Singer Nonoy Zuñiga has discovered he has an “eye” for a different kind of work. When he’s not performing onstage, he attends to people who want their eyebrows the way they looked—before going to bed and upon waking up.
“It’s called microblading,” says Zuñiga to describe the process of putting a semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo on women, as well as men, who want to skip the tedious task of using a pencil daily for their thinning or uneven brows.
But instead of using a tattoo gun, microblading’s instrument consists of tiny needles in a blade that makes superficial cuts on the eyebrow area to be filled by a pigment similar to the color of eyebrows.
“It mimics the hair strands on one’s eyebrows,” says Zuñiga, a doctor by academic background, having finished medicine at the University of Santo Tomas (UST).
Music and medicine
Back in college, he was singing in bands—he belongs to a family of musicians—while thinking of studying medicine.
On Oct. 4, 1980, he was one of the vocalists of the featured band at Siete Pecados in Westin Philippine Plaza and had gone to the men’s toilet, where a bomb exploded.
His right leg had to be amputated.
He says he wanted to stop singing after the incident, and was set on going to med school after taking the entrance exams at UST.
But six months later, on April 4, 1981, Zuñiga was invited as guest singer at the Metro Pop Music Festival. “(Composer) Willie Cruz went backstage to see me to discuss recording with Vicor,” he recalls. “Willie was persistent.”
After signing up for a record deal with Vicor, Zuñiga juggled music and medical studies, which he finished in eight years.
But he never got to practice as a doctor because he found success in his music career.
In 2016, an opportunity to do something related to science landed in his lap. Sylvia Cancio, New York-licensed aesthetician and a friend of Nelia Lim, Zuñiga’s manager, got him interested in microblading.
He points out that he had learned basic makeup or foundation during his band days. “Inaayos ko na kilay ko, college pa lang,” he recalls, laughing. He was glad to have learned microbading. “It’s an art and a skill.”
He didn’t mind taking up an aesthetics course at Cancio’s La Manille School of Aesthetics to practice microblading. “Aesthetics is essentially skin beautification,” he says, adding that he finds it useful since he’s still in showbiz. He learned about basic and special facials, peels around the eyes and lip areas, how to lessen wrinkles and tighten skin pores.
Eventually, Cancio—whose main clinic, Piel Skin Center, is in New York—invited him to join the Makati and Cebu branches.
Zuñiga clarifies that Piel is not a derma clinic. “Aestheticians maintain and beautify skin through natural means as much as possible,” he says. “We don’t deal with skin diseases… We don’t do invasive procedures like injections. If a patient has a skin disease, we refer him or her to dermatologists.”
Explaining the microblading process, Zuñiga says: “It takes about two hours including preparation—drawing the shape of the eyebrows, client’s comments and approval, anaesthesia, cutting. The actual blading takes only 30 minutes.”
He adds that the client is asked “to come back after two months for a retouch to fill in the gaps. And then you come back again after one-and-a-half years for the color because it fades, and also to reinforce the strands, kung gusto mong magpa-dagdag.”
Most clients are above 40 years old, but Zuñiga says microblading is not for everyone, especially “those with scars, birthmarks, oily skin and diabetes.”
Why do women shave their eyebrows in the first place?
“To shape them,” says Zuñiga. “Kapag pinabayaan lang, iba-ibang direksyon ang tubo niyan. ‘Pag tumingin ka sa mata, kasama ang kilay. Kilay is life.”
Piel Skin Center Makati, 2/F, Cancio Building, 2240 Chino Roces Ave., tel. no. 09274967435; in Cebu, Axis Entertainment Center, Vibo Place, N. Escario St., Cebu, tel. no. (032) 2331086 or 09178352102; e-mail pielacne