So we all know I have had Alopecia Universalis since I was seven years old - all of my hair including my eyebrows and eyelashes fell out in two weeks. Scary stuff, right?! Growing up, playing with makeup is a normal aspect in every young girl’s life and as soon as I discovered eyeliner I was hooked! I loved that it gave the illusion of depth, as if I had lashes. I tried penciling my eyebrows too but I could never get them even. Wonky brows are not a good look and the block colour that the pencil would leave looked so fake! I loved that my Freedom Wigs looked so natural that no one could tell I was wearing them; but you could pick the bad brows from a mile away! So I cut a fringe to hide my non-existent brows when I was 14 and wore one ever since then till I got my fancy new eyebrows!
An eyebrow can transform a face – brows give your face a frame and the way that you shape them can considerably change how you look. But I never really realised this until I was a lot older and professional makeup artists would draw brows on for photo shoots.
My mum and I looked into tattooing them when I was younger, but the techniques out there then left the same block-like colour I didn’t like. It almost looked like you had taken a sharpie to your face, not hot! It was also never the right time as I was still modelling, and 90 per cent of my modelling work had me visibly bald, with no eyeliner or brows pencilled on. It was a very “alien” look that I had going on and it seemed to work for me quite well at the time.
For years I continued to wear a wig with a fringe and I was totally happy with that; it really suited me. And a fringe was never annoying for me like it can be for those with real hair, as it obviously never grew, so it was always the perfect length. I hadn’t really thought about my lack of brows being much of an issue until late 2014.
On Browhouse got in touch with me and asked if I would like to try a new service they were doing called Brow Extensions – 3D Brow Building. Basically they apply individual synthetic hairs to your brow area to create natural looking brows. I gave it a try and was rather blown away by the results. I saw the way the brows really framed my face and I liked the way I looked with them...it really got me thinking.
I had always been so anti tattooing my brows, but those three days I spent with "brows" that I didn't have to draw on or apply myself every morning really changed my whole perspective on it. I looked into it again and discovered the technique had come a long way since all those years ago. They now used a micro blade and make fine strokes with the pigment which look like individual hairs instead of the big thick line you often see. Don't get me wrong, the block line look can work for people with real brows as it makes them look darker, but when you have none like me it would look so silly! The results I saw with this new technique were so natural looking and incredibly impressive. I mulled it over for a while then decided it was a time for a change and booked my first appointment with On Browhouse. I had researched all the places that did this and On Browhouse stood out to me, their work was really impressive and I wouldn't trust anyone with tattooing my face without being 100% confident in their ability. Plus it helped I already knew them and felt in safe hands with them.
I have written a little diary of what my experience was like as I get asked so often about it.
I was booked in with Ericka and at my first appointment she went over the plan with me. As we were starting from scratch with my brows the process was going to be a little different to what your average customer would go through.
She decided we would do some brow shape trials to figure out what shape I would like and what would suit my face shape best. This was a really important step as I didn’t already have a natural shape to work with. For these appointments Ericka drew little strokes on to my brow area with a dye to create the shape. Using individual strokes with the dye meant it would closely resemble what the tattoo would look like. I wore the first brow shape for a few days and then came back to make some tweaks. The second shape she created was perfect so we booked my first actual tattoo appointment for the next week.
I was rather nervous. I have tattoos and know how painful they can be, especially when performed on an area over the bone such as your eyebrows. But Ericka did a great job of making me feel calm and explained that since they don’t use a gun like a normal tattoo – rather a hand tool - it doesn’t go down as deep as a usual tattoo so it doesn’t bleed so much and it won’t be as painful. This is also why you need to top up the colour every year or so, as it will fade because the ink is in the upper dermal layers of the skin only.
The first appointment took the longest as Ericka drew the outline of the shape of my brows so she could essentially ‘colour’ within the lines, making the fine strokes that would build my new eyebrows. To draw them on is a bit of a science. Tape measures are involved and lots of tweaking is needed to make it just perfect. Once this is done a numbing cream is applied to the area and you get to relax and read a magazine while sipping on a cup of tea till it kicks in. It really does help and the first few stokes of the tattoo really aren’t that bad at all, more uncomfortable than painful. After the skin is broken with the first round of strokes another numbing cream is applied as it can work deeper into the skin now that it is broken. This stuff is magic. All the strokes after this I couldn’t really feel. It’s like when you have a numbing injection at the dentist and you can feel the pressure when you touch your cheek but not the actual sensation of it. Occasionally there is a little tweak when Ericka must be going over a nerve, but it is by no means bad and lasts a millisecond. It was such a relief that it wasn’t painful as that was my major concern!
The appointment took about 2.5 hours but only 40 minutes of it was actual tattooing. I think it was longer for me too as there was more to do when starting from scratch.
Once the session was over my brow area was a little red but already looked so great ( the photo above I took straight afterwards by the elevators). The colour was lighter than I wanted it to be but Ericka explained that to get a darker colour you go over the original strokes to create depth rather than using a darker pigment, it's a bit of a process. While it heels it will also seem darker due to the healing process but then you will notice it returns to the original colour.
I was sent home with an after-care balm to apply twice a day. I was also advised to keep my brows dry for 10 days and to not exercise so you don't "sweat out" the pigment while it is still healing.
Even after the first appointment I was so happy with my new brows that I considered getting a little adventurous. I was ready to get a new wig without a fringe - something I hadn’t done in about 16 years. This was a big deal for me but I was excited to have something different for once.
Sessions two and three
The next appointment was five weeks later. You need at least four weeks between each session so the strokes can fully heal. This way when new strokes are created in the next session the ink wont ‘bleed’ into the other lines, which would blur the individual strokes and result in a less natural look.
My brows took about two weeks to heal. Tiny micro scabs had appeared over the skin where the strokes were made but they weren’t really visible to the naked eye. I only noticed them when they started to come away. If you already have existing brow hair you wouldn’t notice them at all.
Once my skin had healed after the first appointment, Ericka was then able to see how the pigment looked under my skin as everyone’s individual skin colouring will change the tone of the tattoo. This is why initially they like to start lighter rather than darker.
The second and third appointments were much like the first, but actually less painful. I think that the cream started to wear off faster in my first appointment due to the fact we spent so long penciling the shape in the beginning.
During the subsequent appointments we concentrated on making my new brows darker and filling in any gaps that were apparent. Ericka added a second colour into the mix to create a little bit of extra depth and it worked just perfectly.
Now that my brows have completely healed I couldn’t be happier. The shape and colour is perfect and at night if I like them to be a little darker, it is easy for me to add a few dark strokes with a pencil or powder. It’s much easier to fill them in now I have a shape to follow.
My new wig arrived a few months after they were done and I had my hairdresser Chloe Zara Powers cut it without a fringe. It was such a change for me and I took a few days to get used to it, but I love it. The comments I’ve received about my brows have all been so positive and it’s amazing how many of my male friends even notice them and comment on the artistry of the work.
Ericka and the whole team at On Browhouse have done an incredible job and I couldn’t be more grateful. It’s great having such a change in my late 20s and it has opened up a world of new hairstyle options I would never have considered before!
Photo Credits ©Michael Bradley.