New Brunswick

'Alison 2.0': Cancer survivor gets confidence boost from eyebrow microblading

Cancer survivor Alison O'Brien says a relatively new, semi-permanent makeup technique has given her her face back, and she says it's even better than before.

Alison O'Brien's eyebrows never grew back after starting chemotherapy treatments in 2012

Alison O'Brien, a cancer survivor, was gifted a microblading session by her partner for Christmas after her eyebrows never grew back due to chemotherapy treatments. (Brian Chisholm/CBC)

Cancer survivor Alison O'Brien said a relatively new, semi–permanent makeup technique has given her her face back, and she said it's even better than before.  

"This is a new Alison ... Alison 2.0," said the smiling 54–year–old from of Quispamsis, N.B., after a touch–up session of microblading with makeup artist, Laura Smith.

The top picture shows how the brows are mapped out before the procedure. The bottom is the final result. (CBC)

Microblading is a form of cosmetic tattooing that mimics the fine hairs of a person's eyebrow with precise strokes of pigment applied into the skin.

The results last about 18 months or longer.

O'Brien said her family thinks her new look is fantastic.

She said her daughter, a hairstylist, initially thought that somehow she'd had actual hair applied to the arch over her brow.

Now she said she feels almost totally restored to the person she was before her breast cancer diagnosis in 2012.

The microblading process is a form of cosmetic tattooing that mimics the fine hairs of a person's eyebrows. (CBC)

She had a lumpectomy that year and then started chemotherapy almost right away.

"It caused me to lose all my hair. And when I say all, I mean all," O'Brien said with emphasis.

Eventually, most of her hair grew back, but the hair on her head is thinner and her eyebrows never returned.

"I looked naked," she said. "I felt naked."

Laura Smith, a makeup artist, said the procedure gives many women a boost of confidence as eyebrows are something many people struggle with. (CBC)
In the past few years, O'Brien was using an eyebrow pencil to draw on her face.

But she said it took up too much time in the mornings and it was a hassle. 

Before Christmas, she started hinting to her grown kids that they should pool their money and get their mother a microblading session as a present.

But her partner beat them to it.

"He came in and got me a gift certificate for Christmas," she said. "So, then he was teasing me and said, 'But I only got you one. One eyebrow. Next year, you can have the other one.'"

Customers can discuss shape and tint at the initial consult, Smith said. Prices range from $395 to $550 and up.

"The number one thing women have issue with, [is] their eyebrows. They're not happy with them. They're too this, they're too that," Smith said.

Alison O'Brien with one eyebrow finished after the microblading procedure. (CBC)

Aftercare is similar to regular tattoo maintenance, Smith said. There may be a bit of scabbing or flaking, but within four days, it looks natural.

Some clients are so pleased with the results they become emotional, Smith said.

"They look in the mirror and they kind of cry. It's a boost of confidence."