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A guide to microblading, by Instagram’s favourite Eyebrow Doctor

Meet Piret Aava, the brains behind the industry’s semi-permanent tattoo craze

From the individuals extracting earwax from your eardrum to the quiet crusaders shaving skin off your feet, in our monthly series The Professionals we meet the people taking pride in the nitty gritty side of beauty.

Never, ever, underestimate the power of eyebrows. “Someone can have excellent make-up, but if her brows are off, the entire face looks off,” says expert Piret Aava, aka the Eyebrow Doctor. The MUA, aesthetician and cosmetic tattoo specialist has taken the beauty world by storm with her certified brows of perfection, amassing an Insta following upward of 43k and working with magazines as diverse as Town & Country and FHM.

Originally born and raised in Estonia, Aava moved to the US as a young MUA and now has offices in New York City, Westchester and Miami, with frequent business trips to LA thrown in too for good measure. She also launched her own highly successful cosmetics line BEAUTY BY PIRET in 2010, selling an array of glorious eye silk, brow gel and brow tint, blender brushes, tattoo aftercare ointment and numbing cream.

But how exactly does she perform her eyebrow magic? Microblading. “Microblading is a form of semi-permanent tattoo where individual hair strokes are drawn on and around the eyebrow area to mimic the look of real brow hairs,” she tells us. Aava therefore offers a long-term solution to a short-term problem which all of us struggle with - the daily application of eyebrow make-up. Why struggle, when a subtle tattoo giving the illusion of thicker, fuller brows is a possibility? One call to the Eyebrow Doc should sort us out.

“I expect my clients to trust me because I’m the expert,” she says. Her super legit white lab coat and matching surgical face mask mean we trust her too, with our every last inch of eyebrow.

Can you tell us a bit about where you’re from and where you grew up? How did that shape you as a person?
Piret Aava: I was born and raised in Estonia. When I was younger I started to model and developed a love for beauty and make-up. When I came to the US, I continued my work as a make-up artist and eventually became a brow specialist.

Can you tell us a bit about the Eyebrow doctor. How did it all come about?
Piret Aava: I love working with brows and continued to focus on them, becoming the brow specialist at Warren Tricomi in Greenwich. I had started to hear about microblading and knew that I could be one of the first people to offer the treatment. A lot of people say they “microblade” but aren’t actually certified to do so. I am actually licensed to do the treatment and it’s become a specialty over time. That’s how I became the Eyebrow Doctor.

What is microblading?
Piret Aava: Microblading is a form of semi-permanent tattoo where individual hair strokes are drawn on and around the eyebrow area to mimic the look of real brow hairs.  

Where did the procedure evolve from?
Piret Aava: Like any cosmetic tattoo, it’s a longer lasting solution to a cosmetic issue. Just as women fill in their brows with pencil, this gives the illusion of thicker, fuller brows, but you don’t need to re-apply make-up on a daily basis to get the effect.

How does it actually work?
Piret Aava: I take a pen-like applicator and draw individual hair strokes with a single blade. The strokes use an ink—the colour of which I determine with the client to best suit their skin tone, natural brow hair colour and desired effect. The process can take anywhere from 45 minutes to two hours depending on the number of strokes needed. I numb my patients first and we draw the shape we want to achieve while the numbing cream starts to work. Then I draw every stroke by hand. The result is an appearance of single hairs to create a beautiful shape

Why do you think microblading is so popular?

Piret Aava: Brows are a very important part of the face—it can make you look younger and feel more confident. Changing the shape or enhancing it can definitely soften features. With microblading you get all of those benefits and the results can last for up to two years. Plus, they are done by a professional artist so they will look even and your best every day (so long as you go to the right person).

Who is it for?
Piret Aava: Anyone looking to enhance their shape and add fullness or depth.

How has your business grown since its creation in 2010?
Piret Aava: In 2010 I developed my own make-up line, but my brow services have really taken off in the last few years.

What sparked your interest in eyebrows specifically?
Piret Aava: There are a lot of talented make-up artists, but there are not as many talented brow specialists. I love having a specialty and focus where I can really excel and bring the best service to my clients. If it’s on your face, you want someone who is qualified doing it—and you want to make sure they care about the results and take pride in their work. I am extremely proud of the work that I do.

You built your business through Instagram, how does social media influence beauty?
Piret Aava: Make-up and brows are very visual, so it helps show people your work. I have offices in New York City, Westchester, NY, and Miami with frequent trips to LA as well as some other major cities. Not only does it help grow awareness for my services across the world, but it helps me stay in contact with people who may want to see me as I travel. Plus, it gives consumers access to true results. I always tell people, don’t go in for the service unless you see the work, completely healed, and head on—you want to make sure the brows are even on both sides! It helps you separate people who do good work from those who don’t.

Where does our obsession with eyebrows come from?

Piret Aava: As a make-up artist, I know how important they are to the overall look of your face. Having a good shape and color and natural-looking brows really transforms the look of your entire face. Sometimes someone can have excellent make-up, but if her brows are off, the entire face looks off.

What are the best ways to look after your eyebrows?

Piret Aava: Do not overpluck them. Just leave them be. Go to a professional to have them shaped.

Where did you learn your technique?

Piret Aava: I was certified years ago but it was something that really came naturally to me. My technique is all my own.

How can eyebrows change your face?

Piret Aava: They can definitely provide an anti-aging effect. They can soften your face and give a more youthful appearance. They also can draw attention to your eyes or away from another part of your face that you don’t love. In general, they provide balance!

How does microblading differ from tattooing?

Piret Aava: It’s a form of tattoo. It also will fade after a while, depending on your skin type and lifestyle (people who are in the sun or tend to exfoliate will fade faster, for example).

What’s the most surprising thing you’ve learnt from doing this?
Piret Aava: How much it can impact someone emotionally. And also how many people are out there pretending to be qualified to do this… and how many men and women trust unqualified people with their brows! It’s on your face—leave it to someone who is going to do a good job.

What are the biggest misconceptions about microblading?
Piret Aava: That it will look like you just drew on your eyebrows with a permanent marker. It only looks like  that (solid, not hair strokes) if you go to someone who doesn’t do a good job.

What are the most challenging parts of your profession?
Piret Aava: Sometimes clients come in with an idea of what they want and I disagree. I’ll never perform a service on someone if it doesn’t look good. Most of the time, my appointments are collaborative, but sometimes people will come in and ask for something that just won’t look right. It’s my work at the end of the day, and if you get a service from me you’re a walking advertisement—so I’m not going to do anything crazy on you of fulfill a request that I think looks bad. If you’re looking for someone to simply follow your orders, I’m not the right person for you. I expect my clients to trust me because I’m the expert. But obviously, I want to hear what you desire—we’ll find a shape and a look that will best suit every client’s face.

What are the most rewarding parts? What is it you enjoy about doing it?
Piret Aava: I have a lot of clients who have no eyebrows, sometimes just genetically or other times because of an underlying medical condition. These men and women are not feeling confident and are desperately looking to transform their face so they can feel “normal.” I love helping them get there. I do a lot of brows from scratch—on a completely blank canvas—and when these men and women are happy with the results and feel like the best version of themselves, I truly feel the reward. I see a lot of people who obviously want cosmetic enhancements on a much smaller scale, and I love working with them too, but nothing feels better than making a difference in someone’s confidence. I LOVE that.

Where do you see eyebrow care going? What does the future look like?
Piret Aava: My goal is always to provide your best “natural” look, so I’m not someone who follows fads or trends.  

Is your attention staying focused on eyebrows or are you looking towards other beauty experiments?
Piret Aava: I have started doing areola tattoos for women who have had single or double mastectomy surgery. I love it – it’s incredibly rewarding. I’m also looking into scalp tattoo for hair loss, but I haven’t been certified to do that yet. Of course, I will always keep working on brows!