The Dangers of Unregulated Microblading

Makeup artist sculpting eyebrow on client


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People are always looking for ways to enhance their looks, and one fast-growing trend is microblading. Microblading is a tattooing technique that creates a 3D look of thicker, fuller eyebrows. When it is done correctly, clients are often thrilled with the outcome. However, the results are not always guaranteed, and the horror stories are all too real. When microblading goes wrong, the scarring, pain, and expense of removal or repair should giving anyone pause before jumping in face-first.

Like other tattoos, microblading is a semi-invasive procedure that requires the proper sterilization of instruments used in the process. It also requires a knowledge of the disinfection and sterilization of non-disposable instruments. Special care needs to be taken because of the exposure to blood and other bodily fluids during the procedure. Handling these potential hazards correctly requires training.

Regulating an Industry

Microblading falls under the general definition of body art and is regulated as such. In Illinois, the Department of Public Health (IDPH) is the regulating agency for body art. According to the IDPH, a special license must be obtained by the establishment seeking to offer microblading services. Applying for this Body Art Permit is an intensive process, with precise rules and regulations to follow. For example, any establishment applying for a Body Art Permit is required to provide proof that they’ve complete an OSHA-compliant blood borne pathogen training (IDPH). They must also pass a health department inspection of the premises, as well as submit a copy of the business’s operational procedures, a floor plan, and aftercare instructions.

Once the license has been granted, a microblading establishment must continue to follow strict guidelines to keep the license in good standing.  For example, educational information provided by IDPH must be given to all customers before the procedure begins, so they are aware of the risks. Tattooing and microblading involves breaking the surface of the skin, which can increase a person’s chance of getting a skin or blood infection like hepatitis C, tetanus, and HIV. Other potential risks include adverse reactions to the ink, swelling, burning, and scarring.

Because of the serious nature of these risks, cosmetologists and estheticians are prohibited from performing microblading procedures under their professional licenses. The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) licenses the majority of cosmetology professionals in the state, and issued a strong statement explaining this prohibition (Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding and Nail Technology Act of 1985; 225 ILCS 410/3-1 and 410/3A-1.)  

The IDFPR has also drawn a firm line between cosmetology and procedures similar to microblading, prohibiting cosmetologists and estheticians from performing any of the following services:

  • Botox
  • Chemical peels
  • Collagen injections
  • Colonics
  • Liposuction
  • Microdermabrasion, except superficial or light microdermabrasion intended to only remove dead skin cells, oil, and other debris from the surface of the skin.
  • Dermaplaning
  • Microneedling

Staying Safe Requires Consumer Diligence

Despite the state’s attempts at oversight and regulation, a general lack of standards beyond registration as a body art establishment has led to disastrous results for some consumers. For now, the burden of due diligence rests on the consumer. Dr. Murad Alam, Professor and Vice-Chair of Dermatology at the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine, says people considering permanent cosmetics should make sure their technician has completed a number of successful procedures and is referred by someone trusted who has had a good outcome (“Microblading”). It is also important to ask if the body artist or the business they work for has liability insurance, to compensate for a procedure that is improperly done, or where the outcome results in illness or some other related problem.

Jordan Matyas

Jordan Matyas

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Jordan Matyas is a lawyer, lobbyist, and Founder of 1818 Legal, an Illinois professional licensing defense law firm he created in 2014. With more than 18 years of experience practicing law, he represents clients in a wide range of legal matters, including professional license defense, administrative law, land use and zoning, and state, local, and municipal law.

Jordan received his Juris Doctor from the University of Illinois — Chicago School of Law and is a member of the Illinois Bar Association.