Do you remember when you were 16, and you discovered tweezers? And wanting to have sophisticated, adult brows, you ended up plucking your brows into oblivion, resembling a very poor Marlene Dietrich impersonator?
Well, I do. I recently showed some photos of me in high school to a friend, and she was shocked that at the age of 17, I looked a great deal older than I do now, at 25. The culprit? Sparse, thin eyebrows with a poor, rounded shape, and no defined arch. I went for bi-weekly waxes at a local salon, where the woman who did my brows waxed indiscriminately, without any consideration for my age, or face shape. The result was ghastly, as the photos prove.
Me in 2004.. with my terrible tadpole brows!
Now, when I think of beauty sins, one of the first things I think about is eyebrows – eyebrows are so essential in framing the eyes, but also giving shape to the face. Those with round faces, strong jaws, or long faces, can effectively use their eyebrow shape to highlight the best features of their face and give shape. A pair of strong eyebrows instantly draws the eye to a pair of lovely eyes, or can add balance for women blessed with pillowy, Angelina Jolie lips.
Catherine Deneuve is the best example - gone are the dark brows of her youth, in their place are a pair of lighter, subtler brows that 'lift' the eye area
But that’s not all..
When we are young, our hair is thicker, and so eyebrows grow in very thick, and full. As we age, the hair on our brows and lashes grows in more sparsely, meaning that a full brow automatically gives a more youthful look. For those of you who are 50 +, I can’t stress this enough: a pair of fabulous brows is one of the best illusions of youth you can add to your face. Now, I don’t mean a pair of penciled in, ridiculously thick brows à la Liz Taylor, which are best left to the very young, but do take a look at the following famous women, all of whom are 50+ : Each one has a pair of brows that frame her face, open the eye area, and are neither too thin, nor too thick. Make sure your brows are not overly arched – it can make you look angry (as the controversy surrounding Michele Obama’s brows several years ago can attest to).
As you get older, make sure that the color of your brows is one shade lighter than the color of your hair – this will bring light to the area, deflecting from crow’s-feet. If your brows are sparse, fake it until you make it – use a growth stimulating gel (Talika‘s Lipocils for eyebrows are said to be especially effective), and in the meantime, use an eyebrow powder and either gel or wax to set the shape. For sparse brows, powders will create a softer look than pencils, who’s application can be difficult to master, and which can create a harsh look.
The eternally youthful Jane Fonda, using brow powder for a subtle look.
A gorgeous pair of brows isn’t reserved, however, for our older friends! Young women, too, can find that very thin or overly arched brows tend to be very aging, as evidenced by my experience as a teenager. Think of the gamine beauty of Audrey Hepburn or Brooke Shields, and consider the fact that both women emphasized their strong, dark brows. It seems like every season for the past few years, Vogue has been declaring the return of the power brow, so now certainly seems like the time to embrace a full brow look. Full brows, however, do not need to mean ungroomed - it is important to keep the arch defined, and a clean brow-bone, as unruly brows are never an elegant look. Charlotte Casiraghi and Keira Knightley both embrace the full brow look and carry it off with aplomb, giving them a very elegant, yet modern, look.
A young Brooke Shields
The best option is to find a reputable brow shaper in your area, and splurge on a session – avoid your local, cheap nail salon, and go for women who are specialized. They might use any number of techniques, including waxing, plucking, and threading, though those who use a combination of techniques tend to be the best. After you’ve had your brows professionally shaped, you can use a tweezers for maintenance at home – NEVER wax your own eyebrows, as you can easily end up taking off too much hair (I had, literally, half eyebrows from 2005 – 2007 for this very reason). When you tweeze, make sure not to use a magnifying mirror – you need to see your entire face, to make sure you’re not taking off too much hair, and keeping within the shape that your brows have been tamed into.
The exquisite Charlotte Casiraghi
Keira Knightley's strong brow look
As for kits with eyebrow stencils, I really don’t recommend these – a plus sized woman with a very round face won’t have the same proportions as a woman with a very thin, long face. One size does not fit all, and you’ll need to take these things into consideration when taming your brows.
For eyebrow makeup, there are, however, a few excellent products on the market, some of which contain pencils, powders, and waxes. Find the product that works the best for you, in a shade that either matches your hair color, or is one shade lighter (especially important after 50). Only the palest of blondes can go darker, sticking with ash or taupe shades in one shade darker than their hair color – while dark brows can be pulled off by certain outlandish blondes, I wouldn’t generally advise this, for risk of looking like Courtney Stodden. I don’t condone permanent makeup (tattooed eyebrows) as they tend to look very harsh and unnatural, often fading to a frightening shade of burgundy.
To cover regrowth, you can use a product designed specially for this (like Benefit‘s High Brow pencil), or simply a highlighter that isn’t too shimmery.
If you’re shaping brows at home, you can generally refer to the pencil rule – that is, when holding a pencil to the inner tip of the eyebrow, it should line up vertically with the bridge of the nose and down to the nostril. Now, hold the pencil vertically from the center of your pupil – the highest point of the arch should more or less align with the pupil. Finally, hold the pencil on a diagonal, starting from the corner of the nostril, going across the outer corner of the eye – your eyebrow should end on this diagonal line. Be sure to avoid the ‘tadpole’ look, wherein eyebrows are very thick at the inner corner, and taper off sharply – the eyebrow should taper off gradually, if at all.
Chart for shaping your own brows
This article from Glamour (click on the text to link) provides a good guide of the different forms of eyebrows for your face shape.
Lastly, don’t hesitate to go all out with your brows. I love building mine up for a very 1950s look with simple makeup – with a wonderful pair framing your eyes, you’ll need very little makeup to achieve a polished look !
A strong brow look !