A Michigan woman ended up in the hospital for three days after getting her eyebrows microbladed — a hugely popular cosmetic procedure that fills in brows and makes them look fuller.
As reported by WDIV-TV Local 4, the woman, identified only as "Jennifer," was initially happy with her results.
In microblading, a practitioner uses tiny needles to make shallow cuts in and around the eyebrow, which are filled in with ink. It's similar to a tattoo, but it's only semi-permanent. That means it will fade over time, sometimes lasting up to three years, although the results can vary.
The dye placement is meant to mimic individual hairs, so it can make overplucked eyebrows look full and defined. It only takes a quick Google search to find a salon or spa offering the service. But microblading is largely unregulated and carries risks, as Jennifer found out.
It started with redness, but that turned into lumps, swelling, and pain.
Eventually, she went to the emergency room and ended up being given IV antibiotics and steroids, and needed a three-day hospital stay.
Dr. Anthony Rossi, a cosmetic dermatologic surgeon at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, told BuzzFeed News that infection is the biggest risk with microblading. Anytime you cut the skin it increases the risk of an infection, and because it's so close to the eye, it could be dangerous if not treated promptly.
Rossi said if the affected area feels warmer than normal, and you have symptoms like pain, fever, and swelling, it means you should seek medical attention.
"We’re really trying to put advocacy out there to say a lot of these procedures being offered in nail salons or spas involve traumatizing the skin, which can lead to serious complications," he said.
"They’re not regulated and that’s a serious issue because they’re not held to the same health standard."
He said that if you're interesting in microblading, you should look for a professional-grade salon or reputable tattoo shop. It's always a good idea to ask what steps they are taking to reduce the risk of infection.
"You should be really careful going to any of these random places," he said.
Shauna Magrath has been doing microblading for eight years and couldn't agree more. She runs Beauty Ink in Vancouver, a boutique that specializes in permanent makeup. She only uses pre-sterilized tools that are designed for one-time use and then discarded. Everything in the salon's microblading treatment area is covered in one-time use sheeting, she said, and clients are asked to sanitize their hands and remove their shoes.
Magrath is accredited by the Society of Permanent Cosmetic Professionals (SPCP), a group that has standards for handwashing and glove use, as well as more information about microblading. Any salon performing microblading should have stringent contamination protocols in place, she said.
"Because microblading is not regulated, anyone can do this and nobody’s going to care and that’s the sad reality of the situation," Magrath told BuzzFeed News.
The problem is a rise in subpar microblading technicians who have had only a few days of training or who have watched a YouTube tutorial and are using tools bought online that are not used in a sanitary way, said Magrath. The SPCP sets a minimum number of hours of classes, as well as bloodborne pathogen training, for anyone who is accredited by the organization.
"It’s not just the fact that it's a contamination issue, it's that they’re damaging lives," said Magrath.
Magrath said customers need to find technicians who understand contamination control, and that means asking questions about their tools and protocols.
But even with a good technician, proper aftercare is important too. In general, you should follow the aftercare instructions that are provided, which may include avoiding using makeup or getting brows wet for up to 10 days.
"No matter how amazing the microblader could be, when the person leaves the facility they have an open wound on their face," she said.
"If the person touches their steering wheel, touches their purse, then wipes their eyebrows, they’re going to give themselves an infection."