Belfast Telegraph

What's the secret of these women's great eyebrows?

Defined and thick eyebrows are a beauty must-have. And now, thanks to a new transformative inking treatment, anyone can have them. By Una Brankin

Bob Geldof's eldest daughter eldest Fifi is the latest in a long line of celebrities to have their eyebrows filled out by tattooing - or semi-permanent make-up, as the treatment is referred to in the beauty industry.

The 31-year-old PR professional, had her sparse brows "thickened" in advance of her upcoming wedding to artist Andrew Robinson, paying £395 for each one at a Knightsbridge clinic.

Thankfully, beauty therapists in Northern Ireland charge considerably less.

Fifi's sister Peaches, who died of a heroin overdose last April at the age of 25, had said she regretted "every single tattoo I've ever had done", but Fifi was delighted with the results of her cosmetic procedure.

"It's so worth it and it doesn't hurt that much," she said afterwards.

The trend - popular among reality stars such as TOWIE's Amy Childs - started long before the model Cara Delevingne came along with her naturally lush brows.

Even drugs mule Michaella McCollum was sporting a blocky, squared-off pair when she was arrested in Peru.

But the whims of fashion aren't the only reason women are turning to something more permanent than a kohl pen to enhance their looks.

Eyebrow tattooing and semi-permanent make-up is becoming increasing popular with those who have lost facial hair due to medical issues, such as chemotherapy for cancer, or stress disorders.

And as techniques have been more refined and natural, it's often hard to tell the difference between the inked brow and the real thing.

'This has made me feel much more confident and happy again'

Linda Sage (47) is a medical secretary with the Belfast Trust. She lives in Belfast with her husband Kevin and her son Michael, who is studying for his A Levels at Lagan College. Linda lost her eyebrows when she was suffering from an auto-immune disorder, and opted for semi-permanent make-up treatments by Judith Mulgrew at the Skin Medi Spa clinic on Belfast's Lisburn Road. Linda says:

My problem with my eyebrows began in 2013 - I went from having perfectly normal looking brows to both of them gradually thinning, and eventually they disappeared completely. I had an auto-immune disorder that caused stress, which didn't help.

The lack of eyebrows really affects your looks. Eyebrows frame the face - your entire appearance can change if you lose your brows.

I love the actress Gillian Anderson's eyebrows; they're so well-defined and give her face such character.

I have a fringe, so in some ways that disguised my lack of brows, but not completely.

There was absolutely no hope of my brows growing back but I knew a friend who had this treatment carried out, and she convinced me that it was a great solution.

It wasn't painful at all - in fact I actually thought it was quite the opposite. Judith put me at great ease from start to finish and it only took two sessions. There were no side-effects whatsoever.

Judith had asked me to bring in a photograph of how my eyebrows used to look and used that as a template to keep the semi-permanent technique very natural.

She is such a warm and caring, yet very professional person and her attention to detail is amazing. She makes you feel relaxed and I've had first class service every time I've visited her salon.

She has a superb team in Olivia and Donna, whom I have had the pleasure of having other relaxing treatments with.

I feel much more confident and happy to have my brows back. Kevin and Michael and all my family and friends loved the results. The old me is back."

'I notice the difference every time that I look in the mirror'

Dundee-born Nicola Bryce-Ward (30) is the managing director of the Think Fit fitness centre on Belfast's Lisburn Road. Although she's single, with no children, Nicola was finding it hard to find the time to do her make-up in the mornings, as she had a queue of clients waiting for her at the gym. Nicola says:

I would say my eyebrows have always been very sparse and didn't frame my face at all. I've always disliked thin eyebrows and really wanted thicker ones.

There was no way they were ever going to grow any thicker and it took me ages every single day to draw them on. I used powder and a brush, painstakingly. Then I became so busy with my clients at Think Fit, I hadn't the time to do them properly in the mornings and it became a real nuisance.

I'd read about semi-permanent make-up in magazines and kept seeing all these models and celebrities with perfectly shaped eyebrows, so I took the plunge and booked in with Judith. I had two treatments - it wasn't painful but I did feel a bit tender afterwards. She used light hair-strokes to make it look as natural as possible, and she was very good.

No-one actually noticed that I had it done because I have been pencilling-in eyebrows - expertly when I've had the time - for years. But I notice the difference every time I look in the mirror, and I have so much more time in the morning to get ready.

I know of girls who have also had good results on their lips and eyelashes, but I really don't have time for anything else - I'm too busy to think about going to get anything done. I'm just happy to have a proper pair of eyebrows at last."

Just how does Judith give clients the look they love?

Michael Jackson became an example of badly done semi-permanent make-up when he had harsh black eyeliner tattooed on, in a foolish attempt to look doe-eyed. He also had his eyebrows and lips shaped with the tattooist's needle.

But semi-permanent make-up procedures - also known as micro-pigmentation - can been used much more subtly to define the features. Pigment is implanted into the dermal layer of the skin using a machine designed specifically for the cosmetic and medical market, which is very different to the conventional paraphernalia and inks used in tattoo clinics.

The treatment lasts on average from two to five years and is carried out in accordance with health and safety protocols, using single use needles.

Judith Mulgrew, a laser technician and semi-permanent make-up tattooist, had her eyebrows and eyelashes tattooed by a colleague.

"She used very fine strokes on the eyebrows for a really natural look - some women prefer a heavier, powdered look," says Judith (32).

"I also had some pigment applied along my upper and lower eyelashes, just to make them look thicker. It's important not to go too dark or way beyond your natural colouring.

"Subtlety is the key. I'm always rushing here and there, so it's great not to have to worry about doing my eyes in the morning."

Skin Medi Spa uses natural, mineral-based and non-toxic pigments for hypoallergenic treatments. Judith begins by using a regular eyebrow pencil to shape and colour the brow.

Once the client approves the colour and shape, a topical anaesthetic is applied to numb the skin. A fine needle is then used to tattoo individual hairs in fine strokes. Most find the process more irritating than painful.

The same technique is used for eyeliner, with a fine line imprinted close to the eyelashes. Cosmetic tattooing can also be applied for nipple and areola restoration after a mastectomy. In addition, white scars can be camouflaged long-term using medical tattooing treatments.

Skin-coloured pigments are infused into the scar tissue to minimise its appearance, and medical tattooing is suitable for camouflaging scars on people of all nationalities. Cosmetic tattoo is also a solution for head hair loss or irregularities due to scars from injury or surgery, scars formed from donor sites in hair transplant surgery, thinning hair - in the hairline or the crown of the scalp - and hair loss due to alopecia or trichotillomania (obsessive pulling-out of the hair by the root).

"All sorts of women are enquiring about semi-permanent make-up these days," says Judith. "I have has several clients who have lost all their facial hair from chemotherapy and it's brilliant to be able to help them feel a little bit better about themselves during such a challenging time in their lives."

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