How to Recognize & Handle a Microblading Allergic Reaction

By Emily M.| Last updated on May 8, 2024
microblading allergic reaction
⏱️ 6 min read

Like any beauty procedure, microblading involves different tools and liquids coming in contact with the skin: numbing agents, permanent makeup pigments, the blades themselves, and various aftercare products. Any of these has the potential to trigger an allergic reaction.

A person can be allergic or sensitive to different substances present in microblading supplies. These range from pigment components to the metal of the blades. So how can you predict, avoid, and manage a microblading allergic reaction?

It mostly comes down to prevention. Here’s all you need to know.

Is It Possible to Have an Allergy to Microblading?

While it isn’t possible to have an allergic reaction to a procedure itself, it certainly is possible to be allergic to one or more of its components. A microblading allergic reaction can be provoked by one or more of the following:

Who Is at Risk of a Microblading Allergic Reaction?

Anyone could theoretically have an allergic reaction to microblading. That said, most people don’t.

There are two ways to predict the possibility of an allergic reaction to microblading: allergy history and patch testing.

Ask your client about their medical history and any confirmed allergies, as well as any intolerances and sensitivities. Do this at the consultation.

If they have previously had allergic reactions to things like hair dye, tattoo ink, anesthetics, jewelry, etc. they might be more prone to a microblading allergic reaction.

Ask about allergies to nickel, silver, gold, tattoo inks, and esters (e.g. tetracaine, benzocaine).

People allergic to metals are more likely to react to the microblading pigments or to the blades themselves. In particular, nickel allergy can be triggered by exposure to iron oxide and titanium oxide, which is found in some pigments.

People allergic to tattoo ink are likely sensitive to Paraphenylenediamine (PPD). It’s a common component of hair dyes, tattoo and makeup pigments, and some types of henna.

This is why brow tinting can cause allergic reactions, and so can henna brows.

Tetracaine and benzocaine are numbing agents frequently used in tattoo numbing creams. They belong to a group of chemical compounds known as esters, which are actually common allergens.

Keep in mind that someone might have an allergic reaction to microblading numbing creams even if they didn’t react to other anesthetics before.

Have your clients fill out and sign a recent medical history form. That way you won’t be liable in the case that they fail to mention a previous sensitivity, or discover a new allergy during their microblading experience.

After you establish the client’s recent allergy history and have them sign consent forms, do a patch test. Do at least 48 hours prior to their appointment, though 72 hours would be ideal.

What Are Common Microblading Allergy Symptoms?

An allergic reaction to microblading manifests similarly to many other dermal allergies. Common symptoms of a microblading allergic reaction include:

  • Redness
  • Swelling of the brow and eye area
  • Irritation
  • Itchiness
  • Rash
  • Blistering
  • Stinging
  • Burning

These symptoms correspond to the signs of normal microblading healing. If symptoms are severe or persistent, then they’re a sign of something going wrong – allergies or a microblading infection.

The spread and severity of symptoms varies widely between individuals. It depends on a few factors, including:

  • Their general sensitivity
  • The sensitivity of their skin
  • Their overall immune system
  • Their current health condition
  • The amount of allergen they were exposed to
  • How long they were exposed to the allergen

Keep in mind that a microblading allergic reaction might not manifest immediately. While many allergies show symptoms as soon as 20 or so minutes after being exposed to the allergen, some take longer.

Your client might experience symptoms of a microblading allergic reaction several hours post-treatment, or even a few days after their appointment.

Additionally, it’s also possible for microblading allergies to manifest themselves months or years later, if the body becomes overly sensitive to the pigment, or if there’s a trigger, like laser removal.1

What Are Common Microblading Allergy Symptoms
Image source: Freepik

How Can You Prevent an Allergic Reaction to Microblading?

When it comes to a microblading allergic reaction, prevention really is the best medicine. There are two aspects to it: testing and alternatives. Let’s discuss each.

Patch Testing

First, patch test everything that you would use in the procedure 48-72 hours prior to the appointment.

We advise you to always do a patch test, even though we know that a patch test might not be mandatory in your judicial area. Check the microblading regulations in your state to make sure.

The patch test should be performed like a mini-microblading session. Here’s what to do:

  1. Pick a hidden spot on your client’s body. Behind the ear is ideal.
  2. Use the same numbing cream that you intend to use for the actual appointment.
  3. Ideally, use the same type of blade that you intend to use for the actual appointment. Alternatively, you can use a lancet.
  4. Make a few small incisions. Patch tests like this which break the surface of the skin are often called “scratch tests”.
  5. Apply a small amount of the pigments you intend to use in one spot. Likewise apply aftercare products in another spot nearby.
  6. If you use a secondary numbing product, like an anesthetic gel, test that too.
  7. Send your client home with care instructions and have them monitor the patch test area over the next 48-72 hours. Have them update you on any changes right away.

It’s important to test all products intradermally. Just applying them topically isn’t enough, because the body reacts more intensely to agents that enter the bloodstream. Topical patch tests won’t give you a clear picture of the potential risks.

Alternative Supplies

Second, depending on the results of your patch test, have a few alternative products lined up.

For example, if your client is sensitive to any esters at all, use an anesthetic with an amine agent instead (e.g. lidocaine numbing cream). If it turns out that your client is allergic to latex, switch to nitrile gloves instead.

If they react to metals, prepare pigments without iron oxide or titanium oxide. Have surgical stainless steel blades in case of microblading nickel allergy.

Have an array of aftercare products available. Many healing ointments contain potential allergens, such as:

  • Coconut
  • Olive
  • Avocado
  • Honey
  • Propolis
  • Beeswax
  • Shea butter
  • Cocoa butter
  • Panthenol

Coconut oil allergy is fairly common, so you should have an equally nourishing alternative on hand. Allergies to panthenol are rare, but they do happen.

If you do need to choose an alternative product, remember that you have to patch test that as well. Keep testing until you find something that your client doesn’t react to.

In the worst case scenario, if your client reacts severely to any patch test, you may need to cancel their microblading appointment altogether.

Hypoallergenic Numbing & Aftercare Recommendations

According to many sources, Zensa products are supposed to be hypoallergenic. So they’re a good starting point, but patch test them anyway!

How Do You Treat a Microblading Allergy?

If you took all reasonable precautions and an allergic reaction to microblading still occurs, there are only two things you can do.

First, soothe their anxiety and do your best to identify what they reacted to.

Second, send them to their doctor.

Help your client calm down if they’re agitated and assure them that they’ll be alright.

Ask your client to describe their microblading allergy symptoms: what they’re feeling, what changes have appeared, how far they have spread, etc. Ask them to send you close-up photos so you can assess the situation.

Establish when the microblading allergic reaction started. That should give you an idea of which product triggered it.

As soon as you have a reasonable suspect, tell your client. They should forward it to their doctor to get suitable treatment. Include a photo of the packaging of the suspect allergen, including its ingredients list.

If you are not a medical professional, don’t recommend any course of treatment at all. Otherwise you might be liable for practicing medicine without a license.

Leave the diagnosis and treatment to your client’s doctor. Different allergic reactions require different treatment.

Final Note

While most microblading allergies are mild, severe cases can happen. And if complications such as thick scabbing occur, they might affect pigment retention.

This is something that artists have to be aware of, and carefully consider what the best course of action is for the touch up appointment – whether to do it with different products, or to skip it altogether.

Cover image source: Freepik

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