Despite the loud Instagram makeup trends that continue to rage, a lot of women are feeling a disconnect. They simply want to make it out the door feeling as if they are relatively put together. Because, let’s be honest, who has the time?
“I’m not someone who loves to be glammed up,” said Simone Dufourg, who for years helped run the Privé salon in Manhattan. (Her father-in-law is the Privé owner, Laurent Dufourg.) She describes her aesthetic as “very natural,” but after becoming a mother and getting older, she realized that “natural beauty actually took a lot of work.”
A couple of months ago, Ms. Dufourg made an appointment with Dominique Bossavy, known for her skill in semipermanent makeup. She had heard about her through friends in Beverly Hills, Calif., where Ms. Bossavy has her main office. (“Many, many women I knew were doing it, but they were not telling,” Ms. Dufourg said.) But she went through with it after reading on Vogue.com about Lena Dunham’s visit there to have her brows done.
Ms. Dufourg had work done on her brows (filled for shape and color), lips (defined with a natural shade of pink) and stretch marks on her breasts (filled in with ink that matched her skin tone).
“I am through the roof with my results,” she said, adding that recovery took three or four days with no scabbing and that she expected the results to last about a year. “It’s so subtle — it enhances my look without adding a lot of extra. My husband still doesn’t know exactly what I had done. When he came home, he asked if I got Botox.”
(Ms. Bossavy, whose prices start at $1,500, sees clients in New York twice a month at Dangene: the Institute of Skinovation).
As it turns out, Ms. Dufourg is participating in an Instagram trend after all. Spurred by hashtags, inked brows, particularly those created from microblading, have become hip. And if the thought of tattooed eyebrows conjures images of the ill-done sea gull wings of the 1990s (they faded to a “Hunger Games” blue), know that needles are finer now and inks more nuanced, to match skin tone.
There is some confusion as to what exactly microblading is. Ms. Bossavy, who has been plying her art since 2001, insisted she did not practice microblading. She sketches the desired shape with a makeup pencil, hand-mixes custom color for each client, then uses a single, very fine needle to create shape or fill in the brows with small amounts of pigment.
In microblading, the technician uses a pen that has nearly a dozen tiny needles in a row to form a “blade,” the idea being that the blade can replicate the actual brow hair. Ms. Bossavy considers the method less precise and makes fixing mistakes more difficult.
“You’re cutting the skin more with microblading,” she said. “The more you injure the skin, the higher the chance you have of scarring.”
Piret Aava, who calls herself the Eyebrow Doctor, begs to differ. Originally a makeup artist, Ms. Aava learned microblading for clients who had lost their brow hair. She then built her business through Instagram, eventually opening her own office in Manhattan, where she has worked on such celebrities as Serena Williams and Malin Akerman. Ms. Aava said a single-needle method could create “powder brows” that looked as though the arches were filled in with brow powder.
“I’m not going for a makeup look,” she said. “You can always add makeup if you want.” (Her work also starts at $1,500. Recovery takes about a week, she said, possibly with very light scabbing, and results last about a year.)
Cosmetic tattooing is not the only semipermanent makeup with newfound popularity. To streamline her everyday routine, Clémence von Mueffling, founder of the site Beauty and Well Being, has her lashes tinted and permed at least twice a year. Ms. von Mueffling lives in New York but grew up in Paris, where her mother and grandmother were beauty directors for Vogue France.
“Every neighborhood in Paris has these small beauty institutes, in the way that New York has nail salons,” she said. “I started eyelash tinting at one of them probably when I was 19.” In the summer, she swipes on Comodynes self-tanner, and is out the door.
“These are little tricks to make you feel good and look good,” she added.
In Brooklyn, the Gimme the Good Stuff blogger Maia James, who indulges in lash extensions despite a minimal beauty routine, noted that for many in her social circle, the switch to semipermanent solutions came with having children: “The look at school pickup is all about Lululemon, no makeup and yet fake lashes — literally, every single mom.”
It must be said, the popularity of semipermanent makeup is not wholly about doing less. There is also a drive for everyday glamour.
“All the lash extensions out there, it’s not just about looking natural,” said Soo-Young Kim, a fashion and beauty editor. “It’s because they look amazing in photos and really make your eyes pop.” Ms. Kim pointed out that many of the semipermanent beauty options today derive from South Korea, where her cousins have indulged for decades.
Soul Lee was one of the early practitioners of eyelash extensions in New York, opening the Shu Uemura shop in SoHo in 2004. Initially, she said, clients came for extensions for weddings or special events. Only lately have women begun to make them a regular routine. Her own applications tend toward the natural and believable, and she avoids styles like the currently popular “Russian technique,” or “volume lashes,” which involves gluing three or four extensions for each natural lash. (“It can put a lot of stress on your natural lashes, especially if they are thin to start with,” Ms. Lee said.)
“People ask for the Kim Kardashian look, and I don’t even have the size of lashes to make that happen,” she said. “I want the results to look like you’re wearing mascara, instead of your eyelashes touching your eyebrows.”