In the past couple of years, the PMU community has been increasingly vocal about some aspects of the industry which weren’t discussed sufficiently in the past. One of the issues that emerged as potentially threatening for the industry is the adverse effects of microblading.
Primarily, scarring caused by microblading.
There are conflicting opinions on this question. Some artists are adamant that microblading does more damage than good and that microblading scars are inevitable. Others claim that scarring only happens in extreme cases where the technique is improper.
Let’s try and give a comprehensive overview of different theories on why microblading scars form, what to do if they emerge and whether it’s possible to prevent them.
Does Microblading Leave Scars?
When microblading started to gain popularity, about 10 years ago, it was considered totally non-invasive, semi-permanent and completely risk-free. However, now that enough time has passed to allow us to observe the long-term effects of microblading from a temporal distance, years have shown that yes, microblading can leave scars.
It’s not uncommon for artists to have clients coming in seeking cover up of old, faded microblading pigment, when actually the reddish shade turns out to be scar tissue. In more extreme cases, they may encounter clients whose brows were previously so overworked that the skin has become tough and textured.
These are the consequences of the explosion in the popularity of microblading. Prompted by the lack of regulation in the industry, the surge of under-experienced artists performing the treatment on all clients, regardless of whether they’re good candidates or not, has resulted in permanent damage to people’s faces.
It’s important to make the fact that microblading does leave scars in some cases common knowledge and make this information available to clients who deserve to know everything about the treatment before they decide to get it done.
Image source: Instagram @eliselouisemelbourne
What Causes Microblading Scars to Emerge?
To answer this question, let’s go back to the basics of microblading.
Microblading is done by creating incisions on the skin with a manual blade (actually a cluster of individual needles spaced close together) and filling them with pigment. Although artists like to dance around the term, it’s essentially slicing the skin open and creating an injury.
The opening on the skin has to be closed up through skin regeneration, i.e. the body has to produce new cells to patch up the cut.
Pigments need to be deposited in the papillary dermis, so the depth of the incision has to be extremely precise and only reach as far as that. Over time, the pigments fade, and the strokes have to be renewed.
There are several factors that can cause microblading scars here:
Excessive Damage When Making Incisions
Making hair strokes with a microblading blade is a slippery slope.
You need to make an injury on the skin, but you have to make sure it’s not perceived as significant by the body. If the body recognizes it as anything along the lines of severe, it will trigger an overproduction of collagen and its buildup in the extracellular matrix – an intricate web of proteins that gives structure to the skin.
Once the collagen builds up, fibrous tissue emerges and it stays for good. It can have different properties – it can be concave raised, whitish, grayish, pinkish. It can be more or less visible. Microblading scars may contain pigment residues.
If the microblading blade goes too deep into the skin, there’s a very high chance the body will respond by creating microblading scars. A good indicator of proper depth is pinpoint bleeding. Anything more than that can signal going too deep.
Image source: Instagram @phibrows_by_ana
The 1st Touch Up Was Done Too Soon
Microblading is a 2-session treatment. After the first round of microblading, you have to wait several weeks for the incisions to heal, and then come back in to make some corrections or darken the brows back up a bit.
The touch up should never be done sooner than 6 weeks after the 1st session, and sometimes it’s better to do it at 8 weeks if the client’s skin needs more time (like with more mature clients).
If new incisions are made over skin that hasn’t healed completely from the initial session, the additional trauma will trigger a strong response from the body which can lead to microblading scars.
Too Many Touch Ups
The first time you get microblading, you may not get visible scarring. Your artists did everything right and your brows healed fine.
But about a year later, you go back to have your strokes refreshed. The artist creates a new incision on the exact spot where the skin was opened the last time. This repeated trauma is a signal to the body to start forming microblading scars.
You may get away with 2-3 annual touch ups without issues, but if you keep repeating microblading for years and years, at some point fibrous tissue can build up and visible microblading scars can appear.
They may contain pigment residues that don’t look like strokes anymore, but rather amorphic smudges.
At that point, you’ll probably be advised to switch to machine shading.
Find out more about microblading touch ups in this guide.
Something Went Wrong During Aftercare
After a microblading treatment, the skin immediately starts the recovery process. While your brows are healing, you need to pay some special attention to them to make sure they heal properly and that the recovery process isn’t disturbed.
For a few days after the treatment, the incisions are open wounds that are susceptible to contamination and subsequent infection. An infection means bacteria develop in the area which can cause further damage to the skin in and around the incision. As a result, scars can form.
As the wounds close up, scabs form over them which will protect the tissue underneath and allow it to recover. As the incisions are patched up, the scabs start flaking off. The scabbing stage is the most annoying part of the healing process, and your brows may feel itchy.
You may be tempted to rip off the scabs or flakes. If the tissue underneath hasn’t recovered yet, scarring may form as a result of further trauma.
Find out more about microblading aftercare in this guide.
Image source: Instagram @nataliya_yeremenko_academy
Are Microblading Scars Inevitable?
This is an ongoing debate in the industry.
Some artists claim that, with proper technique, microblading scars can be prevented.
Others argue that, even if the technique is flawless, repeated microblading will eventually result in scarring.
Can You Do Microblading Over Scars?
This is another debatable question.
One thing that everyone agrees on is that you cannot do any form of PMU over keloid scars – raised pink scars with a smooth surface – because further trauma will just cause more keloid scarring.
Other forms of scarring should be safe to work over as long as they’re at least a year old, but microblading is not a good option.
First, scar tissue doesn’t retain pigments well, if at all, so it can be very hard getting the color to stick. Then, even if some color does get retained, it’s not possible to create crisp hair strokes – they will spread and blur.
Shading, either manual or machine, is more suitable for working over scars.
This is why clients who come in with microblading scars are pointed in the direction of powder brows.
Image source: Instagram @seduireacademy
Microneedling as a Potential Solution to Microblading Scars
Ideally, artists should do everything in their power to prevent microblading scars from forming, meaning make sure their depth is proper and assess when the skin is on the verge of being overworked.
But if a client ends up with microblading scars, a possible solution is microneedling. Microneedling is a technique of creating controlled micro-injuries in order to relax scar tissue over time. This is definitely an idea worth considering, but further research is needed into microneedling as a solution to microblading scars.
Cover image source: Freepik