301 W. Heritage, Ste.1,2 &4 Tyler, TX 75703 salon Boutique Building
301 W. Heritage, Ste.1,2 &4 Tyler, TX 75703 salon Boutique Building
Eyebrows applied with the machine stroke technique
Eyebrows applied with the microblade technique
Arguably, most of the myths surrounding permanent makeup surround this fundamental question. It seems like whoever you ask only gives you half the answer, leaving the rest to the imagination. Some people will say that tattooing is permanent, while microblading is semi-permanent. Some purport that tattooing is for powder brows that look colored in, and microblading is for the style of eyebrows made of up of individual hairs. Others say that tattooing is for body art, while microblading is for makeup. And then there's the people who say there's no difference at al! So what gives? How is anyone supposed to understand these terms when no one seems to agree on the answers?
Well, you're in luck! We are here to discuss the technical definitions of tattooing and microblading, how the techniques differ, and address some considerations to help you decide which approach is right for you. Today, we will separate fact from fiction and help to clarify the murkiness that sullies them both.
This is a tattoo machine that is specifically designed for cosmetic and paramedical tattooing. It's fully adjustable, and gentle for delicate tissues. It is used just like a pen to draw eyebrows on, one hair at a time, or shade them in to look like makeup.
These are various styles of microblade. This tool is used like a knife in a cutting motion to create lacerations in the skin, which are then rubbed with ink to create hairstroke eyebrows.
TATTOOING- The process of implanting pigment into the skin.
COSMETIC TATTTOOING- Often referred to as Permanent Makeup (or PMU), this is the branch of the tattoo industry that deals exclusively with the application of makeup. This includes any and all tattooing techniques used to apply appearance enhancing cosmetics. In the State of Texas, service providers must hold a license to tattoo in order to perform any kind of permanent cosmetics, regardless of which method is used to tattoo the skin.
MICROBLADING- A method of manual tattooing, using a tool called a microblade or handtool, to implant pigment into the skin without the assistance of a modern device. This method is usually exclusive to tattooing eyebrows, but is occasionally used for other forms of tattooing as well.
In a nutshell, it's all tattooing. The difference is just the tool a technician uses when applying the tattoo. Both tools, a modern machine and a microblade, can be used to apply eyebrows. The microblade, however, is generally limited to applying eyebrows, due to the more traumatic, less efficient nature of the technique. Machine tattooing is used for not only eyebrows, but other permanent cosmetics, such as eyeliner and lip blushing, as well as paramedical tattooing, such as scar camoflauge and hairline stippling.
•Both methods can be used to tattoo eyebrows.
•Both methods are long term solutions to makeup application that require maintenance at regular intervals.
•Ideally, both applications should be painless.
•While either method can apply hairstrokes and powder shading, it is far more common for shading to be applied by machine, and the microblade is used almost exclusively for hairstroke eyebrows.
•Machine tattooing tends to last considerably longer than microblading.
•It can occasionally be harder to numb properly for microblading, as it is common for artists to work deeper in the skin for a longer lasting result. This can make application very painful.
•Microblading generally carries increased risk of scarring
•Microblading has more contraindications than machine tattooing.
To understand why microblading became so common, and why it is used almost exclusively for eyebrows, we need to understand how the techniques work, and how they're different.
Modern tattooing is applied with a device that propels a needle back and forth in a puncturing motion, perforating color into the skin as you go along. You use a tattoo machine in much the same way you would use a pen or pencil. You simply draw or shade instinctively. As you draw, the machine creates a series of micro perforations that create pockets to absorb color. The needle is dipped into a pigment reservoir, and then it carries pigment into the skin with each perforation. As the needle slides back out of the the skin, the microscopic wound closes around it, trapping pigment inside, leaving behind a series of microscopic punctures.
Compared to manual tattooing, or tattooing without the assistance of electronic technology, machine tattooing is much quicker, due to the increased speed at which the perforations can be made. The machine implants color more efficiently than manual tools typically do, which means fewer passes are required to achieve the same results. In combination, these factors lead to less scarring, swelling and inflammation than what can be attributed to manual tattooing. Additionally, color retention tends to be better for modern tattooing, thanks to those microscopic punctures that hold onto color like a sponge.
This image should help to demonstrate the difference between the wounds left by microblading and tattooing respectively. The puncture wound is smaller with cleaner edges, making it much quicker and easier to heal. Microblading leaves a laceration that is larger, more traumatic, which can exacerbate the healing process.
Microblading is a form of manual tattooing, which means that the artist is not assisted by modern technology to implant colors. Instead, all the work is be done by hand. Traditional manual tattooing is most commonly performed using the "Stick-n-Poke" method a method that creates perforations by hand with a single needle, or set of needles, but microblading is a little different. Microblading is actually a cut-and-rub technique. As you can see at the top of this article, the microblade is actually made up of individual needles, similar to what a regular tattoo machine might use. But instead of using these needles to puncture, as they were designed to do, the needles are used in a cutting motion like a serrated knife. This tears open the skin, and leaves a larger wound that doesn't have clean edges. Then, pigment is rubbed onto the top of the skin to soak into the wound. This soaking process is imperative for microblading, because unlike modern tattooing, the wound doesn't immediately close around the pigment. Because of this, it is more difficult to get color into the skin, and more color is generally lost during the healing process, leading to a more dramatic lightening effect during the healing process.
The upside to the microblading technique is that the outcome fades more quickly than modern machine tattooing. The skin retains less color, which in turn means that the color can be bleached out by the sun more quickly. On the flip side of that coin, it also means more maintenance sessions that incur additional costs over time, as well as the risk of oversaturation of pigment.
Additionally, microblading carries a greater risk of scarring. The lacerations wounds are harder for your body to seal smoothly, While it is possible to develop scar tissue as a result of either technique, we see it far more often as a result of microblading. Ideally, an artist will work in the correct layer of skin regardless of which method they choose to use, but the larger wound left by microblading causes additionally trauma that can be problematic for people with scarring disorders, or heavy handed technicians.
There are a few reasons for this. Primarily, microblading a relatively traumatic form of tattooing as far as your skin is concerned. Instead of gently perforating color in, the microblade tears the skin, leaving a bigger wound which is harder to heal, and often times deeper than manual tattooing, as well. Lips and eyelids are simply too delicate to treat so harshly. The microblading technique would put lips and eyeliner at too high a risk for scarring, and poor pigment retention. As for body tattoos, using a manual tattooing method like Stick-n-Poke is simply inefficient, and while some people offer it, it's generally something you see as a cultural practice, or in somebody's kitchen. Cut-and-rub tattooing simply doesn't retain the pigment well enough to be used for body tattooing.
A high quality tattoo machine is the ideal tool to apply any kind of tattoo, permanent makeup or otherwise, because the technology offers so many benefits to clients and artists alike. As we have mentioned, the electronically propelled needle makes the process quicker and more intuitive than tattooing by hand, but more importantly, the machine is fully adjustable. You can customize it to every unique skin type you meet. The machine has settings for the speed of color implantation, the strength of the punctures, and stroke depth, or how far the needle moves each time it is propelled back and forth. These options allow us to customize our approach and work optimally on each and every individual we work with.
For example, skin types that are tougher, thicker and oilier, often require more intense machine settings in order to get the job done. A longer stroke depth helps to ensure that the pigment is implanted in the proper layer of skin that is thicker than ordinary. A higher power setting ensures that each stroke is strong enough to penetrate the skin on folks who have tough, sun damaged skin. A higher speed setting helps to implant more color with each stroke so that we can reduce the need for multiple passes, which can result in unnecessary trauma and inflammation.
On the flip side, we can adjust our machine settings for more delicate skin types, like dry, thin or aging skin, or the delicate skin of the lips or eyelids. A shorter stroke depth and lower power setting help us to stay gentle on thin or aging skin types, while a slower machine speed can help us avoid implanting too much color in dry skin types, which tend to absorb pigment much more easily than normal to oily skin types. The assistance of the small motor helps us to implant the pigment as quickly and efficiently as possible, while minimizing unnecessary damage along the way. This, along with skill and experience, can help to reduce the risk of pain during application, the need for a follow up, and scarring.
Microblading lacks all of these adjustments. The handtool is simply a handle with the needles affixed, and because all the work is done by hand, the only adjustments that can be made are by hand. Whether using a machine or a handtool, any artist can choose to implant the skin more shallowly by using less pressure, but while a tattoo machine can reduce the amount of movement of the needle, a microblade artist cannot reduce the amount of cutting necessary. Each individual line must consist of at least one cut, and often multiple passes are necessary. Similarly, the only way a microblade can be adjusted to a thicker skin type is to cut deeper. For tough or oily skin, many passes can be needed in order to implant color. Both of these approaches can increase the risk of swelling and scarring, both of which can impede color retention during the healing process.
This cutting motion is insufficient for lips and eyelids, both of which are much more difficult tissue types in terms of color retention due to their inherent dampness. As discussed above, the reason microblading is considered more temporary than machine tattooing is because the cuts don't retain as much pigment. If you combine this with a tissue type that retains less pigment, the results just aren't reliable, and the application is too painful for many additional sessions.
In our humble opinion, there are 2 main reasons technicians prefer to use a microblade. First and foremost, is familiarity. Most education in the field of permanent makeup is available as a 2-5 day bootcamp style class, and then you're set free to do as you please. The vast majority of these classes train exclusively in microblading, so that is what new technicians offer. Once you get comfortable with your method of application, it can be intimidating to learn a new, and completely different, application method. That said, most technicians who spend enough time in the industry eventually find that it is necessary to learn how to use a machine, if not as a primary means of application, as a supplementary technique at the very least.
One reason the classes are teaching microblading instead of modern forms of tattooing is simply marketability. Ultimately the term "microblading" is more trendy and marketable than the term "Permanent Makeup" or " Cosmetic Tattooing". So, naturally, schools and service providers want to be able to market with this term, so that is generally the service that is offered, regardless of whether or not is is the best relevant option.
Unfortunately, the primary reason the schools prefer to teach microblading is to cut costs. Every student is given a starter kit as a part of their training, which generally comes with a limited set of pigments, supplies for drawing and mapping brows, and an application tool. It is far cheaper to supply microblades, which can be purchased for just pennies on the dollar, as compared to a machine, which would cost a couple hundred dollars for an entry level machine, plus a couple hundred dollars for a power supply to run it, as well as the cartridges, which tend to be considerably more expensive than microblades. The cost of machine tattooing can be preventative for new technicians starting out, and most high volume training facilities simply aren't willing to invest that amount of money in their students.
Which brings us to the second reason technicians choose a microblade over machine tattooing: profit margin. Not only do technicians benefit from cutting costs as mentioned above, but in addition, they generate additional business for themselves. Because microblading typically needs maintenance at least once per year, using this method helps to generate more revolving revenue than offering a service that can last longer. When you add the low cost of supplies and increased cashflow, that creates a profit margin that is very alluring to a business owner.
How long do your want your eyebrows to last? How much time and money are you willing to spend on maintenance? Are you looking for a style that is trendy right now?
The answers to these questions will help guide your decision. While it's generally not advisable to have a trendy look tattooed on, it is slightly less risky to do so with an application method that will fade more quickly and dramatically, which allows you a better shot at adjusting your style later on.
On the other hand, if you prefer a more natural look, you might want the brows to last longer in between refresh sessions, not only to save you time and money, but also to prolong the life of your permanent cosmetics.
Generally speaking, machine tattooing lasts considerably longer than manual tattooing, especially in the form of microblading. Eyebrows applied with machine tattooing typically only need maintenance every 2-5 years, and usually the brows are still plenty visible at the time of the refresh. With microblading, refreshes are typically need every 6-18 months, and can be direly faded out at this point. This is great if you like to update your appearance frequently, but can be frustrating if you like to keep things consistent.
Also worth considering is pigment build up. Over time, as you have more and more color refreshes, that pigment builds up in your skin. The color fades, but the products used are still present in your skin, even if they're much lighter than they once were. Your skin is sort of like a sponge, in this regard. A fresh, dry sponge can hold a large volume of water, but as the sponge fills up, you'll have a harder time getting the sponge to hold more water. When its full, it's just full. The best way to avoid this becoming problematic is to use the least amount of pigment necessary to accomplish the job, and to space color refreshes out as far apart as reasonably possible. The best way to do this is to use an effective method of color application, and use high quality pigments that are resistant to fading and color shifting to provide a longer life for each service.
As time passes, you will find that your brows need a color boost every once in a while.
Adjustments to shape, color and thickness can be made at this time if necessary.
While scarring is a risk with any tattooing procedure, it is a rare occurrence. The two main causes of scarring are technician error and scarring disorders. Ideally, a technician will be skilled enough with their chosen application method to implant color gently, and without creating scar tissue, but for those with scarring disorders, no technician could make any guarantees, regardless of their chosen application method. All that said, ideally, and usually, when a tattoo is implanted into the proper layer of skin and allowed enough time to heal in between sessions, there should be no scarring at all. That said, there are differences between tattooing and microblading in terms of scarring, and they are worth considering before choosing which application method you are more comfortable with.
Because microblading uses a scraping motion to implant color, it leaves behind a bigger wound and more trauma. The more trauma inflicted upon the skin, the higher the risk of scarring becomes. Because of this, microblading is often not recommended for those with a predisposition for scaring, such as: scarring disorders, thinning or sensitive skin.
While scarring can be difficult to photograph, the ridged texture of scarring can be seen in this photo. The lighter areas are raised scar tissue that create ridges. The darker lines are channels dug into the skin with the microblade. If you were to touch with your finger, you would feel the wavy ridges of scarring.
Covering up existing PMU can be difficult work, and it generally requires a lot of training and experience. Technicians will need to use a variety of approaches and techniques to ensure positive outcomes when covering old permanent makeup, and especially when making corrections. Depending on what has been applied previously, microblading might not be the best approach to cover the old color. In some cases, it may work out fine, but in other cases, dense color saturation may be needed in order to overpower the color underneath, and in these cases machine tattooing is necessary to ensure sufficient pigment application. In many cases hairstrokes can be sufficient to cover old work, but occasionally it is necessary to cover old brows with powder or combo technique, which is generally a machine applied approach. Unfortunately, microblading tends to lack the diversity to deal with every situation in the unique manner which is required, which limits the corrective ability of the microblade.
Which conveniently brings us to the next point of consideration:
In this case, we had to correct two different colors at once. Poor quality pigments tend to fade into unexpected colors over the years. Hairstrokes, in this case were not an option, as both the red and the blue tones would remain distinctly visible. Nonetheless, we were able to separately neutralize the colors and create a cohesive brow with consistent tone.
This is an example of a rather straightforward correction. The shape needed little adjustment, beyond softening the harsh corners, but there was a lot of existing pigment in the skin already, so the client opted for a powder brow to achieve better coverage.
This client originally had powder brows applied several years before microblading really hit the market. Because the color was relatively neutral, we were able to cover it easily, despite dense color saturation. Thanks to the help of a modernized machine, we were able to cover the original color with hairstrokes well enough to create a relatively consistent brow.
This is an incredibly important skill for any technician to possess, because it allows us to work with a variety of individuals with different needs and preferences, different skin types, and different circumstances from skin type to medical history and beyond. As explained above, technicians need to be trained to work in a variety of different skin types, and we need to have tools that can accommodate all clients and their unique traits. While adjustments can be made to manual tattooing techniques to facilitate variation in skin characteristics, machine tattooing provides a wide array of adjustments that can be made to accommodate any skin type from thick to thin, dry to oily, tough to delicate, and everything in between.
•Dry skin is the ideal skin type for microblading. When skin is dry, the skin cells are depleted of lipids, allowing them to easily absorb the lipid based pigments used in the tattooing process. Dry skin tends to be compatible with all forms of tattooing, but microblading is a little more particular and works best on dry skin. This is because microblading relies on using a technique called a "Soak". After the cuts are made in the skin, pigment is rubbed on top and left to soak in, in attempt to encourage better pigment retention. Dry skin's thirst for oils makes this soak sufficient to achieve sufficient pigment retention for desirable results.
•Oily skin is primarily compatible with machine tattooing. When the skin cells are already saturated with lipids they aren't particularly absorbent, making it difficult to apply color during a soak. Because machine tattooing implants pigment into microscopic pockets, the pigment can be implanted and sealed in when the skin forms a new protective barrier. When the microblading technique is used on oily skin, it is common for the color to lighten dramatically during the healing process. As the skin secretes oils, the pigments are trapped in the oils and pushed out of the cuts made in the skin. For those with oily skin, it can be very difficult to achieve desirable results with a manual tattooing technique. Some artists consider oily skin a contraindication for cosmetics tattooing, but artists who use a machine typically don't have complaints about oily skin.
Aging skin can be a bit tricky for any artist, but the challenges are especially daunting when using a manual technique. Aging skin has a tendency to become drier and thinner, which causes it to be very receptive to color, some might even say too absorbent. When working with aging skin the approach needs to be very delicate and modest, as it is very easy to implant too much color. Similarly, we must be very careful not to damage the skin too much. Even with very delicate machine settings, we must be very careful, but microblading is often too traumatic for aging skin and the risk of scarring is much higher. When using the cutting technique employed by microbladers, especially delicate skin can be prone to tear, leading to unwanted pain, bleeding, and potential scarring. Anyone with aging skin who is seeking permanent cosmetics should be advised to look for a technician trained in this skin type to ensure the best possible results.
At Tyler Permanent Cosmetics, it is our goal to provide you with the information necessary to make the right decision for your permanent cosmetics. Every person is unique, and it is important to customize the application and approach to each client as an individual. What works best for one person might not be right for another. What's important is that you have Permanent Makeup that you can be proud of.
If you have any further questions, or if you feel that something is missing, you can use the chatbox in the lower right corner of your screen to send us a message, or reach out to us on Facebook and we will be happy to assist!