NO EXCUSES, JUST TRAVEL

How I learned to stop holding myself back, and started traveling the world.

Beauty, South Korea

Cosmetic Procedures in Seoul: Eyebrow Tattooing/Microblading

“Eyebrows are sisters, not twins.”

I can’t recall where I first heard this quote–a quick Google search brings up a plethora of beauty blogs and supportive memes–but it’s one that I’ve learned to live by as I’ve battled with my eyebrows over the years.  I began waxing when I was 15, trying to form an arch that just wasn’t there naturally.  I was never quite happy with them, and bounced from aesthetician to aesthetician throughout university.  In the USA, I filled them in heavily with Anastasia Beverly Hill’s Dip Brow Pomade, but after my move across the Pacific I found myself following the local trends in South Korea: straighter, softer, and using power and pencil to fill them in.  My arch first softened, then almost completely flattened before settling on a more slight, natural arch.

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  1. College (2012 and earlier): My brows were plucked thin in an attempt to force them into a higher arch that I didn’t naturally have.
  2. Post-College (2013): I finally allowed my brows to grow back in and found a good aesthetician for waxing. I often used brow shadows and pomades to make them crisp and dark.
  3. Pre-Korea (2014): As I reached my mid-twenties, I stopped caring so much about waxing and upkeep. I let my brows fully grow in and allowed my arch to soften.
  4. Korea (2015):  A year into living abroad, local trends began to heavily influence my makeup style.  My brows became even straighter, following the brow trends in Korea.
  5. ‘Now’ (2016 to present): After going from one extreme to the other, my brows have finally found a happy medium.  I kept the thickness I’d picked up in Korea but instead followed my natural shape when filling them in.

In Korea I ditched the brow pomade in favor of softer brow shadows and pencils.  This, however, made my morning routine longer and more tedious. Looking for an alternative, I began to research eyebrow tattooing and microblading.  In Korea, you can get one, the other, or a combination of both.  Here are some examples from the clinic I ended up choosing:

(Click each photo to be taken to the clinic’s homepage with additional examples of each style.)

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자연눈썹 “Natural Brows” (Microblading) are done by using a small, thin blade to cut individual hair strokes.  Best for filling in sparse eyebrows and a natural look.

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화장눈썹 “Makeup Brows” (Tattooing) are done by using a hand-held tattoo gun.  This looks like makeup and can be done in a very light, subtle color or darker depending on your preference.  There are no little hair strokes and the color is solid.

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3D눈썹 “3D Brows” (Combination) are created using both microblading and tattooing techniques.  During your first session, a base layer of color is tattooed, similar to the Makeup Brows.  During the second session, the microblading technique is used to fill in more hair-like details.

Choosing your Clinic

There are many great clinics to choose from in Seoul, but for the most part all three of these variations will cost around ₩200,000-₩250,000.  I paid ₩178,000 at my first session and  the remaining ₩59,600 at my second touch-up session.  Normally Clinic Gyul charges ₩297,000 for all their eyebrow services (in any style), but for the month of February they were offering a 20% discount for a total of ₩237,600.

I surveyed one of the largest Facebook groups for women living here, Expat Women in Korea, and these were the top clinics suggested in Seoul:

After pouring over clinic websites, reading personal testimonies, and checking out before and after pictures, I decided on Clinic Gyul.  I was particularly attracted to the fact that they are exclusively a cosmetic tattoo clinic, offering eyebrow, eyeliner, lip, and hairline tattooing services.  They are not a plastic surgery clinic, and I felt more comfortable going to a place that not only specialized in what I wanted, but had also treated many Korean celebrities and foreign clients.

I contacted them in English via KakaoTalk (clinicgyul1116) and made a reservation for that upcoming weekend.  Overall, they were very flexible with scheduling, and were even able to rebook my appointment on short notice when I had a friend unexpectedly come into town.

The Process

To get to Clinic Gyul, I’d recommend taking the subway to Sinnonhyeon Station (신논현역) on the Express Line 9.  Go out exit 5 and at the top of the stairs look all the way to your left (east).  You can’t miss the clinic, as the doors are right in front of the subway exit!  When you enter the building, the elevators will be to your left.  Either elevator will take you to the 8th floor, where you can find the clinic.

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Note the light teal logo for Clinic Gyul next to the number 8.  The entrance is to the right.

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The entrance of the clinic as you step out of the elevator.

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The front desk with a view of the consultation rooms (back right).

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A panoramic view of the waiting area near the front desk.

When I walked into the service room, I was greeted warmly by the staff.  I checked in for my appointment and filled out a brief English form detailing what I was there for.  This also describes their information release policy, so I’ve attached photos below:

After turning in my form, I had my consultation.  This was conducted entirely in Korean, but I know other foreigners have come here and they do have a translators for English and Chinese speakers available.  In the consultation room, I discussed the three different style options.  While I had originally wanted to do just the microbladed ‘Natural Brows’, the consultant suggested I do the combination ‘3D Brows’.  When I showed her pictures of how I did my brows on a daily basis, she said it would be inconvenient for me to pay for the microblading but then still have to do my brow makeup every day.

After my consultation, I was taken back into the main waiting room where they put numbing cream on my eyebrows.  This was covered with cling film and I had to wait 30-40 minutes for it to take effect.  It’s impossible to feel self-conscious about how goofy you look because almost everyone else in the waiting room is doing the same thing!

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The consultation room had great natural light and tons of before and after photos of the clinic’s work.

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The bright door to the right is where I snapped my photo. At the end of the hall, the treatment rooms are to the left.

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Sitting with my numbing cream in the lobby.  Cute…

Once my 40 minutes were up, an assistant came over and removed the numbing cream.  She then took me down the hall to a small, well-lit room to take ‘before’ photos of my brows.  After this, we continued further down the hall to the treatment room.

In the treatment room, I was introduced to my tattoo artist, Yeong-jeong Lee (이영정), and my translator, Hye-ra Jeong (정혜라).  Don’t worry if your initial consultant doesn’t speak a ton of English because they won’t draw anything on your brows or discuss shape until you’re in the tattooing room.  The clinic will make sure to have a translator available for you once you reach this step!

I showed both women pictures of how I normally did my brows, and explained that I didn’t want them too arched.  I requested that the tattoo follow my natural brow shape underneath because when I add fullness with makeup, I usually penciled it in on the top.  Yeong-jeong played with the shape using a brow pencil and made sure I liked it before we got to work tattooing.

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Yeong-jeong marked the center of my brows and focused on giving them fullness on top instead of on bottom.  She kept the arch very soft, as per my request.

For the ‘3D Brow’ style, your first session consists of a ‘base’ tattoo being put down similar to the ‘Makeup Brow’ style.  This heals to be a lighter color, and during your second touch-up session the details are microbladed in like in the ‘Natural Brow’ style.  Yeong-jeong did an initial tattooing and then stopped so I could sit up and check the shape again.  We tweaked it a little bit further and then continued once more.

While I was at the clinic for about two hours, the actual tattooing only took 30 minutes or so.  As someone who has had actual tattoos (painful) and gone though laser tattoo removal (far more painful), this didn’t feel like much.  I would equate the sensation to someone taking a relatively sharp pen-like tool and scratching over your skin.  It feels a little stingy when they go over the same areas repeatedly, but is easy to tolerate.

The Results

It’s very important to note that your eyebrows are most likely not identical, and that tattooing them can only do so much.  For example, my nose is fairly crooked which makes my brows look uneven in the middle, and my head shape makes one eyebrow look ‘shorter’ than the other when, if measured, it actually isn’t!  Some clinics will press a string into your forehead and measure with a ruler to make them mathematically symmetrical, but this doesn’t mean that your brows will necessarily look identical visually.  This is because our faces are not perfectly symmetrical either, so I preferred Clinic Gyul’s methods where they focus on visual symmetry.  I think Yeong-jeong did an amazing job evening them out and making them look balanced on my face:

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The end results made my brows look fuller and more even.

As you  can see, my brows were quite dark after the initial tattooing.  The ‘before’ and ‘after’ photos were taken the same day.  On the third day I started to occasionally have some tiny itches.  You’ll notice that there’s a fairly large difference between the third and fourth day, as this is when they started to peel.  I didn’t really notice any large peeling, so this didn’t bother me or make me feel self-conscious in any way.  By the fifth or sixth day they were mostly finished peeling, and throughout the whole process the itching was minimal.  By day ten, they had faded to a very soft, natural brown that blended nicely with my real brows.

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My right brow needed the most ‘help’ to look fuller, and you can see how differently shaped my brows are naturally.

Overall I’m very happy with the results.  The effect is subtle and natural in person, and the clinic worked well with my natural brow shapes while still making them look even and balanced on my face.  It also makes plucking a lot easier as I can clearly see which hairs are outside of my tattoo lines!

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12 days after the initial tattooing, no makeup! (You can see how much the tattooing helps balance out the brow on the left, which is my right brow.)

The Touch-Up (UPDATED 2/7/2017)

I went back to Clinic Gyul on March 25th for my touch-up, as Yeong-jeong was going on maternity leave at the end of the month.  I was once again greeted by the staff and Hye-ra at the front desk, and this time they applied the numbing cream immediately since the color from my first session was already there as a guide.  I actually saw with the cream on a bit longer this time, and was hanging out in the waiting room for about 45min total.  If you’re bored, there is a little refreshment corner to the right of the front desk (if you stand facing it) where you can get water, coffee, juice, and some candy.

In the treatment room, Yeong-jeong carefully checked my brows for evenness and made sure they had healed cleanly.   At this point, you have the opportunity to discuss with the aesthetician any other adjustments you want to make to your shape, or express anything you’re unsatisfied with.  Fortunately I loved my shape and was happy with how my brows had healed, so our conversation was pretty brief!  Yeong-jeong got to work, taking care to check in with me repeatedly and make sure it wasn’t painful.

A close up of my freshly microbladed brow. Note the long, hair-like strokes at the tail end of my brow.

The sensation for the microblading is a bit different from the tattooing as it is done in longer, smoother strokes of a blade instead of a tattoo needle.  In my opinion, it feels like taking the end of a paperclip and scraping it uncomfortably–but not painfully–across your skin.  I would say the pain from both is different, but neither is worse than the other and both are easily tolerable.  If you’re worried about the pain, don’t let this hold you back from having fabulous brows!

Here the before and after results are more subtle, but on the left side you can see how the microblading helped more naturally blend the solid base of color into my natural brows.

Microblading over the solid color base tattoo made it looks like hairs had grown in just the right places. This was especially noticeable on my right side, which was quite sparse at the start.

The microblading itself only took about 30 minutes, after which I was escorted back out to the front desk.  Then, Hye-ra shyly asked me if I had mentioned their clinic at all–apparently several foreign women had come in over the last month mentioning this post!  Apparently quite a few readers went in for consultations and happened to reference this article, which was a surprise to both the clinic and myself.  I just write for fun and enjoy sharing my experiences, so I’m glad people are finding it helpful!  If you have any questions for me–or if you went to Clinic Gyul yourself and want to share your experience–please feel free to leave a comment below!  Thank you for reading, and happy tattooing~

My fully finished brows 3 months after the tattooing, featuring the thank-you soap from Clinic Gyul!

This is NOT a sponsored post!  
The purpose of this post is purely to share my own personal experience and provide relevant links to others interested in similar services.

22 Comments

  1. Erika

    Hi,

    A very informative and good post! 🙂 I am going to Seoul in a couple of weeks and considering doing this procedure too, but wonder if it 100% permanent, like a real tatoo? If so, do they offer also semi permanent treatments. I am trying to inform myself through this clinics website but the translation function doesn’t work very.

    Very best wishes,

    Erika

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Erika,

      Cosmetic tattooing like microblading uses a different kind of ink from regular tattooing, and you will need to get it touched up. If you go to Clinic Gyul or any of the other places mentioned in this post, the brow tattooing will not be permanent! It is typically expected to last for one or two years, after which you will need to have it re-done or touched up. That way, if you want to change your brow shape with the trends in the future, you can easily do so. Don’t worry! It also fades naturally and won’t turn that grey-blue color you might see from some of the old-fashioned makeup tattooing that used to be popular in North America and Europe.

      The staff members at Clinic Gyul definitely speak English, and you can text them on KakaoTalk or email them in English to set up an appointment. The other clinics listed should all be able to help you set up an appointment in English too; just shoot them an email! ^^

  2. Anna

    Thank you for this blog entry! I have just made an appointment with the clinic for next week. I have always been wanting to do that but never really got the guts to finally proceed. Your blog helped me with my decision.

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Anna,

      Let me know how it goes! Your comment actually reminded me to post my follow-up photos–I was even happier with the results after my second session!

  3. Shimin

    Hi Erika ,
    What if I don’t go back and touch up ?
    Because I will be in Seoul only for a week

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Shimin,

      This depends on the type of brow tattooing you choose. If you choose the 3D method, it cannot be completed in only one session. If you choose either the Makeup (solid tattooing) or Natural (microblading only) methods, then you can do these in one session. However, the clinic then cannot guarantee any patchiness as the tattooing really should be touched up after fully healing. If you are only in Seoul for a week and cannot get a touch up, then I would recommend the Natural method!

  4. Kary

    I see that you were doing a touch up March 25 but can’t find the blog to it. Would love to see your results

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Kary,

      I just updated it today! It’s on the bottom half of the same post here, so you should be able to see all of the final after photos. I’m going to take one last picture and add it tomorrow morning, since it’s now been 3 months since my touch-up. If you check after July 2nd, you should be able to see that too ^^

  5. Dora

    Hello,
    I ran into your blog while searching for microblading courses in South Korea. I would love to know where your technician got her microblading training in South Korea? I know it may be out of your league but I figured I would ask. Love the results!

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Dora!

      Unfortunately I don’t know their training background, and as my technician didn’t speak any English and my Korean is fairly limited, I wouldn’t know where to start with asking her. Clinic Gyul has a rather large staff though, and they may require them to go through a particular training course. You can read more about their team here if you can understand Korean:
      http://www.clinicgyul.com/nbeauty1_2.html

      Sorry I can’t be of more help! ㅠㅠ

  6. Anna

    Hi, very informative Blog entry.
    I would just like to know, how long you have to wait until it is completely healed and when you are able to get your first touch up (when choosing the “3-D method”). I’m in Seoul for a couple of weeks up to a month every year (depending on my work scedule) and i considered microblading my brows, however I’m worried that my stay won’t be long enough.
    Thank you in advance, Anna

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Anna, the technicians at Clinic Gyul in particular allow for the retouching to be done as early as 3 weeks and as late as 3 months. If you stay for up to a month, then you should be able to squeeze it in as long as you book the appointments in advance for both of the days. I’m not sure about other clinics, but if Gyul allows it to be done 3 weeks after then I’d imagine doing it 3-4 weeks after at other places is perfectly okay too. My brows were pretty much done peeling and healed after the 10 days, so 3 weeks should be plenty of time. Hope that helps! ^^

  7. Daniela

    You received the touch up March 25. When did you do the first trial?

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Daniela,
      My first appointment was on February 21, so mybsessions were about a month apart. ^^

  8. Gгeetings! I know this is kinda оff topic but I
    was wondering which bⅼog platform are you using for this site?
    I’m getting sick and tired of Wordpress becauѕe I’ve had issues with hacкers and I’m looking at options
    for another platform. I would be great if you could point me іn the direction of a good platform.

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi! I’m actually using WordPress, but I’m self-hosting on my own website that I pay for. I’m not big on HTML and web-management, so I hired PeoplesHost to help me with the technical stuff. They’re always quick to respond and really helpful~

  9. Jennifer

    Thank you for sharing your experience on 3D brow tattooing in Seoul! I will be traveling to Seoul in end of September and I am looking for a recommended clinic to get eyebrow microblading / 3D tattooing that looks as natural as possible. However, as I will only be staying for about 2,5 weeks, I was wondering whether I can manage to do both sessions during my stay?
    Thanks for your Feedback

    • nomadicmadda

      Hi Jennifer!

      Sorry I wasn’t able to reply sooner–I had surgery a few weeks before your comment and have been in recovery. I know September has just passed so I’m assuming this info won’t be helpful to you now, but I’ll reply just incase anyone else has the same question!

      I’d recommend speaking to the clinic directly about scheduling and seeing what they recommend. At Clinic Gyul you actually pay in two parts, so you would be able to pay for just the one session if you didn’t have time for the second. Judging from my own photos and healing time, it takes around 10 days for the brows to stop peeling and the color to settle. If you have 2.5 weeks, I’d say you’d probably be okay if you have your first session the day after you arrive and your second session the day before you go home.

      If the clinic says you only have time for one session, then definitely go for the natural brows (just microblading) instead of the 3D, as the first session of the 3D is only solid color. I much preferred my brows after the second session because the hair strokes of the microblading make it look much more natural than the solid makeup tattooing. You can see my before and after photos from my first session to see how the makeup part fades ^^

  10. Marion

    How much was the cost?

    • nomadicmadda

      Hello Marion,

      The cost is listed in the blog under the “Choosing Your Clinic” section near the start ^^
      The average cost is ₩200,000-₩250,000, and I personally paid ₩237,600 at Clinic Guyl when they were running a special~

  11. Hi there! This post could not be written any better! Reading through this post reminds
    me of my good old room mate! He always kept
    talking about this. I will forward this article to him.
    Fairly certain he will have a good read. Many thanks for sharing!

    • nomadicmadda

      Thank you! I hope your roommate finds it helpful–I’ve been really happy with my results and feel it was money well-spent!

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