nicely arched brow that’s practically effortless to shape but the other take a bit more effort, and I imagine the tattoo would help. As a sometime contact lens wearer, I like the idea of permanent eyeliner and lash tinting too. Less irritating than all that product getting in your eyes!

    • Reply
      December 2, 2015 at 7:52 PM

      I like the idea of permanent liner and lashes too. If I had all that done, think how much time I’d save in the morning! Let me know if you get that done. xx

  • Reply
    December 2, 2015 at 10:29 PM

    Jeez, after too many years of discovering the point on my brow pencil missing, what a delight to discover the mineral pigment non-permanent option! And the whole notion of eyes and lashes! I must source this locally.. once again your blog preserves my style!

    • Reply
      December 2, 2015 at 10:36 PM

      I’m glad you like it, Vivian! xx

  • Reply
    Little Red
    December 3, 2015 at 2:15 AM

    I sometimes think about doing something with my brows since they are thick and dark due to being Indian. They seem to have a nice natural shape even without touching them so I figure time will take its toll soon enough and I leave them alone.

    • Reply
      December 3, 2015 at 7:41 AM

      You’re so lucky! I used to have quite thick brows, but once plucked, they never grew back properly. xx

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 4:52 AM

    This is so intriguing! Your brows look absolutely fantastic. Mine are just starting to thin a bit, but I will definitely look into this. And I agree with Abby – your vest is beautiful!

    • Reply
      December 3, 2015 at 7:42 AM

      Oh, thank you so much Lana! xx

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 9:06 AM

    SOLD! What’s her number?

    • Reply
      December 3, 2015 at 1:44 PM

      You can email your details to sophie.thorpe@btinternet.com or leave your info on 020 7589 5899 and she’ll ring you back and make an appointment. xx

  • Reply
    December 3, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    Seriously where have I been? I had never heard of this before!!!!

    • Reply
      December 3, 2015 at 5:32 PM

      Ooooo! Well, I’m pleased to show you something new! If you have sparse or thinning eyebrows, it is a godsend!! xx

  • Reply
    tracey - thenaughtyfortydiaries
    December 10, 2015 at 2:52 PM

    I have my eye brows tattooed too and it’s the nest thing I ever did! I too bought a Kylie stencil ( way back when) and plucked everything out. They never grew back :((
    I spent ages trying to get them to look right and not melt in the sun.
    I took the leap about 3 years ago and never looked back.
    I go to a lady in Rawmarsh called Wendy, she’s amazing. Thanx for sharing, Tracey xx.

    • Reply
      December 10, 2015 at 3:09 PM

      Hiya Tracey! It is good to hear another very positive experience with eyebrow tattooing. I know all too well that it can go really wrong. Yours look great! xx

  • Reply
    No Fear of Fashion
    April 23, 2019 at 7:17 PM

    I never dared and continued penceling powder on my eyebrows every day. But with these tips of yours I am going to investigate. Thank you, miss perfect eyebrow.

    • Reply
      April 29, 2019 at 7:44 AM

      Only go to someone who has worked on fair-haired women a lot (otherwise they tend to make them too Kardashian-dark) and someone with great reviews! xx

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