One wonders when male skincare and beauty upkeep became mainstream. Was it the rise of K-Pop and Queer Eye? Was it the combined efforts of face-first celebrities such as Jungkook and Jonathan Van Ness? Or is it that in the zeitgeist of mental health awareness, the concepts of ‘skincare’ and ‘self-care’ has become synonymous with allowing men to view beauty as an accessible outlet of self-expression? To wit, men doing things to their faces is nothing new—but its purpose certainly has altered over time.
My eyebrows are one component of my face that I felt could use a little oomph
Fast forward to 2020. While there is still a demographic that is not violently opposed to facets of male beauty, there exist small pockets of individuals such as myself that do not mind proactively looking into ways to enhance my overall aesthetic. As a child of a Filipino mom, the quest for fairer skin plagued my youth, and though I have outgrown that dated Asian belief system and came out completely pro-melanin, the inherent goal to take care of my face remains. I, too, want to feel beautiful.
My eyebrows are one component of my face that I felt could use a little oomph. For years I have always looked into ways to ‘frame’ my face with a good haircut and ear and septum piercings. I’ve only come to realise that my eyebrows are the natural constant that will always be the same as my overall look evolves. Considering that the only thing I have done to them is threading, it’s time to go one step further: eyebrow embroidery.
When I did my preliminary trawling of the internet for brow embroidery service providers, I quickly discovered that there were not many that catered to men. My only rule was that the company needed to have advertisements that they did men’s eyebrows. There was that one brand in town with ads plastered in almost every hip mall on the Orchard Road strip, but that would be too easy. Also, I do have a budget to keep in mind. According to my friend who did his eyebrows at said haus, he paid a pretty penny for it. I am not about to start my brow journey complaining about how expensive it was.
I am free and ready to be the test subject in the name of—and I am totally coining this term—Dude Beaute
I decided to go with SG Brow Bar—located in a quiet mall in Kovan, with a few ads for guys on their Instagram and somewhat affordable. By ‘somewhat affordable’, I meant a price where you wouldn’t have to save up for too long by working adult standards or sacrifice your firstborn. Last year I delved into the wonderful world of getting my hair bleached, and the monetary investment for that was astounding. I would like to call that experience “wealth hazing”.
A big plus point of SG Brow Bar is that they operate strictly by appointment. That is great for people who want to schedule their time accordingly and not risk heading down there only to find out that they would not be able to slot you in for the day. So I messaged them and eagerly waited for my appointment a week away. My editor Zat would be in tow to take pictures, so I am free and ready to be the test subject in the name of—and I am totally coining this term—Dude Beaute.
Everything that happens before the microblading itself is akin to talking to your medical practitioner before a surgery. This is, after all, an invasive method of having fuller-looking brows. After consultation on the shapes and form my eyebrows could take, the critical part was to see if I have any pimples under the hairs. It is not something the eyebrow artist will overlook as they have turned away many clients because of it. Once that is out of the way, the artist will then draw markings on my face based on the ‘golden ratio’.
I have to admit I was quite amused and quite impressed. Being a designer by trade, this piqued my interest as the golden ratio describes the perfectly symmetrical relationship between two proportions. The effort to obtain it on my face feels so, intricate. Still, I would rather trust my artist and the science of geometry rather than by look and feel.
After looking like I slept on a protractor, a numbing cream is applied. We waited for about 40 minutes before I finally went under the (tiny) knife.
As the owner of several tattoos, I believe that the experience is almost the same as getting a tattoo done; having to sit still while the brow artist does their work. The challenge was to consciously keep my face still and not be overly-expressive and disrupt the procedure. The numbing cream helped in this regard as I did not feel any pain—just a mild sensation of scratching on my skin. Even before everything was over, Zat was amazed at how my new eyebrows are transforming my face. “Oh my God, Zahir. You’re beautiful now,” he elated.
Surprisingly the microblading itself did not take that long. The whole appointment could take up to 2 hours, with most of it spent on preparation. It really brings home the carpentry phrase ‘measure twice, cut once’. Jessica, my artist, explained that my eyebrows would be really dark during the healing process. So dark in fact that it felt like cartoon eyebrows drawn on my face. This, as I have anticipated, is an uphill battle and probably the most tedious part of this whole experience: the healing process.
Just like tattoos, there is a similar level of aftercare that people can either follow very carefully or not care and risk messing up the finished product. SG Brow Bar gave me a list of what I needed to do and avoid during the critical two week period. The most crucial step is, of course, to not get my eyebrows wet.
With every step, I had to be careful not to breach my brow’s no-wash zone.
Upon knowing that little tidbit of information, I gave myself a moment to reflect on the choices I have made in the name of beauty. With a tattoo that’s on your body, it is relatively easy to avoid getting the area wet as you could either wrap it up or not have it in the splash zone during showering. But we are talking about my face here. A recent bout of adult acne meant a more thorough skincare regimen that involved a six-step process over the sink (just like on TV). With every step, I had to be careful not to breach my brow’s no-wash zone. It was excruciating but on the bright side, my skincare routine now feels purposeful and not an afterthought as it was before.
Besides taking care of my eyebrows with due diligence, I was given a healing gel to apply for, and I quote, “14/20”. 14 is the number of days, and 20 is the number of minutes I need to have it under a layer of cling wrap. I thought this was unusual as I was not supposed to wash off the gel afterwards, but it helps with the retention of the hairline strokes. I decided not to argue with the science and do it anyway.
Just like tattoos, your eyebrows will start to itch from time to time. Unfortunately, I have absent-mindedly scratched my right brow on the second day and I was mortified. Fortunately, my careless fingers did not do any significant damage, so that was a crisis averted. Every time it itched, I would just dab on it with a tissue paper. Every dab a little prayer that the two weeks would fly by as quickly as possible.
A friend mentioned in jest that ‘the only people who would notice that you had your eyebrows done are women and gays’. I wholeheartedly believe that to be true, as they are the demographic who would be more attentive about the upkeep of beauty in the first place. But when you do get your eyebrows done, regardless of sexual orientation, you are joining a group of people who now notice a fellow undergoing the same healing process as you once did. It is the same with any physical or image endeavour—for example, if you work out regularly, you will also start to notice the physiques of others and the efforts they put into maintaining them.
Absolutely. Besides the added aesthetic that it does with framing your face, the psychological effect happens as time goes on; with the age-old saying of ‘if you look good, you feel good’. You become more confident. You care a little more about your looks which will rack up your general well-being points. You start facially expressing more to the point where you could give The Rock a run for his money.
This of course ties in to my earlier stance of how this is all a part of self-care. Other people who like what they see when they look in your direction is just an added bonus. Once we start to frame our mindset that way, we help cement our own belief that what we do in the name of beauty is for ourselves and ourselves alone. Cosmetics is in the name of self-care, which in turn is in the name of self-acceptance.