I’ve always been proud of my eyebrows; after careful preening in my 20s they were not too over plucked and had always maintained a nice shape.
Towards the end of my chemo, when I had lost all my hair, my strong brows remained and I was thrilled. And then overnight they, along with my eyelashes, just disappeared.
This upset me more than me losing my head of hair if I’m honest. I was really proud of my brows as they framed my face well and were fairly symmetrical. And my eyelashes – well, people thought my real eyelashes were fake they were that long.
So when they did disappear and I started to look like an alien (or an egg according to my daughter), it really hit home how far I’d come on my journey – and what chemo was doing to my body.
Hair today, gone tomorrow
I lived for quite a while without my hair on my body (and yes, it does disappear from EVERYWHERE in case you were wondering), which wasn’t too bad as it was summer and autumn when I lost all of mine, so not totally freezing.
But we had a bit of a crap summer and I spent most of it shivering under blankets and wearing layers upon layers just to keep warm. It’s now March and I’m still wearing my hat when I’m out as I still feel the cold with my fluffy hair that’s making a slow, but steady, comeback.
But coming back it is, and I’m starting to look more ‘normal’ – goodbye alien and goodbye egg. I was proud that I wore my egg hair – or rather lack of it – with pride. Cancer didn’t define me then and it doesn’t now.
No one treated me any differently, not that I could tell. Yes, I’d get the odd sympathetic look from an elderly person, stares from kids wondering why I was bald and a knowing smile from the occasional women, presumably because breast cancer had affected them too – either directly or indirectly.
But when my brows and eyelashes eventually started coming back, they were not the same. It was almost as if they had a mind of their own. My hair had come back first of all ash grey and very fluffy, and then proceeded to thicken up (much to my delight), and started to darken underneath (agaMy eyelashes, although still dark, seem to have grown about a centimeter and have stopped growing. And my brows came through not as dark and with loads of bald patches throughout them.
Every morning I would fill in the bald patches with my trusty Benefit Brow Zings, which is great of course, but it would take me a long time to get the look just right – and make sure that one eyebrow wasn’t higher than the other. That’s all very well, but I was beginning to wonder why some hair had grown back and others hadn’t.
The brow revelation
And then, at one of my regular cancer support groups, I noticed my friend Louise’s eyebrows – they looked amazing.
“Oh wow, your eyebrows have come back thick and fast – they look brilliant!”
“Aha!” she told me, “That’s because they’re not all mine.”
I looked a little closer at her. Her eyebrows looked real. I could even see the tiny hairs all perfectly groomed. She must have sensed my bewilderment. “It’s called microblading, Lauretta. It’s great – it has given me eyebrows to be proud of.”
I’d heard of microblading, but admittedly, not being someone who pays much attention to the beauty industry, I didn’t bother to see what it entailed. So she explained it to me – and she also explained that because I was a cancer patient, there was a local beautician who was offering cancer patients the procedure for free to give something back to the community – and make women like me feel more confident about facing the world again and making them feel more ‘normal’.
What a fantastic idea – so I went away and did some more research and here’s what I found (according to Wikipedia):
Microblading adds semi-permanent pigment to the skin and is a form of tattooing. But because it deposits pigment into the upper region of the dermis, it fades more rapidly than traditional tattooing. The technician uses a small tool made up of several small needles that are used to slice across the skin, giving the individual hair look.
No wonder Louise’s eyebrows looked completely natural – hair-like strokes was the work of an artist! Well, kind of an artist. So I decided to take the plunge and contact Naomi at Harle Skin and Aesthetics who was offering the treatment (and has since moved on to offer nipple and areola tattooing for women who have undergone mastectomies) – how nice is she?!
The first meeting with Naomi involved a consultation. She examined my brows (making sure I didn’t have any moles or lumps underneath them that could affect the procedure) and then, after a brief chat, and lots of form filling, she sent me away with a form to give to my doctor to get their consent for the treatment to go ahead (and to effectively say that it will not affect any other treatment or medication that I’m on). Forms completed and it was time to book back in with Naomi for the procedure.
The brows are back!
I got chatting in a bit more depth to Naomi on my procedure day, asking why she was offering help and how she got into microblading in the first instance.
When she told me that since she was 13 she’d always had a fascination with brows, I knew I was in safe hands. I mean, even looking at her I knew I was in safe hands. Her own are lovely, symmetrical and not in the least ‘OTT’.
In fact, that was one of my worries about having the microblading; I didn’t want to look like some 18 year old with two huge caterpillars on my face – it looks so unnatural and so far removed from what I’d ever do.
Apparently Naomi learned how to do threading while she was at school and used her newfound skills to offer it to her friends in the playground – how entrepreneurial?!
She then decided that she’d like to train as a professional and, a few years after securing her qualifications, opened her own treatment room in a hair salon.
About half an hour before I arrived to see Naomi I put numbing cream onto my brows (it takes about 15 minutes to kick in) and would speed up the procedure a little, which overall took about an hour, so from start to finish I was in and out within a couple of hours.
Naomi started by choosing two colours and dotting them on my face for me to choose which I liked best against my skin. I opted for the lighter of the shades given that since chemo had finished my hair had started to come back ‘salt and pepper’ (dark but with speckles of grey).
She then dipped thread in ink and used the thread to make lines on my face – a bit like when an artist first starts lightly sketching the outline of a drawing or painting. She explained the reason for this was to make sure that she knew the exact shape of the brows and to make sure they were symmetrical. The fact that she took her time over this reassured me that she was a perfectionist and, as they say, planning is the key to success!
Next up came the colouring in – Naomi coloured in my eyebrows and when I looked in the mirror I was a little taken aback.
“Er…my eyebrows won’t look like this when they’re finished, will they?” I asked nervously.
Naomi let out a reassuring chuckle. “Not at all, don’t look at the colour and don’t look at the shape in the middle”, she instructed, “Just focus on the overall shape and where they start and end, plus their symmetry.”
Apart from the colour and the squared off corners in between my brows, the symmetry, shape and length were all spot on.
And so it began. Naomi used a pen-like instrument to make what I can only refer to as tiny scratches on my brows. It didn’t hurt but it felt like when a little kitten scratches you – you feel it but it doesn’t hurt. When she came to work on the second brow I felt it a bit more (perhaps the numbing cream had worn off slightly!) but got used to the sensation. Naomi also applied more numbing cream.
After the first ‘round’ of filling in the brows, Naomi removed the pencil that she’d initially drawn on my face and went over both of my eyebrows again to define them. When she’d finished it was time to see the end result and learn about the aftercare.
The ‘before’ and ‘after’
I was a bit nervous about looking in the mirror when it was time, not knowing what to expect, but Naomi had done an amazing job as you can see by the pictures. The tiny strokes that she performed made it look like my eyebrows had come back and it felt a bit surreal looking in the mirror and seeing that I had decent eyebrows again!
With the aftercare, it’s quite intensive but worth persevering with. Twice a day I’d have to get a cotton wool pad, dip it into cooled boiled water and squeeze it until there’s no water in it and then drag over each eyebrow. This allows the scarring from the microblading to be cleansed and for the eyebrow to ‘reheal’. I’d also have to apply a balm to them twice a day so that they don’t dry out.
At the time of writing this post, it’s now two weeks after the procedure and I’m delighted with my new brows. I was a little apprehensive in the first week because I noticed that my eyebrows had darkened, but Naomi had warned me that this would happen (due to the scarring) and then they’d lighten up again, which was reassuring. I also noticed that they darkened even more after applying the balm to them in the morning and at night.
In the first week when I was doing the aftercare, I noticed that when I wiped the cotton pad over my eyes, both the colour and some ‘bits’ (presumably where the skin had scarred and was healing) were coming off. Again, this is all normal – and it’s important to do this so that they don’t become clogged up and are allowed time to heal.
Around 4-8 weeks later, I’m due to go back to see Naomi for a quick check-up and top-up, but the results of microblading can last up to around 18 months which is great. Hopefully by then, my own natural hairs will have decided to reappear with a vengeance – and if not, I’ll definitely make the decision to get microblading done again.
What are your experiences of microblading – or would you consider having it done? Has this post been helpful in explaining the procedure? I’d love to know your thoughts!
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