Photo via Defacto Salons

With more salons illegally offering a trending eyebrow-alteration service called “microblading,” Baltimore health officials have issued a warning to city residents to try to keep them safe.

Microblading lets a person get pigment inserted beneath their skin with needles, much like a tattoo, to mimic the appearance of a normal eyebrow hair. The semi-permanent alteration has become more popular in the last couple years, getting the spotlight in fashion-focused publications like Elle, Cosmopolitan and InStyle.

But as it uses ink and needles, it poses the same health risks as tattooing and therefore needs to be regulated as such under Baltimore City’s health code. That’s become a growing problem, with some local salons illicitly offering the service to clients.

According to a statement from City Health Commissioner Leana Wen, a lot of hurt can come if microblading isn’t done right.

“Besides the cosmetic damage that may include permanent scarring, tattooing in unlicensed facilities can lead to infections such as MRSA, HIV, Hepatitis B and C,” she said in a statement today.

According to an accompanying release, tattooing in Baltimore must happen only in licensed facilities and be performed by registered artists. Salon owners and employees are barred from microblading under Maryland law and face a wide range of fines, suspension or revocation of their license if caught.

A health department spokeswoman said the department issued the warning today “in response to the general growing trend of microblading so that residents are equipped with information that can help them stay safe and healthy.” She noted videos have recently circulated on social media endorsing the practice.

The health department sent out letters to 500 salons in the city roughly three weeks ago, she said.

Residents can report unlicensed tattooing, microblading included, to the 311 Call Center.

This story has been updated. The health department previously said it sent 1,000 letters to salons, but said Thursday morning that the that total was actually 500 letters.

Ethan McLeod is a freelance reporter in Baltimore. He previously worked as an editor for the Baltimore Business Journal and Baltimore Fishbowl. His work has appeared in Bloomberg CityLab, Next City and...