With the proliferation of brow bars, gadgets and expert advice, there is no excuse for those important hairs framing your eyes to be in bad shape, says Deirdre Reynolds
ONE fateful night back in the 1990s, when Cara Delevingne (inset right) was probably still toddling about in nappies, I sat down and plucked out my beautiful bushy eyebrows.
At the gawky age of 13, at the time, my burgeoning makeup bag contained little but a tweezers and lip balm.
Today, as I grapple with the lasting effects of my biggest beauty blunder each morning, it’s bulging with eyebrow pencils, powders, stencils and gels, among a plethora of other products.
Needless to say, they never grew back.
From Cara to the Duchess of Cambridge, brows have, quite literally, never been bigger.
Jetting into Dublin to launch her Billion Dollar Brows range recently, Natalie Plain revealed how she was “on a mission to save the world from bad brows”.
“Over the years, lots of women tend to pluck a bit off here and there,” she says. “Next thing you know, you’ve got eyebrows you don’t even recognise.
“Your eyebrows frame your face, bring out your eyes and enhance your cheekbones, so it’s not something you should ignore.
“In the past, women just worked with whatever hair they had to work with — now it’s more of an art form. Women want to understand how to do their brows rather than just winging it.”
Just as her cubicle buddy Monica Lewinsky was raising eyebrows at the White House, it was a photo taken with US president Bill Clinton that first made fellow former intern Natalie resolve to sort her own.
Two decades on, her line of products, now available from Boots stores, includes a €31 Brow Buddy tool to help achieve the perfect shape brow for your face at home.
“Basically, I saw a photo of myself and said, ‘OK, I need to get my eyebrows done’,” recalls the 41-year-old. “I wanted to be presented as a professional, career-driven woman, so I went and had my eyebrows shaped professionally. Now what I like to do is just a bold brow and bold lip and very little makeup.”
Taking too much off in the middle, using the wrong shade of pencil and not blending the product properly are among the most common brow crimes, as women bid to strike a balance between ‘scarce’ and ‘au naturel’, Plain adds: “Always, always, always when I put the Brow Buddy on someone’s eyebrows, one eyebrow is too far out. There’s always a little chunk taken off, and the same for the ends.
“When you shape your eyebrows, there’s a start, arch and end point. If your brows are too far apart, everything is exaggerated — your eyes look too far apart and your nose appears larger. Once you do it properly, it’s like day and night.”
As brow bars continue to sprout throughout the land, threading, tattooing and even transplants are just some of the techniques now being used by women to achieve #eyebrowsonfleek, as Twitter users of a certain age might put it.
At Shavata Brow Studio, in Harvey Nichols in Dundrum, a €20 brow shape and €15 brow tint are the most popular treatments.
“Dundrum is my biggest studio in Ireland and the UK,” founder Shavata Singh, whose celebrity clients include Elle Macpherson and Kelly Brook, tells Feelgood from her London home. “We opened in July 2010 and since the very first day we have been really busy.
“Over-plucking and not quite achieving the right shape are the most common problems we see at our studios, while a brow shape and tint is our most popular treatment.
“I would encourage all women to go and see a brow professional, even if it is just once in your life,” she urges.
“They will analyse the whole face, your lifestyle and age before creating your ‘best shape’. “Ideally, you should aim to get your eyebrows professionally shaped every two to three weeks.”
Brow-ned off with constant trips to the salon, and with little left to shape in the first place, two years ago I finally plucked up the nerve to get my eyebrows tattooed on. Now that they’ve faded, I’m reconsidering my options, including the latest semi-permanent technique, Embrowdery, which slowly releases pigment into the skin to give the illusion of brows.
“Since introducing Embrowdery to Ireland three years ago, we’ve treated more than 3,000 clients,” says Elaine McParland of Up To My Eyes, a lash and brow salon based in Greystones, Co Wicklow.
“We get people with cancer, alopecia and people just not happy with their brows and sick of drawing them on. Almost everyone bursts into tears afterwards because they’re so delighted. “Unlike tattooing, eyebrow cloning [such as Embrowdery] doesn’t cut the skin, so there’s no bleeding or scabbing,” she says. “And if you don’t like something, we can easily change it at the next session. It’s not like a HD [high definition] fashion brow — it’s more of a day brow. We use very fine hair strokes so it looks more authentic.
“Your brow just finishes off your look. It doesn’t matter how fabulous your hair and lashes are if your brows aren’t right.”
After losing all her hair to cancer last year, Wicklow resident Ruth Farnes said the treatment — completed over three sessions at a total cost of €460 — didn’t just restore her eyebrows, it restored her confidence too.
“I was diagnosed with breast cancer just over a year ago and had surgery and chemotherapy,” says Ruth. “Having the chemotherapy, I completely lost everything — my hair, my eyebrows, my eyelashes.
“When you have no hair, you can get a wig to put on your head, but I didn’t like the powdered eyebrows that a lot of people are wearing.
“I wanted to go back to what I looked like before I had chemotherapy,” added the 68-year-old. “Then I saw a poster for Embrowdery and decided to go for it.
“It was expensive, but it was worth it to get my eyebrows back. Now my hair is coming back too.”
Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Aniston and Cheryl Fernandez-Versini are just some of the stars whose barely-there brows have also come back from the brink with careful management. But thick bristles are far more than just a beauty trend.
In terms of biology, eyebrows are designed to keep sweat out of the eyes and help express and process emotion.
“Eyebrows are such powerful message givers,” explains Jean Caruthers, a clinical professor of ophthalmology at the University of British Columbia.
“The eyebrows show whether you’re female or male, whether you’re young of whether you’re older, whether you’re interested, dissatisfied, angry, curious or incredulous. Eyebrows really are our big sigallers.”
While the average person has around 250 hairs in each eyebrow, with probably half that number still clinging to my forehead, it makes expressing my disappointment with my own sparse pair ironically difficult until I draw them on.
Others are taking more drastic measures to battle the permanently startled look by undergoing an eyebrow transplant, which cost around €4,000 per brow.
“It’s like a mini hair transplant,” says Dr Maurice Collins, founder and medical director of Hair Restoration Blackrock.
“Using the patient’s own hair, we transplant 250 or 300 hairs one by one, following the angle and direction of the original eyebrow.
“Even though it’s technically a very skilful procedure, it doesn’t take a feather out of the patient. It takes about three to four hours and is all done under local anaesthetic. We do a lot of repair work on burn victims who’ve lost their eyebrows.
“We also treat a lot of women who over-plucked their eyebrows as a teenager and want to boost them.”
With my bank balance currently looking as threadbare as my eyebrows, for now, my new €24 BDB Brow Pencil will have to suffice.
Predicting the rise of brows that are “bold but not overdone” in 2016, Natalie Plain advises: “Brows are always going to evolve from season to season. And I think makeup artists are going to be at the forefront of what’s cutting edge.
“You’re going to see a fresh, new brow for 2016 —but anyone that would shave off their brows or go thin again is crazy.”
First apply a little eye primer to your brows to ensure they remain ‘on fleek’ all day.
Next line the top and bottom of your brows with an eyebrow pencil or powder for a softer finish.
Starting at the front and using hair-like strokes, fill in the gappy bits until your brows look even.
Finally, take an eyebrow brush — known as a spoolie in the trade — and brush the product through.
For added drama, underline the brow with cream concealer one shade lighter than your foundation.
Calculating precisely the right brow shape for your face, Billion Dollar Brows’ Brow Buddy, €31, which comes with a white pencil, takes the guesswork out of framing your peepers.
Complete with a tiny brush and setting wax, NYX Cosmetics’ Eyebrow Cake Powder kit, €7.49, is a makeup bag must-have for all over-plucked beauties on the go — and on a budget.
Mini Slant Tweezer with magnifying 10X Mirror by Tweezerman, €35, the perfect portable duo for sculpting beautiful brows at home or away.
Perfect for applying eyeliner as well as grooming your brows, Blank Canvas Cosmetics’ best-selling Double Ended Brow/Spoolie brush, €7.99, isn’t just versatile, it’s animal-friendly too.
Available in five shades ranging from Emphatically Blonde to Bold Brunette, MAC’s Pro Longer Waterproof Brow Set gel, €17.50, promises brows on fleek in the face of Irish weather.
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