MICROBLADING VS. EYEBROW TRANSPLANT: WHICH IS RIGHT FOR YOU?
As one of the most expressive features of the human face, eyebrow shaping has always remained a focal aspect to enhance one’s aesthetic. The way well-shaped eyebrows define facial shape highlights their importance in social interaction. Studies have shown that eyebrows are also an important sign of attractiveness.
While preferences for eyebrow shapes have changed over the decades, fuller eyebrows are currently revered for their natural, youthful, and more confident appearance. Microblading and eyebrow transplants have gained popularity as more permanent cosmetic options for those looking to add volume to their brows. Both of these techniques can substantially enhance the contours of the face without the need for makeup and increase eyebrow longevity. Yet neither is without drawbacks.
This article aims to compare microblading vs. eyebrow transplant, discussing the pros and cons of each as cosmetic procedures. Their overall effectiveness, the costs involved, their maintenance, and for whom each technique is best suited are all discussed below.
Microblading: What it is and How it Works
Microblading is a micro pigmentation technique that can increase the fullness of the eyebrows. It usually enhances the appearance of pre-existing eyebrows and is not generally appropriate for cosmetic reconstruction. Microblading is a form of medical tattooing. However, the techniques and equipment used are entirely different. The results are semi-permanent, lasting for 1-3 years on average, and sometimes require touch-ups to perfect.
The Procedure. An aesthetician performs a microblading procedure using a specialized tool called a microblading pen. The recipient’s eyebrows are first disinfected and wiped down with local anesthetic to block pain. The pen is used to make small hair-like incisions in the desired eyebrow shape, which are then filled with pigment to resemble fuller eyebrows. The size of the strokes can be moderated through needles of varying sizes. The recipient may need to return for touch-ups after 2-3 weeks as the pigment can fade.
Microblading Pigments. Most microblading pigments used are semi-permanent and tend to fade when exposed to UV radiation present in natural light. This is the main reason why touch-ups are often required for microblading. There are two main types used: iron oxide-based pigment and synthetic pigment. The majority of aestheticians will adopt a synthetic pigment as it fades to black when exposed to natural light. However, it can also lose its colour completely and start turning grey. Iron oxide-based pigments fade to a red-brown color, which may be preferable. Composite pigments are also available to match the hair and skin tone of the recipient. These are likely to fade in a similar fashion to iron oxide or synthetic pigments.
Benefits. As microblading is usually performed on those with thinner eyebrows who still have their eyebrow hair, it often gives a more natural look than if the same person opted for an eyebrow transplant. As a procedure, it is appreciated for its immediate results and minimal invasiveness. Another possible advantage would be that the effects do not last as long as an eyebrow transplant, so if the recipient does not like the effect, it will wear off in time.
Recovery. The recovery process can take up to 6 weeks and may be extended by an extra 2-3 weeks if touch-ups are required. For the first two days, the recipient ought to avoid heavy exertion, touching the face, using makeup or skin creams, or wetting the face with water. It is usual for the incisions to scab and itch. After the first two days, the face can be washed without soap or face wash. Swimming or sauna ought to be avoided until after the second week, and waxing or eyebrow threading needs to be postponed until the brows have fully recovered (usually after 6 weeks).
Eyebrow Transplant and How it Compares
An eyebrow transplant is a great cosmetic option for those with little to no existing eyebrow hair. It involves transplanting a skin graft into the brow that contains healthy viable hair follicles. The graft is usually taken from the scalp behind the ear and shaped according to the recipient’s wishes, allowing for full customization of the new eyebrow. After the recipient has recovered, the graft grows new hair in the shape of fuller eyebrows.
The Procedure. During an eyebrow transplant procedure, a cosmetic surgeon will administer an anesthetic that will put the recipient to sleep. Before making any incisions, the ideal brow line is marked on the recipient’s head, and hair is shaved from the area where the skin is to be transplanted. The surgeon removes a piece of skin with an ideal number of hair follicles, stitches the area back up, and inserts the skin graft into the brow. This is done by making a small incision and placing the graft beneath the skin of the brow before stitching the brow back together.
Eyebrow Transplant Techniques. There are a handful of techniques used to enhance eyebrow transplantation, with the most popular one being Follicular Unit Transplantation (FUT). As explained above, this technique demands using a strip of skin with viable hair follicles and grafting it beneath the skin of the brow. A surgeon may improve the result by splitting up the hair follicles and implanting a smaller number at a time with a higher degree of precision that results in a more natural-looking eyebrow.
Depending on the individual, Follicular Unit Transplantation may not be the most appropriate option and might require the use of other techniques, such as:
- Follicular Unit Extraction (FUE), where smaller grafts are taken from multiple places on the head and only include the exact hair follicles required as opposed to a strip of follicle-rich skin.
- De-Epithelization. Before implantation, the removal of extra skin around each follicle is called de-epithelization. The benefits of this technique include a lower risk of scarring, and if present, the formation of much smaller scars.
- Partial Longitudinal Follicular Unit Transplantation (PL-FUT). In this technique, the eyebrow transplant is completed using split hair follicles. The follicle halves regenerate into whole follicles each, allowing for two hairs to grow from one shaft. This is used in cases where the recipient has little viable head hair to donate to their eyebrows.
- Composite Grafting. In patients with burn wounds and other similar injuries, grafts may be required from multiple skin sites for proper eyebrow reconstruction. This is known as composite grafting.
Benefits. The biggest advantage of an eyebrow transplant is that it is permanent with long-term results. Unlike microblading, the end result consists of fuller eyebrows made of real hair. Aside from procedural customization, the natural eyebrows can be groomed and reshaped without requiring makeup or the need to pluck large sections of uneven hair.
Recovery and Post-Transplant Care. The most significant disadvantages of eyebrow transplants pertain to the invasiveness of the procedure. People are usually discharged from the hospital on the same day and are required to take a few days off work to recover. It is normal to experience swelling, slight pain, and irritation in the area until healed, and the patient is required to get as much bed rest as possible. The incisions usually take up to 5 days to heal, yet hair growth may only be visible from 1-3 months after the procedure (longer in patients with prior burn wounds or skin disorders). It is important to keep the area clean and not touch or scratch it. The cosmetic surgeon may provide an ointment to speed up recovery and recommend that the recipient limits physical activity, bathing, or using a sauna.
Duration and Maintenance
It is important to consider how much time one is willing to spend on the result of the treatment compared to how long the effects might last. The duration and maintenance of microblading and eyebrow transplantation are discussed below.
The Durability of Microblading
Microblading is not a permanent technique. The results last 1-3 years on average, depending on the inks used and the way the individual cares for their new eyebrows (i.e., avoiding too much sun, harsh exfoliants on the face, etc.).
May Require Touch-Ups. Microblading has minimal maintenance requirements in comparison to transplanted eyebrows, which tend to grow out of hand. One may require extra touch-ups for microblading maintenance before the results are set to last. Premature fading of the pigment may also be brought on by excessive sun exposure or the use of harsh chemicals on the area, necessitating extra touch-ups.
The Durability of Eyebrow Transplants
How long an eyebrow transplant lasts depends on the individual, although in most cases, the results are permanent, and the hair graft is known to age with the individual’s eyebrows. In the worst-case scenario, the effects of an eyebrow transplant can fade after 2 years, with less hair growing back after the hairs fall out (a process that occurs naturally in 60-70 days).
Eyebrow Growth Can Get Unruly. The maintenance requirements for eyebrow transplants are higher than for microblading and for those with natural eyebrows. As the follicles are usually taken from head hair that grows to a much longer length, transplanted eyebrows need regular trimming in order to be kept in good condition.
The Costs Involved
As with any cosmetic procedure, it is not difficult to get quoted reasonably for a single session, only to be stuck with all the hidden costs at a later date. Microblading and eyebrow transplants both incur extra costs, which might make them more or less worthwhile, as discussed in the following section.
The Cost of Microblading per session is cheaper than getting an eyebrow transplant, with aestheticians quoting anywhere between $400 and $1400. There may be extra costs due to the need for touch-ups. Some individuals need repeated sessions, while others opt for annual touch-ups to extend the results. The initial procedure is usually the most expensive.
The Cost of Eyebrow Transplantation is often a lot more than that of microblading. The surgery itself depends on the number of hair follicles required, as this can increase the procedure time. Costs for anesthetic, recovery medications, and blood tests to check for suitability also contribute to the overall cost. In the United States, people spend between $3000 and $6000 on average for eyebrow transplants, yet cheaper quotes are available worldwide. Medical insurance can cover some of the cost if the procedure is deemed necessary due to a health condition or injury. However, considering the large number of aged individuals opting for one for no known cause, it is not often granted.
Cost vs. Benefit Comparison
Comparatively, microblading is a cheaper short-term solution for improving eyebrow aesthetics, whereas eyebrow transplantation may be more cost-effective in the long run for total eyebrow reconstruction. The costs for microblading are spread out over time through repeated sessions and are paid upfront for an eyebrow transplant.
It is important to make sure you understand all the costs involved before agreeing to either procedure and that the cost is worth it.
Risks and Potential Side Effects
While there are risks for potential side effects and complications regarding either microblading or eyebrow transplantation, they are usually minimal, and both procedures are relatively safe. One ought to avoid undergoing any procedure if fighting an active infection or after a recent cosmetic procedure or surgery.
Common side effects of each are reviewed below.
Risks of Microblading
The risks of microblading are rare and pertain to infection or scarring of the improved eyebrows. These are almost always reduced through the use of proper disinfectants and techniques. It is important to ensure the aesthetician uses a new pen with needles at each appointment for cleanliness. Compared to eyebrow transplantation, scarring risk is minimal due to the smaller size and depth of the incisions, and scarring is contained to the eyebrows as opposed to the scalp and brow.
Color Fading. The color tends to fade after 2-3 weeks, with touch-ups being required to set the color in and possibly on an annual basis thereafter. It may be possible to reduce the need for touch-ups if one opts for a stronger pigment and cares for their eyebrows very well. There is a very small risk of color bleeding or spreading into the surrounding skin, which may demand extra thickening of the brow line or laser removal.
Removal May Be Risky. If the recipient is unhappy with the results, they may need to opt for laser tattoo removal or wait it out. Laser tattoo removal might obliterate natural eyebrow hairs or affect their color.
Risks of Eyebrow Transplantation
The risks of eyebrow transplantation depend upon the experience of the surgeon, the reason one is opting for the procedure, and the technique used.
Excessive scarring on the scalp at the site of follicle removal is the most frequent complication. The risk can be reduced with the use of other techniques, such as follicular unit extraction, which can result in many micro scars across the scalp that are not visible, resting under the hairline. Other complications are exceedingly rare and can be completely avoided if recovery recommendations are properly followed.
Aesthetic complications can include misplacement of the eyebrow hair, resulting in eyebrows that grow in many directions and that look unruly. This risk can be minimized by choosing a surgical technique that improves the hair’s alignment (discuss this with your surgeon beforehand). If the patient is unhappy with the outcome, they may need to opt for another transplant for correction or live with the results.
Finding an Experienced Professional for the Best Results
To minimize the risks, it is vital to ensure that one consults a qualified professional who can properly avoid the well-known complications. Additionally, an experienced professional will have a much better understanding of what works and what does not. This extends to the overall results and their cosmetic appeal, including the placement of the treatment, the natural look of the new eyebrows, and the way they shape the face.
Getting Involved in the Process. It can help to discuss the shape of the eyebrows with the surgeon or aesthetician before the procedure takes place. Some recipients draw on the perfect eyebrows with makeup prior to the procedure to ensure the professional understands the shape and definition they are looking for.
Suitability Considerations: Which One is Right for You?
Making sure the procedure is a good match can make all the difference in terms of lowering the risks and improving the chances of a satisfactory outcome. Who may or may not benefit from each procedure is discussed below, alongside suggestions for personalized treatment.
Suitability of Microblading
There is little to think about with regard to microblading and whether it is suitable for the recipient or not. Most individuals can opt for microblading with little to no risk, and all personal preferences can be easily met with prior planning. The eyebrows are merely drawn on and shaped with incisions, as opposed to requiring surgical manipulation to get the right look.
Microblading is not suitable for those in need of permanent eyebrow reconstruction, yet it can provide a temporary solution to those looking for fuller eyebrows.
Suitability of Eyebrow Transplants
Eyebrow transplants are not a casual cosmetic procedure, and it requires a lot more planning to perfect the results. It is most suitable for those requiring permanent eyebrow reconstruction or those suffering from eyebrow hair loss who want a long-term solution.
Skin Type and Hair Density. Eyebrow transplants require a lot more personalization than microblading, which is another reason the costs involved are almost always more. The patient’s skin type, with its unique hair density, substantially affects the procedural requirements. These parameters tend to differ between men and women, as well as between individuals of different ethnicities. Eyebrows aside, those with a balding head or scalp with few hair follicles may have a difficult time repopulating their eyebrows. A hair transplant surgeon understands these constraints and will aim to make use of eyebrow transplant techniques aimed at enhancing the person’s appearance while still being as cost-effective as possible.
Eyebrow Hair Graft Techniques. To give a rough idea, the applications of various eyebrow transplant techniques are briefly reviewed below:
- FUE and Scalp Scarring. FUT may be an issue for those prone to scarring, with shorter hairstyles, or who have tighter scalps. In these cases, FUE may be preferred as it scatters any potential scarring across the scalp and makes them much smaller and less noticeable. Only two-thirds of recipients are eligible for FUE, and some may refuse as it may cause small (2mm) patches of hair to go missing until they regrow.
- De-epithelization, Brow Scarring, and Thickness. Those with sensitive skin may need to make use of de-epithelization techniques, which greatly lower the risk of scarring. This is likely to be ideal for those with sensitive skin or skin disorders who are prone to excessive scarring. It is also ideal for those requiring a thicker follicle density in the eyebrows than the hair graft has to offer.
- PL-FUT and Head Hair Thinning. PL-FUT is ideal for those prone to baldness as it extends the amount of hair in a graft. This method is time-consuming and not offered by all clinics.
Seeking Professional Consultation
Before considering either eyebrow transplantation or microblading, it is essential to consult a dermatologist about the procedure best suited for you and to discuss the risks that pertain to your unique case. Understanding the unique risks allows for a better decision-making process.
Microblading and eyebrow transplantation may seem like similar solutions for fuller eyebrows. However, the processes involved and the results produced for either are entirely different. While making a microblading vs. eyebrow transplant comparison, it is important to know how they differ before making a decision.
Microblading is a semi-permanent technique that is best suited to those who have some eyebrow hair and are looking to enhance their aesthetic appeal. It costs less as a short-term solution, requires minimal maintenance, and there are hardly any risks involved. Eyebrow transplants are permanent and are ideal for those who need eyebrow reconstruction or who have severe eyebrow thinning and want a long-term solution. All parameters, including cost, longevity, maintenance, and risks, are higher, yet the results tend to be far more rewarding for those in need.
Professional consultation is vital for assessing personal suitability for either procedure and for understanding the individual risks involved.
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-  https://oaklandpostonline.com/27678/features/study-shows-women-with-thick-eyebrows-may-be-more-attractive-to-men/
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7982014/
-  https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/24236-eyebrow-transplant
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6011870/
-  https://www.healthline.com/health/eyebrow-transplant#cost
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8719974/
-  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8719974/
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