The art of the brow

We've all scoffed at the eyebrow tattoos of the 1980's, revelling in the stark art of "sharpie marker chic". But eyebrow tattooing has come a long, long way since its inception and, as the quest for the perfect brow assumes mythic proportions, the eyebrow tattoo has made quite a comeback. Now a new technology has stepped up to the plate: microblading. By now you've seen the memes, the ads in glossy magazines, the shopping centre kiosks dedicated to the art of the brow and, if you sometimes find yourself gazing wistfully in the mirror and wondering if an eyebrow tattoo or microblading could be the answer, read on.

Eyebrow tattooing, also known as permanent makeup or micropigmentation, uses a cosmetic tattooing machine to implant pigment under the skin. The machine used is similar to a regular tattoo gun, but runs at a less frequent rate and injects the ink much closer to the surface of your skin. Permanent makeup is - you guessed it - permanent and, while a range of styles are available, from "power brows" to far more realistic eyebrows drawn from individual strokes, it's a good idea to keep one eye firmly on the future when choosing your design. After all, you can always go darker, bolder, fuller down the track.

Microblading or eyebrow embroidery is a new form of eyebrow tattoo that assumes a lighter touch. Microblading is not a one-size-fits approach and, although many technicians tend to specialise in a particular style, most can offer you a choice between a "feather touch" and "block colour", in much the same way that eyebrow tattoos are designed. Rather than using a machine, the technique involves making tiny incisions in the skin of the brow area using a hand tool that's similar in form to a surgical scalpel, and then rubbing pigment over the area. Devotees of microblading believe the technology can be used to touch up patchy brows or replace entire eyebrows lost to alopecia or illness, suggesting the procedure creates hair-like strokes so fine you'll be fooled into thinking they are the real thing.  Microblading is semi-permanent, and you can expect your newly minted brows to last one to three years before a fresh application is required to maintain the look.

Both eyebrow tattooing and microblading are heralded by proponents as creating perfectly formed brows, in a colour and style perfectly suited to your complexion and the shape of your face. Only you can decide which is right for you.