The grown-up guide to shaping your eyebrows

The grown-up guide to eyebrows
Credit: Getty

Having dinner with three of my oldest friends recently, topics ranged wildly – from feminism to face cream, work to children. Then Vicky said, ‘What’s the deal with eyebrows? What should I be doing?’ Vicky works full-time in a large city firm and when the 20-somethings in her office say they’re off to get their brows done at lunchtime, she has no idea what that actually means and feels too embarrassed to ask. And I’m the same. While I’ve been vaguely aware of a hum around brows in the last few years (figures show the brow-grooming industry is currently worth £20 million, up from £6.5 million in 2011), I don’t quite know what I should be doing and I’m a little too wary to try.

I came of brow-age during the overplucked-semicircle days of the ’90s, and tweezed accordingly. As did a girl in my class, who had wonderful Brooke Shields brows that she transformed into pin-thin arches. Looking back, it was the beauty equivalent of pebble-dashing a Cotswolds stone cottage. However, I don’t like the jet black, blocky look either that you now see on the high street and all over social media. So I’m somewhere in between, with slightly sparse, but not overdone, brows. But I am missing a trick? Yes, according to lash and brow specialist Daxita Vaghela, who told me that good brow work is like good Botox–if done well, nobody will know you’ve had anything done. You’ll just look better.

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‘As we age, our brows naturally become sparser, thinner and fairer as they start losing pigment,’ she explains. ‘So full brows make us look more rested.’ But just as wiping out every wrinkle with Botox won’t necessarily make you look better, a set of thick brows won’t, either. ‘To get the best result, you need to aim for the brow shape and colour you had as a child or young teenager,’ she says, ‘before age or over-plucking took its toll.’

In fact, Daxita asks her clients to bring old photos of themselves to help colour and shape match their perfect later-life brow. Shavata Singh, founder of Shavata Brow Studio, says age is like an eraser when it comes to brows and lashes. ‘It slowly rubs them out,’ she says.

Other brow erasers include hormonal imbalances, an overactive thyroid, alopecia and treatments like chemotherapy. Brow ageing is also hereditary. ‘Look at your mother’s lashes and brows to see how yours will probably age,’ says Shavata, who tells her 40- and 50-something clients to teach their own daughters good brow habits by avoiding DIY plucking at home.

Kaia Gerber and Cindy Crawford Credit: Getty

Cindy Crawford’s daughter, 16-year-old model Kaia Gerber, has said, ‘I used to wax my brows, but my mum said, “You need to stop.” Now I barely do anything to them.I want to have brows like my mum’s when I’m 50.’ So what options are there? ‘A brow pencil is the best low-cost, low-maintenance and no-commitment option, and a great place to start,’ says Daxita. ‘Find one that matches your hair colour, and shape and fill your brows using light strokes in the direction of the brow hair, as much or as little as you feel comfortable with. ‘Then comes threading, which tidies and shapes the brows by removing hairs from the root. It’s more effective and lasts longer than plucking, and gives a better shape.’ Or there’s microblading, which is a relatively new, semi-permanent eyebrow tattoo. It’s the most extreme brow treatment – but if done well, the most effective.

‘A good therapist won’t treat you on the spot – they’ll offer a 24-hour patch test first,’ says Daxita. ‘With my clients,I then work with them to decide on the right shape and colour, and will test the colour on their forehead first. This is where an old photo of their brows help.’ The treatment involves slitting the skin slightly to insert pigment and draw on brow strokes. Daxita provides an after-care kit of wipes and healing cream (most good therapists will,too). The effects last between 12 and 15 months, but Daxita says this varies if you have regular facial peels, dermabrasion or sweat regularly (‘say, if you run a lot’). She also advises using SPF on your brows in the sun. ‘Microblading looks just like your own brows and lifts the whole eye area,’ she says. ‘Clients are often asked afterwards whether they’ve had Botox.’

Recently, the actress Lena Dunham wrote about having microblading in American Vogue after teenage tweezing left her with ‘an arch out of single hairs’. She said afterwards that friends couldn’t tell she’d had her brows done, but instead thought she’d been on holiday or cut her hair. ‘Think of a picture hanging in an art gallery,’ says Shavata. ‘You don’t notice the frame, but it’s silently complementing the picture. That’s what good brows do – silently frame and complement your face, without being the main feature.’