Whether you want them high and arched or straight and full, eyebrow shaping has become as commonplace as getting your nails polished. For customers tired of filling in their brows with an eyebrow pencil every day, the practice of microblading can offer a more permanent solution, but health officials say it’s not without risk if you’re not careful about where you go.

Microblading, also known as eyebrow embroidery, microstroking or feather touch, is when an esthetician uses a small blade to administer tiny cuts to inject ink in or around the client’s eyebrows to change their shape or give them the appearance of fullness. The semi-permanent makeup differs from tattoos because the fake hairs are drawn on individually for a more realistic look.

Because microblading involves breaking the skin, health officials in British Columbia are concerned about possible infections when untrained individuals practice the technique in unsafe conditions.

Nicole Roberts, an esthetician who went to school for microblading, told CTV Vancouver on Monday that she has seen some awful infections from customers who received the procedure from poorly trained practitioners. She said the first sign of infection is puffiness in the affected area, pus, a yellow tinge or redness and itchiness.

Courtney Hesketh, the Environmental Health Operations Manager for B.C.’s Interior Health Authority, told CTV Vancouver on Monday that customers considering microblading should be cautious about where they go for the procedure.

“Our biggest concern is that there is the risk of blood-borne infection. So things like Hepatitis and HIV,” Hesketh said.

She also said that common skin infections can become serious if they spread because eyebrows are located so close to the eyes and brain.

Unregulated businesses have been popping up on websites, such as Facebook, Kijiji and Craigslist, offering the service from home. Unlike commercial tattoo and body piercing shops, these home-based salons don’t have to undergo proper health and safety inspections.

The provincial Interior Health Authority advised prospective customers to research different businesses to ensure they visit one that is licensed and undergoes regular inspections. They also recommend that clients make sure their practitioner is only using a single-use microblading pen. Hesketh said it’s a good idea for recipients to pay close attention to the esthetician setting up for the procedure.

“Watch them open packages, that’s the most important thing,” she said. “You want to make sure that they haven’t used that scalpel or needle on somebody else.”

Anyone looking to receive microblading can view inspection reports for licensed businesses in B.C.’s southern interior by visiting the Interior Health Authority’s website.

With a report from CTV Vancouver’s Kent Molgat