Beauty ingenue Marie Kelly steps firmly out of her comfort zone to have her eyebrows permanently tattooed.
I’m no beauty guru.
By that I mean the treatments I’ve had over the years have been minimal. Outside of pedicures and manicures (never Shellac), I’d be hard pushed to think of any occasion I’ve been to a beauty salon, other than to have my eyebrows shaped (no facials, fillers, tweakments or touch-ups).
I don’t think I’ve ever been sold anything from a beauty counter either, other than a concealer; I have dark under-eyes, so I’m always susceptible to a shiny new concealer that promises to transform my tired, ageing eyes into bright and beautiful boulders (Charlotte Tilbury’s Magic Away concealer was the first that actually did).
I don’t know whether this lack of experience makes me a more or less credible advocate of Eyebrow Recovery, the Harold’s Cross salon in which I had my eyebrows tattooed. I went on the recommendation of a friend who has the most beautiful, exquisitely shaped brows I’ve ever seen. Mine were always fair and sparse, and I failed miserably over the years to develop that knack other women have of pencilling them in perfectly. Rather than framing my face, they looked like something from a piece of abstract art.
The procedure involved an initial two-hour treatment followed by a 90-minute top-up six weeks later with Aniela, a vibrant Scot, who, it turned out, lived only five minutes from my home. She began showing me before and after pictures of other clients, including my friend so that I had some perspective on the degree of transformation I could expect. Then she drew on the proposed shape of my brows to check that I was happy with it. I was thrilled. Earlier in the year, I had had my brows tinted at a well-known beauty salon in the city centre, and the result had been akin to two fat slugs slumped on my forehead. They were so ugly, I went straight home and scrubbed my face. With very little eyebrow hair, the dye came off easily, thank goodness.
There are three methods of applying semi-permanent make-up or cosmetic tattooing: a fill-in for clients who have hair, individual hairline strokes for women who have lost their eyebrows completely, and micro-pigmentation for those with sparse brows like mine. Aniela will advise on what’s appropriate. Happy with the shape of my soon-to-be brows and the samples Aniela had showed me of her handiwork, I lay back and enjoyed the acoustic soundtrack playing in the background while Aniela got to work.
She used a topical anaesthetic to numb my forehead, so I felt absolutely nothing throughout the procedure. In fact, I was so relaxed, I dozed off. At the end of it, while still lying down, Aniela handed me a mirror and I saw the finished product – elegant, feline brows, which looked as if they’d been artfully drawn on with a calligraphy pen rather than painstakingly punctured by a tiny needle.
Aniela warned me that my brows would appear darker initially, but would fade within the first couple of weeks after my initial treatment, which they did. I was given a small pot of protective cream to be smoothed over my brows morning and night until my top-up appointment and told not to get my brows wet. I skipped out of the small, first-floor salon feeling fabulous. I loved my new brows. This felt better than shopping, and I say that as a fashion journalist.
The best compliment I received on my brows was none at all. Nobody noticed them until I revealed I’d had them done, after which I received genuine exclamations of how beautiful and amazing they looked. My fear had been that they’d be the only thing anyone would notice about my face for months afterwards. The top-up appointment last month added more depth to the colour of my brows. Natural pigments are used rather than traditional tattoo ink, so the brow colour will fade over time, but at different rates depending on each woman’s natural exfoliation process. Top-ups are recommended roughly every 12-18 months.
My sister had a similar treatment in Sydney a couple of years ago, which was a disaster (the pigment faded completely within weeks), and after seeing my brows, she is now booked in with Aniela.
Now, when I wake in the morning, my make-up-free face looks much less harsh than it did pre-Eyebrow Recovery. Those dark circles look less hollow, and my morning make-up routine now lasts less than five minutes because I’m no longer trying to create an artist’s impression of an eyebrow each day. All I can say is that I love my new brows as much as I love my Victoria Beckham LBD.
There’s no higher praise in my book.
This article originally appeared in the October 2019 issue of IMAGE Magazine.