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Building the Perfect Brow: Microblading with Jessica Zarif

By: Melissa Federico, LE and Beauty and Fashion Writer

It was my passion for eyebrows that led me to the esthetics program, and through the doors of Federico Beauty Institute. That was ten years ago, since then brow trends have shifted frequently and dramatically. However, one thing has stayed the same, the quest for that perfect brow. Instagram started that over-stylized arched brow trend, and Anastasia Beverly Hills has capitalized on it with a line of products catering to that look. Today’s look is all about the “filter-face that stays in place” and even with the right brow template and pencil, it still may not be enough. Many people have turned to permanent makeup as an alternative, and the instant gratification of microblading has turned it into one of the most in demand services.

Permanent makeup has been around since the 60s. Back then, it was an expensive procedure only done in medical offices and the result it offered was more a flat, drawn in look. The increased popularity of permanent makeup in recent years has led to updated techniques and affordability. This is more than just a fleeting trend like fluffy brows, or brushed up brows. But does that mean it’s for everyone? When something is so readily available and modeled perfectly on everyone, it can feel like it’s the answer to all your brow problems, forever. However, before you book that appointment, I’ve enlisted the help of a professional to demystify the process.

Image | Inked Perfection

Jessica Zarif is the owner of Inked Perfection in Lafayette, CA. She began doing permanent makeup in 2016, after realizing that she was burnt out from working in the legal field and out of touch with her creative side. She trained at Everlasting Brows @everlastingbrows in Roseville and has since continued her education for lip blushing and eyeliner with Shay Danielle @shaydanielle.pmu and removal services with Girlz Ink Studios @girlzinkstudio in Las Vegas.

Image | Inked Perfection

I’ve followed Jessica on Instagram for a while and ultimately chose to interview her about permanent brows because of her skill set and honesty with the process. Not only does she post amazing before and after images of her work, but she keeps it real by posting healed results and educating through her feeds. This is important because a majority of what we tend to see on the internet is not the healed result, and that can be misleading. Her vast online portfolio demonstrates her skill with various skin types and techniques.

Image | Inked Perfection

I’d love to know, why do you think people should get their brows done permanently?

Microblading and Microshading helps achieve a beautifully natural look without having to put in the extra effort every day. I myself have four young boys at home, and do not have time to put my brows on each morning. I can literally roll out of bed and go! Not to mention, I can swim, go to the gym and hug people without my brows smudging off on their cheek!

What should someone ask themselves before deciding to get this done?

The most important question a client can ask “is this something you want on your face every day?” “Can you wake up with this look and be happy?” The next equally important question would be, “do you feel confident in your artist?” If at any time you feel your artist is not listening to your requests, or their work does not look consistent in their portfolio, then maybe the artist is not a good fit for you. I always recommend following a few artists before deciding which one to go with.

It’s great advice to follow several different “artists” and becoming familiar with their portfolios. But even more difficult than deciding on who to do your brows may be what technique to go with. I see that there are SEVERAL different techniques available for permanent brows. Can you elaborate on this as people tend to create their own names and terms for them like ‘3D brows.’

While there are several terms used to define the style of eyebrow a client is requesting, I try to keep my explanation and titles very simple. Microblading is a manual method of permanent makeup on the skin mimicking hair strokes and can last 1-3 years. Microshading is pixelation of color meant to give a soft dusting of color on the skin. Microshading is especially wonderful when used with Microblading to blend areas of an eyebrow that have little to no natural hair, with an area of dense hair. The combination of the two is the most common request among my clients as it gives the most realistic results. Powder Brow technique is used to give a “made up” look, as if the client were wearing brow powder. Ombré is essentially the same as powder, except the color deposited is gradual- lighter in the head of the brow and darker in the tail.

What techniques do you suggest based on skin type and age, and how does this help you determine if a client wants microblading versus powder or ombre techniques?

First things first, their skin! If they have oily skin, they will not be a good candidate for Microblading. Next, what does the client want? If they wear heavy makeup daily, they can get away with a bolder brow. However, if they want to look natural and have the option of filling in with more makeup when needed, a softer technique would be best. Understanding skin types and contraindications is very important when choosing what technique is best for your client. Oily skin is typically not suitable for Microblading, as the extra oil makes the hair strokes heal very blurry and not crisp. Older, wrinkly skin would do best with a Powder Brow and Ombré.

From my research, I found out that there are different ways to achieve hair strokes: with a machine tool (machine strokes) and with a manual hand tool (microblading). While both styles appear natural, what method do you prefer?

I offer several different techniques based on the client’s skin type and desired results. I prefer to do hair strokes with a manual hand tool – microblade. The blade is made up of several tiny needles. For shading I prefer to use my machine. Needle selection is important in ensuring the technique fits the desire result as well. For Microblading, the needle width should match the width of the hair. For machine work, your needle grouping will depend on the desired amount of pigment as well as the shape of the client’s skin.

You explained to me that the color choice of ink is based off the client’s eyebrow color, not hair color! As someone who changes their hair color often, that’s good to know. But how do you make sure you get the perfect shape for your client? Is this based on their personal preference, current trends or on a specific measuring technique?

While I always take my clients requests into consideration, I do use a specific mapping technique to measure out the perfect set of brows for my clients. Brow mapping is an important step to ensure the final work is perfect! My goal is to make them natural and to enhance their facial features and structure. Arches tend to be created solely on the client’s preference.

Image | Inked Perfection

What is the healing process like?

The healing process varies from client to client depending on their skin type, weather and lifestyle. Good aftercare will ensure beautifully healed results. I instruct my clients to blot their brows every hour until bed on the first day after leaving my salon. On day two, for about 7-10 days, I ask my clients to gently cleanse their brows using a mild cleanser without harsh chemicals, alcohol or perfumes. Once clean, they are to apply a tiny amount of ointment to their brows. Oily skin clients are instructed to dry heal. They typically produce enough oil to keep their brows moisturized enough. Applying extra moisture would only blur their results. For the first 3-4 days, the brows will be darker and bolder as the pigment is oxidizing in the elements. The brows will soften approximately 30-50% from that bold stage. Some clients go through a phase in which it appears portions of their brows are disappearing. However, when the skin first heals over the pigment, it is not always translucent. After a day or two the skin becomes translucent again- revealing the beautiful pigment. While I advise my clients to continue their aftercare regimen for 7-10 days, everyone’s skin is different and they may heal faster or slower. I leave it to their discretion on when to stop aftercare.

How long do results lasts and is there any crazy upkeep that we should know about?

Results should last anywhere from 1-3 years depending on skin type, aftercare and lifestyle. Younger clients have rapid skin cell turn around, so their results won’t last as long as a matured skin client. Clients that use chemical peels often or maybe use Retinoids will not have long lasting results. Once healed, it is very important to apply sunscreen to the brows. The pigment can fade prematurely if not!

So, while it’s called permanent makeup, it’s not really permanent then? The name is a bit misleading! I guess given the superficial level its done within the skin compared to tattooing makes it more semi-permanent. How does the ink make a difference?

That is correct. We call it permanent makeup as there is no way of knowing just how long it will stay in the skin. The clients skin, healing and care after healing greatly determine how long the pigment can remain in the skin. If done properly, it truly is semi-permanent makeup because its placed in the epidermis where skin cells are constantly turning over.

Educating clients is obviously very important to you and with the demands of consumers people are taking short cuts to quickly pick up this technique. Can you offer any advice for current esthetic students interested in doing this service – what advice can you offer them?

I find that an educated client is a happier client! It is very important to choose a reputable school for your Microblading courses. Do your research! Ensure the company is certified and legal to practice, and that they are providing you with materials necessary to start your new career. It takes time to get going and making profit. Don’t give up and stay consistent! Always continue your education and stay on top of all your county’s laws and regulations. Every state and county have their own rules and it is very important you follow them.

Image | Inked Perfection

Some people are born with great eyebrows, others achieve great eyebrows and some have great eyebrows drawn upon them. If you fall into last category, permanent makeup may be a solution to consider.

If you’re interested in getting more information about permanent brows or training with Jessica Zarif, you can follow her on Instagram @inkedperfection_ca.