Back in high school, I noticed this one girl, who had always been very pretty, suddenly beginning to look much more adult than the rest of us. I couldn’t put my finger on what had happened. And it wasn’t anything owed to physical development of the body; it was something different about her face. Her hair was perhaps getting lighter, but that just didn’t account for all of it. It was something in the expressiveness of her face that had suddenly become more mature and couldn’t be found on my own face.
I remember when I realized that it was the fact that she was now penciling in and defining her eyebrows that had caused this noticeable change. When I think about it, she didn’t really have standout eyebrows before (light blonde), and now they were squared off with a very angular arch, colored in with a chestnut-blonde pencil that was a couple shades darker than her hair color. It gave a very harsh effect in hindsight that I would never attempt to repeat, but I think that was the first time when I realized how powerful eyebrows can be. They are very easy to ignore, but it is truly amazing how much of a beautiful impact they can have on your look when you pay just a little attention to them (or, well, the right kind of attention I guess).
My mom began urging me to leave me own eyebrows alone around the same time I noticed this other girl’s. At that point, the trend was still to pluck them nearly out of existence and/or replace them with dark, harsh pencil lines, and it had been so all through the preceding decade. Natural brows circa 2003 were considered sort of weird. If you manage to find a picture of the Spice Girls, Drew Barrymore back in her younger years, and even Angelina Jolie around the same time, you’ll see that eyebrows were not recognized as the crowning glory of the face as many now see them. Women like Brooke Shields and Jennifer Connelly (who I am eternally and forever obsessed with) were considered sort of fringe-y and almost avant-garde for letting their brows remain strong and full (and not always in the best way). I remember my mom referencing Brooke Shields when encouraging me to leave my eyebrows alone, and though I didn’t yet have a grid for “different” being a good thing at that point, I listened to her. I thought maybe my eyebrows could be something special.
I probably did not pluck a single hair from my brows (save for the little rogues that tried to make their way out into No Man’s Land) until I was 22 or 23. At that point I began seeing the benefits of plucking one or two hairs that had come down just a tad too far; this defined the shape of my brow and prevented them from becoming a chaotic mess. I also began using my first product to fill them in a bit more and brush them into place- Anastasia’s Tinted Brow Gel in Espresso. I used this on my wedding day. I hadn’t thought of really paying much attention to enhance my eyebrows before all this.
And then it happened- Cara Delevingne happened. One model, over the course of perhaps just one year, exploded within the fashion world and seemed to singlehandedly make full, bold brows cool again. Brushing them up, and yes, making them darker but without sacrificing their texture (as in you want the hairs to be visible and not colored over) became acceptable rules to play by. And suddenly, everyone who had ever plucked their brows to death in the 90’s and 2000’s was at a disadvantage. I, however, rejoiced! And seemingly overnight, bold, statement-making brows were everywhere in the celebrity world- Camilla Belle, Lilly Collins, Keira Knightley, Diane Kruger, Megan Fox, and a million more. Finally- a beauty trend that I really, really felt like I could relate to, and one that didn’t demand alterations of what was natural. And it was finally okay to look like Joan Crawford again.
So what do I currently use? If a wily hair ever manages to make itself just a bit too present, I reach for my Tweeezerman tweezers (and they are truly the most precise) and yank that sucker outta my life. But not too much! I limit myself to probably three choice hairs that don’t belong. If I start hunting for more than that, I fear that things may get out of hand. So in short- extremely limited plucking, like maybe once every 1-2 months. I like how brows can almost take on a more masculine quality when you let them be. For the most part, I try to let them do their thing.
As for daily grooming, I often find that I won’t touch or brush my hair in the mornings, but I will tend to my brows. At the very least, combing them up into place happens with a brow brush or a clear gel. I once found myself using a plastic fork to brush them up at work when I failed to bring anything with me. My most regularly used product is the CK One Color Brow Pencil and Gel Duo in Crafty Raven. The tapered pencil is easy to use and the spooly brush with gel is a cinch. I’m on my third one of these currently.
When I have a couple extra minutes, I use Brett Brow’s Duo Shade Pencil in Medium Brunette. I use the darker side on the inside half of my brows, carefully filling in the inner corners but without squaring them off (which scares me and looks a bit angry). It’s important that my brows look shaded, soft, and natural, and not as if they were stenciled in. It’s important to me that I still be able to see the individual hairs. I probably use the most pencil around the arch area, which is just off from the center of my eye. I then take the lighter shade and sketch a little more into the arch and then out (creating that so-called “ombre’d” brow effect). I then use Brett Brow’s Arch Control Gel that comes with a dry blender brush. I use the dry brush to blend in any sketched lines that are too harsh and visible, and then finally the gel to brush the brows up and in place, carefully tapering them off at the ends. This particular gel leaves brows shiny, which I love.
If I’m really going the extra mile, I’ll take a creamy highlighter like the NYX Wonder Pencil and draw just a couple tiny dots beneath my brows, blending them in thoroughly. This gives a lifting effect, and it highlights the brow bone in a very flattering way that opens up the eye area overall. The highlighter-concealers that I discussed in this previous post are also excellent to use for this technique.
And that’s about as crazy as it gets. I have never had my brows waxed, and their shape isn’t immaculate like much of what we see these days on Instagram, but I appreciate the low maintenance. I’d rather put money or time into a hair appointment or a nice skincare item, but I’ve had a couple friends with very high maintenance eyebrows that they love to invest in and treat beautifully. I remember InStyle magazine once describing high maintenance brows (think Camilla Belle status, possibly in need of frequent waxing appointments) as the “Celine luggage of brows”, referring to them as impeccably tailored and requiring the best of care. I love that idea, but I myself have not been quite that blessed. I guess the grass is always greener.
My next brow venture will probably involve attempting to trim my brow hairs (myself). Anyone do this currently? I’m curious to hear your experiences. Peace, love, and brows for now! xo, MR