Face to Face

Face to FaceFace to FaceFace to Face

B efore Angela Maione begins tattooing, before the pigment is even mixed, she needs to finish her geometry. Calipers and string come out, angles are checked and double-checked, arcs are drawn with a wax pencil to see how they look. 

“It’s very involved,” she says. “But it has to be, because it’s your face.”

Maione is a makeup artist who specializes in microblading and permanent makeup, but this is not the Mike Tyson school of facial tattooing. Maione’s work is small-scale and meticulous. Many people tell her they’re afraid of getting it done; they have in mind the “old school permanent makeup that’s very dense, very dark,” she says. But with new pigments and tools, the final effect nowadays is one of subtle enhancement—a wash of color on the lips, a swipe of eyeliner that never runs and, of course, lush eyebrows.

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“The brow culture is really strong,” she says. “It’s totally opposite what it was in the ’90s. Then it was all about a really thin brow. Now people want that full, natural shape. It defines the face and opens up the eye.” Maione estimates that 80% of her clients come for brow work—either microblading, microshading or both, like customer Melissa Linden. When I visit Maione’s room in Beauty Suites of 383, a collection of beauty boutiques on Orange Street, she’s partway through Linden’s session.

Maione is making fine cuts along Linden’s brows with a paper-thin blade dipped in pigment. The room is lit by a ring lamp so bright you could do surgery beneath it. As she works, she talks me through the anatomy of a great brow, which accounts for the client’s face and skin tone and maps the “skeleton” of the brow along three points: the bulb, the arch and the tail. After the first pass, which Maione doesn’t numb the skin for, she paints on a pigment mask mixed with a pain reliever.

Linden has never had microblading done before, and while some prospective clients are worried about the pain, she says it’s “like baby kitten scratches.” Once the first part is over, it’s onto the big guns, literally. Maione swaps out her single blade for a Cheyenne Hawk tattoo pen, which she uses to add shading to the brow tails. The tattoo gun whirs to life and Maione gets back to work. For either microblading or microshading on their own, Maione charges $495, but for a combo brow that combines the two services, it’s $575.

The financial investment is considerable, as is the time: Brows like these take about two hours to create. But for Linden, and many of Maione’s other clients, those numbers are familiar. Impermanent makeup is expensive, and more than that, the time it takes to apply can add up. As Linden says, “two hours isn’t that bad. If I wanted to do a real Beyonce face [with regular makeup], that’s how long it would take me.” And now, with brows that won’t budge for nearly two years, she can “sleep another 20 minutes every morning.”

Maione, who studied illustration and psychology, turned to makeup because she’d always loved “hand-drawn art and design,” and the professional art world seemed to be shifting more and more towards digital. Two years after starting her business, she’s now interested in branching out even further, planning to take smokey eye classes as well as study areola repigmentation, which can help some breast cancer survivors feel more confident.

At the end of the session, Linden sits up and meets her new brows. As she marvels over the effect, Maione chimes in: “A good brow really can do wonders.”

Angela Maione Beauty
383 Orange St Ste 3, New Haven (map)
Open by appointment
(203) 414-5968 | AngelaMaione@yahoo.com

Written and photographed by Sorrel Westbrook.

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Sorrel is a California transplant to New Haven. She studied English at Harvard and fiction at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. She spends her free time among her house rabbits and houseplants, looking at maps of Death Valley. She loves New England for its red brick and rainstorms and will travel great distances in pursuit of lighthouses and loud music.

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