The popularity of eyebrow embroidery has produced an unfortunate side effect.
As more people pay for the service to get groomed and defined brows, more are also ending up with botched brow jobs.
While there are no official figures, beauty salons here say they have seen a spike in the number of customers going for rescue jobs.
Eyebrow embroidery is a semi-permanent process that involves using a microblade to weave pigments into the outer layer of the skin to look like natural hair. The pigments typically last 10 to 18 months.
The procedure costs $300 to $4,000, depending on the salon and the beautician offering the service.
Brow expert Cecilia Chng, who has been in the beauty industry for more than 20 years, says the number of customers who go to her for corrections has increased by 20 per cent in the past two years. Almost half of the customers she now has come to fix botched jobs.
She sees about six clients a day at her boutique, Cecilia Chng/Beauty in Ngee Ann City, which she runs alone. She charges $1,200, inclusive of one touch-up session, for brow embroidery.
She says of the botched work: "I have seen people with poorly shaped brows. What they have is not even an eyebrow shape. I can't even describe it. Sometimes, it is just a line or something crooked."
Allure Beauty Saloon, which has six outlets here, has seen customers who ask for corrections jump from 30 to 50 per cent in the past two years. Brow-embroidery services there start at $212 and can go up to $1,477 or more.
Founder Angela Tnee, 41, says there are more botched jobs because it is easy to find salons that offer embroidery. "But the artist still needs to be experienced and have the skills to draw brows well."
She adds that beauticians must know how to craft the shape of the brow to suit the face as well as be deft at creating natural-looking strokes.
Ms Coco Qi, who owns Browtisan at Delfi Orchard, says badly done brows suffer from three key issues.
First, the colour is too light, dark or patchy due to the pigments used. Second, the shape of the brows is too thin, thick, straight or arched such that they do not suit the face. Last, the brows are not symmetrical.
Ms Qi, who declines to reveal her age, says: "Any of these issues would mean that the brows look unnatural."
She adds that the proportion of customers who go to Browtisan for corrections has increased from 5 to about 30 per cent of her customer base since the salon opened in 2014.
So, how can botched brow jobs be fixed?
Ms Qi says if the brow is not too thick, a new shape can be drawn over it. If the issue is with the colour - it is patchy or does not look natural, for instance - Ms Chng says pigment corrections can be done.
"Sometimes, the colour is too grey or dark and the brows look unnatural or the shading can be patchy. I add orange, brown or yellow tones, which help to correct the colour."
In cases where the embroidery is done so badly that it cannot be fixed with a cover-up job, Ms Chng says customers can opt to have it removed by laser treatment.
In August, Linc Aesthetic Clinic in Liat Towers introduced the PicoWay Aesthetic Laser treatment, which uses picosecond laser technology to remove skin blemishes, including botched eyebrow tattoos and embroidery. Prices start at $600.
The clinic's director, Dr Patrina Wong, says the treatment causes significantly less pain and discomfort compared with traditional nanosecond lasers, which use heat energy.
"The laser can also target a smaller area, as small as 2mm, so removal can be more refined."
Ms Natalie Wong, 47, who works at her husband's company that imports fishing equipment, was the victim of a bad brow-embroidery job, which she described as a "total nightmare".
About two years ago, the mother of three paid about $400 to get her brows done at a friend's salon, which was offering a new service.
"It looked unnatural. The strokes were too heavy and dark and it was just bad," she recalls.
She then had the embroidery removed by a plastic surgeon via laser treatment. She declines to reveal the cost as the surgeon, who is a friend, gave her a discount. Laser treatments to remove eyebrow embroidery typically cost $600 to $800.
Ms Wong says: "I had to go for six sessions over a year because the embroidery was done so deeply. It was painful and my brows were bald by the end."
After the laser treatment, she went to Ms Chng last year to have her brows redrawn. She was happy with the natural-looking brows she got and went back for a touch-up in September this year.
"Eyebrows frame your face and they're important. I looked horrible with botched brows. It was unbearable," she says.
Before getting your brows done
Mr Seah Seng Choon, executive director of the Consumers Association of Singapore, says one possible reason for the increase in botched brow work could be because the beautician did not have the relevant training and skills to perform the eyebrow embroidery adequately.
He offers tips on what to look out for when selecting a brow salon.
1. Check beautician's qualifications
- Consumers should do this before starting the treatment, as the beautician may not have the expertise to perform the treatment correctly.
- One way to do so is to go to the Registry of Complementary Therapists (www.srct.sg), set up by the Spa and Wellness Association of Singapore.
2. Do your research
- Consumers should do their research on the salon, such as asking for recommendations and looking up Internet reviews and testimonials.
- This would give a gauge of the salon's standards in terms of service, professionalism and equipment used.
3. Health should be the priority
- When considering a new beauty treatment such as eyebrow embroidery, inform the salon of any existing health conditions, such as skin allergies, illness and pregnancy.
- If in doubt, get a second opinion from a doctor.