Brow wow

Put down your tweezers, chill that wax, and roll up your thread. Don’t make another move until you’ve read through this text.

“The Russians love Brooke Shields because her eyebrows remind them of Leonid Brezhnev.” — Robin Williams

Throughout our years of troubles and toils, ups and downs, peaks and valleys, one essential answer always manages to evade us: How do we achieve (and maintain!) the perfect brow?

Beverly Hills’ Salon Maxime celebrity makeup artist Robyn Cosio views eyebrow shaping as a way of giving a woman an “instant facelift”. Her technique is traditionalist: she shapes with wax and then tweezes for detail. Robyn also tints brows and lashes, for richer and more detailed looks, a technique that especially works well with pale or gray brows.

Because the average number of days it takes eyebrow hair to completely grow back after being plucked is 64 days (dependent on if the hair was injured, just how thick/thin your hair was to start out with, and how often it is plucked), eyebrow shaping may become a more frequent concern than gassing up your car. Many people wax or thread as often as every 2-3 weeks, and plucking in the interim to catch “strays” can be an almost daily task for many with thicker hair. (Interesting fact: long eyelashes and eyebrow thickness are dominant inherited traits, so you may get an idea of how thick/thin your hair will be, in its purest, uncropped shape, by taking a look at your parents!)

“Easy brows don’t come from kits,” says Kat James, author of The Truth about Beauty and a celebrity makeup artist. “They come from a great pair of tweezers and a great eye for architecture.” She advises avoiding plucking under the inner half of the brow and only cleaning up under the outer half. “Then, to elongate the brow, fill in hairless spots from past over-plucking and create the perfect arch placement.”

Filling in spots is where a lot of us come in to problems.

“Often clients will choose a brow pencil color based on their hair color instead of their skin tone. By using a darker shade than necessary, the brow pencil application gives a more artificial, drawn-on look instead of naturally enhancing the existing shape,” offers Shobha Tummala, owner of two high-end spas in New York City that specialize in ancient hair removal methods like threading and sugaring. After experiencing a frustrating range of results at other salons, Shobha is the only place I’ll ever go again for my own brows (I go to the SoHo location and see Shashi). She’s positively brilliant with her thread and my brows have been astoundingly improved since I started seeing her.

According to Shobha, threading is superior to waxing or tweezing because:

The Ouch-less factor — Since threading is able to target the individual hairs, skin irritation is kept to a minimum, unlike waxing which often causes unnecessary stretching and the removal of the skin’s delicate top layers.

An art of perfection — Threading is very precise and allows the specialist performing the service to have greater control than waxing. This precision is especially useful in eyebrow shaping, where every hair is important. Often times when people wax they tend to take the tail of their eyebrow off, making it too short.

Precision is everything — Especially when it comes to eyebrow shaping. Threading allows the freedom to create a more manicured brow or just enhance a person’s existing natural shape. The strand of thread is used as a guide to ensure that the proper line is followed, unlike tweezing which lacks this guidance and increases the risk of brow boo-boos.

Au naturale — Threading is 100 percent natural, there are no artificial waxes, chemicals, or invasive techniques used. Thus, individuals using certain medications like Retin-A and Accutane and those who have even had recent cosmetic surgery can still get hair removal without the worries of waxing. These medications/procedures make the skin ultra-sensitive and waxing could literally remove the top layers of the skin, exposing the delicate under tissue. Also, the majority of people that breakout from waxing tend to not do so from threading. Threading is completely safe and dermatologist-recommended.

Ever notice that Southeast Asian women often have beautiful eyebrows? Threading may just be the reason — it’s been my own method of choice for years. “Threading is an excellent service as it has no side effects,” agrees Pareen Merchant of the Sanctuary Salon Day Spa in Florida. “Painwise it is nothing compared to waxing or tweezing. No down time, very minimal redness, no burns and works excellent when you do microderm or peels.”

“Waxing of eyebrows is one of the most variable procedures we see in practice as dermatologists,” offers Dr. Joel Schlessinger, a board certified dermatologist and cosmetic surgeon, and the president of Wax products vary greatly in irritancy and temperatures can cause differences in experience as well. The skill of the operator is key to a good experience also. While I have no problem with waxing per se, there are several times that waxing shouldn’t be done, including while people are on accutane, after a peel or while on Retin-A or other retinoids near the area of the waxing. Probably the most common thing I see as a dermatologist is the patient who has recently gone on accutane, a drug for severe acne, and then waxes, suffering a major tear of the skin or abrasion. This is truly underappreciated by dermatologists and aestheticians alike and should be a routine part of the pre-waxing questionnaire.”

Even among the professionals, ideas of the perfect method vary. Celebrity makeup artist, Fabiola, who works with actresses Rachel Weisz and Jaime King, recently taught a course for us on perfect brows, and she shows how to get them using only Q-tips cotton swabs! Her perfect brow lesson:

  • For flawless eyebrows, — twist the tip of a Q-tips cotton swab into a point. Dip it into an eye shadow that matches your skin tone and shade in the eyebrows where needed (especially useful if you have tweezed too thin!).
  • For more prominent brows — use a color a bit darker than your natural hair color and fill in along the line of your arch.
  • To create an even, stronger look, use a dark shadow to thicken and extend the outer ends of the eyebrow. Once your eyebrows are filled in, use a Q-tips cotton swab to add or erase shadow, perfecting the shape of the arch.

    For the fill-in, the experts all agree, the right shade is very important.”Our Shobha brow pencils come in two neutral shades that complement a broad spectrum of skin tones,” says Shobha.

    Out of all the kits, powders and pencils we tried, some were good, but absolute best results were with the i.d. bareMinerals Essential Brow Kit (available at Ease is the way of the game with me (hence why I wax or thread every three weeks or so), and this kit is as simple as it gets with this kit that truly does help enhance your color and highlight your eyes while still looking natural. Since it’s minerals and not a pencil or stick, it will naturally conform to your shape rather than looking drawn-on or opaque. Also, it’s oil-free and the finishing gel helps ensure it will not rub off throughout the day. (This is my worst nightmare. Imagine if ONE wore off?)

    “A good rule of thumb is: your brow should begin on the same line of your inner eye (draw an imaginary line straight up and they should be even) and your brow should end diagonally from the outside part of your eye (draw an imaginary 45 degree line from your outer eye up — this is where your brow should end),” says Lizzie Jenkins of New York. “I have finally, after 24 years, learned how to achieve the perfect brow. I do not wax, thread or even get them “done,” as I have learned the secret to good brows,” She goes on:

    All you need is:

    A pair of sharp tweezers — none of the dull and “safe” looking instruments will work;

    A magnifying mirror (handheld or large — size does not matter);

    A paper towel and hot water;


    All you do is:

    Soak a paper towel in hot water and wring out;

    Hold the towel to your brow bone for about one minute to open the pores;

    Sit in direct sunlight so you can see each and every hair;

    Pluck away with sharp tweezers (hold your skin taunt whilst plucking so you don’t grab the skin!).

    A good tweezer is the key to the process. Ramy Gafni, known as the “king of brows” for having styled stars like Charlize Theron, Halle Berry and Kelly Ripa noticed the growing trend toward at-home grooming and created his own line of consumer brow products that include tweezers, scissors, miracle brow and “eye grow brows”( The RAMY tweezer, Tweezerman, has a slanted, round tip that gives users the ability to tweeze even the finest of hairs making it ideal if you are just starting it out at home shaping on your own.

    “All the tools for shaping your brows are good for touch-ups in between professional visits. It’s very difficult to be objective to your own face and maintain a good shape at home indefinitely. It’s best to use these tools, is scissors or tweezers, in desperate times only!” says Gafni.

    “The windows to the soul sometimes need window treatments,” says author and advice columnist April Masini (

    She advises waxing as a quick fix and tweezing to maintain the look. She also has a pencil trick to help keep the shape. “Hold a pencil on the side of your nose. Your eyebrow should start at the tip of the pencil. Then hold the pencil diagonally, and extend it to the other end of your eye. That is where your brow should end. To determine where the arch should be highest, hold the pencil from the nostril to the outside edge of the iris – and that is the apex of your arch. Ideally, the inner edge of the brow should be equal to your nostril. The space between your brows should be equal to the width of your eye.”

    Masini goes on: “Eyes are one of the most expressive parts of your face, and men love to stare into them. Foreplay starts with a look, a glance, or a sensual stare. Having sexy eyes takes more than a bit of mascara.”

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