It was a year of Zoom meetings and events that cemented it. After powdering and pencilling in my eyebrows for the last 15 years, I looked at my face in the little virtual window, the patchy, uneven brows staring back at me, and decided it was time for something more permanent. More precise. More brow-like.
I'd always felt a little intimidated by perfectly groomed, Kardashian-style microbladed brows – I barely style the hair on my head, let alone my facial hair. But when celebrity brow artist Tracie Giles announced a new technique that creates the bedhead of brows (touted as the new microblading and more permanent than brow lamination), I knew it was the right look for me.
Enter: hyperrealism brows.
What are hyperrealism brows and how do they differ from microblading?
Originating in Russia, hyperrealism brows (or undone brows as they're also known) are a new permanent makeup technique mastered by only a handful of brow artists worldwide. Unlike microblading, the look is achieved by using a cosmetic tattooing device and a needle to implant the pigment and join each hair stroke in a 'W' pattern to give the illusion of overlapping hairs which don't blur. By building up the intensity in the middle of the brow, it creates a 3D effect for more realistic, fuller looking eyebrows.
The classic neat and tidy microbladed brows we've come to know and love are completely different from hyperrealism brows. While the latter are still groomed, the crossover effect of the hair strokes and the way the light catches the brow produces a far more natural, three-dimensional finish than a generic straight brushstroke.
What happens during a hyperrealism brows appointment?
After chatting through what I'm looking for and removing all brow makeup, my brow technician Miri examined the wispy blonde hairs that were clinging on for dear life. Using an ink-soaked piece of string (as fine as dental floss), she measured the dimensions of my face to determine where the brows should start, finish and arch. I may have looked like a doodle pad by the end of it but I found it reassuring to have an accurate method, rather than just an opinion. We agreed that my brow muscle sits relatively low over my eyes and Miri suggested taking the brow straight after the arch instead of down, opening up my eye area.
After the shape was determined, Miri used an eyebrow pen to draw on my brows, warning me that I may protest at what I see but that it's merely a template for her to draw the hair strokes and not what they'll actually look like. After a little tweaking, I was happy with the natural shape. By assessing my skin tone, Miri chose two oxide pigment shades (made from ground-up minerals), smudging a sample of each on my forehead. There was a clear winner: a cool-toned bronde hue which suited my fair skin perfectly.
How long do hyperrealism brows take and does it hurt?
It took around two hours for Miri to finish the treatment. Using an ultra fine 0.25 needle (to give you an idea, it's the next size up from an acupuncture needle), she lightly scratched at the surface of the skin as if sketching with an HB pencil, moving my head from side to side to make sure my brows matched. Although I was initially nervous about the pain element, thanks to an anaesthetic gel it was completely painless and I even nodded off for a minute or two during the treatment.
What do hyperrealism brows look like?
Once they were finished I couldn't believe the result. As someone who has pencilled, powdered and drawn in their eyebrows since the age of 18, I felt strangely emotional that I finally had something that looked groomed and framed my face beautifully. The natural shape, colour and tone blew me away and I couldn't stop looking at them in the mirror for days afterwards.
What is the aftercare for hyperrealism brows?
I was instructed not to get my brows wet for 10 days, which proved a lot harder than I thought, especially when washing my hair and face. I found it useful to wear a shower cap low over my eyebrows on non hair-washing days (using a cream cleanser and flannel for my forehead) and used a handheld shower head when it was time to lather up.
On days 4-7, the mini freakout came. My brows had faded, gone patchy and small areas of skin were peeling underneath. I was convinced my skin had rejected the pigment but after a panicked call to Tracie, I was reassured that this was completely normal in the healing process as the pigment settles in. By day 10, the brows had healed, the scabs were gone and, although the hair strokes were not quite as sharp as when I first had it done (again, normal), they no longer looked patchy. As a highly creative procedure, hyperrealism always requires a top-up around the 8-12 week mark to cement and prolong the finished look; the first treatment acts as more of a base coat.
How long do hyperrealism brows last and how much does it cost?
At Tracie Giles, hyperrealism brows start at £995 but prices may vary from clinic to clinic. The results last between nine months and a year and a top-up may be required to achieve the best effect. Because the result is so gentle and subtle, brows may be degraded by sunlight (so make sure you wear SPF every day) and this can be accelerated by various lifestyle factors (such as exfoliation).