How to Decide Between Brow Lamination Versus Microblading
Depending on what you're working with, they can give you your best brows yet.
Looking for a low-maintenance way to get fuller-looking brows — a.k.a. no gel or brow product needed? There are now multiple ways to make that happen, all with minimal effort. But if you're trying to decide between brow lamination versus microblading, it can be hard to discern the key differences between the two.
While both treatments have the same end goal of denser, thicker brows, they involve complete different procedures — which is why it's key to understand the nuances between them. After all, brows have the power to define and shape the face, so a bad brow job is best avoided. With that in mind, we asked experts to share everything you need to know about brow lamination and microblading.
Related: Your Ultimate Guide to Soap Eyebrows
What Is Brow Lamination?
Brow lamination is a chemical treatment that straightens brow hairs; the goal is to get hair to lie very flat and straight by removing any curls, kinks, or other texture that your natural brow may have. "With lamination, a perming solution that contains, in most cases, an active ingredient called ammonium thioglycolate, which is applied to the brow hairs to temporarily relax and straighten them," says celebrity brow artist and eponymous brand founder Joey Healy. "Next, a neutralizing solution is applied to fix the brow hairs into an upright position, making them appear fuller and darker."
As a result, brow lamination can deliver fuller-looking brows that can visually open up the eye area. It's also low maintenance once your brows are shaped, and tends to be relatively more affordable than microblading. (Healy says that you can expect to spend anywhere between $100 and $200, although exact costs will depend on who you see and where you live.)
How Brow Lamination Works
Lamination is a two-step application process: A solution is first applied to break down hair bonds, followed by a neutralizing agent to keep them straight and flat. This treatment should not hurt — and if you feel any burning or pain, you may have sensitivity to the chemicals used. To avoid this, Healy recommends asking your brow artist to do a patch test before moving forward with the treatment.
Related: The 6 Eyebrow Trends You’ll See Everywhere in 2023
Side Effects of Brow Lamination
For starters, the chemicals used in brow lamination could results in allergic reactions or, in severe cases, infection, says Healy. It can also be very damaging to your hair if you get it too often. "It's very drying — and causes brows to have that chemical-treated feeling," he says. So you may only want to spring for this once in a while to avoid stripping your brows and making them brittle.
Another downside is that you can't undo it. In other words: If you don't like how one-dimensional brow lamination can look, "you’re going to have to just wait until it softens up on its own," Healy says. Brow lamination can last for a month, but it can sometimes be longer or shorter depending on the person.
What Is Microblading?
Microblading is, at its core, a semi-permanent tattoo. Using a tiny blade filled with pigment, an artist makes small cuts in sparse areas in the brow area. These ultimately "imitate the length, color, thickness, and shape of the actual hairs," says Kristyn Smith, Practise founder and celebrity esthetician. "Special pigments in the color of the natural hairs are then deposited into the skin."
This treatment has many benefits, Smith says: Because it's semi-permanent, it is waterproof and therefore won't run or smudge. It's also customizable to suit your face shape and your needs. You'll only need a yearly touch-up, so it's perfect for anyone looking for low maintenance.
That said, those perks come at a cost. You can expect to pay anywhere from $500 to over $1000, depending on who you see and your location. (FYI: Since it's a more invasive procedure, too, this requires more vetting — ask for referrals and before-and-afters to make sure you get the results you want.)
Related: Everything You Need to Know About Microblading Your Eyebrows
How Microblading Works
"Microblading is essentially a tattoo," says Smith. "It creates a full look where there isn't any, or a perfect shape if brows are lacking in hair growth." A trained technician will use a special blade filled with pigment to create tiny cuts in stroke-like motions to fake the appearance of new hair.
Because it's similar to getting a tattoo, the treatment can be painful, especially if your pain tolerance is low. It will take about three to four weeks for skin to completely heal, too, says Healy, so expect some downtime.
Side Effects Of Microblading
The most common downside of microblading is the awkward fading that can occur, which can give the hairs a reddish or blue tint. Those with oily skin don't hold pigment as long as other skin types, so they may experience fading sooner.
The good news? You can go six to eight months before needing a touch-up, Healy says. Going in earlier or on a more constant basis may end up making your brows look too muddy.
How To Choose Between Them
This is all dependent on your needs. Brow lamination would be a great option for someone who already has ample brow growth but looking for more shape and definition, Smith says. And, if you have unruly hair that won't hold with brow gel or just looking to get that soap-brow effect, brow lamination is definitely the route you should go — keeping in mind that "you should have thick, strong brow hairs if you’re going to do lamination, because the process can potentially strip the hair and be damaging," Healy says.
Microblading, on the other hand, is ideal for anyone who has thin brows and looking to fake the appearance of full brows. So if you're looking for the appearance of full, bushy brow, this might be the treatment for you.
Related: How to Shape Your Eyebrows, According to Experts
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