Brow-beaten by eyebrow beauty trends

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Oh fashion, you fickle strumpet.

Women can be so brow-beaten. We grow, pluck, wax, thread, tattoo, embroider, transplant, micro-blade and tint our brows. There’s barely enough time to check if we even have anything left before the next trend pops up like an incipient girl-stache.

Alas, the brow confusion just gets worse from there.

As the current trend towards big, dark brows (think Amal Clooney and pretty much anyone named Kardashian) continues to dominate, those who bravely plucked or waxed theirs into submission (let’s go with Pamela Anderson and Sly Stallone) are turning to a whole new range of permanent, semi-permanent and temporary treatments to get ‘the look’ du jour.

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An example of correct eye brow management by Rosario Lavy/Lavy Last and Beauty

Dubbed ‘brow restoration’, it’s an industry under rapid expansion. Attracted to new techniques such as semi-permanent feather stroke (a tattooing technique using ink that fades within two years), estheticians, makeup artists and salons are seeing more and more brow-beaten women looking for a fast fix.

“Some want a stroke technique, to fill in a bit more naturally. Some want to change their shape. We’re all looking for more volume,” says Raushania Sadikova, owner of Westmount’s SensaVie, who uses highly-skilled Russian techniques. In some cases, women want the flexibility of changing their brows style from one year to the next. “They don’t want something permanent, so they can change the shape.”

That may seem extreme, but for Ottawa makeup artist and lash extension expert Rosario Lavy, it’s hardly the outer limits of what she’s seen.

“I’ve seen people who shave the brow completely or pluck them to the point where they stop growing. They’re obsessed, they tweeze every single day. They end up with a single line of hair,” she says. “But the worst is the Sharpie.”

The Sharpie?

“You see gang members do that. They shave their eyebrows and draw them back on with a Sharpie.”

Bizarre. But in their heyday, Marlene Dietrich, Bette Davis, Lucille Ball and Lana Turner all shaved their foreheads, mostly at the behest of Hollywood studios looking for the pencil thin brow. Dietrich drew hers on half way up her brow to widen her eye area; after losing hers for 1938’s The Adventures of Marco Polo, Lana Turner was reduced to wearing stick-on eyebrows for the rest of her life.

These days, there are more options, but not all of them will work for everyone. Nor does everyone with over plucked brows need to go to the extreme of semi-permanent tattoos.

“These techniques should be the last resort in creating a more beautiful brow,” says Elle Wilson, the Australian-born, Edmonton-based master trainer for Brow Artists International, which promotes a natural regrowth approach to brow restoration. “So many of our clients are stunned to find out that their overworked, scarce brows can be fully restored naturally.”

Whatever the technique used, the number one rule is to think before you pluck, says Lavy.

“Follow your natural line. Don’t change it, but make it work better. Sometimes, you pluck one hair,” she warns, “and you’ve changed the entire shape and symmetry.”

Brow restoration techniques

Micro-blade/embroidery/feather stroke: More or less the same approach using different names, the technique involves creating tiny cuts in the skin and tattooing in colour. The original colour fades 50 to 70 percent in the first two weeks, leaving a more natural look.

Upside: The semi-permanent colour will naturally fade, because it’s not a permanent tattoo ink. If you hire a highly skilled technician, each ‘feather stroke’ used to fill in your bald or thin spots will look exactly like a hair.

Downside: There are a few, says Sadikova. Like a tattoo, it can cause some discomfort, swelling and scabbing for a week after the procedure. Then there’s the threat of ‘blue brow’—tattooed brows that burn blue cheap Chinese ink is used. “If your technician is certified, they will use Canadian pigment that has been reviewed by Health Canada,” says Sadikova. “If you do it under the table, you’ll see bad results.”

Cost: $300 to $600, depending on the salon.

Makeup: Paying a makeup artist to show you how to shape your brows and which products to use is just smart. “Eyebrows are like twins: they look the same but they’re not. It’s important to start with them because they frame the eyes and face first,” says Lavy. If you’re uncertain about the right shape, some makeup companies sell precut stencils to use as a guide.

Upside: Once you have the technique, it’s relatively easy and cheap. Plus, you’re in control of your look.

Downside: Erm…anyone who’s seen a blonde with orange eyebrows knows the answer to this one. “Try to go with a colour that is as natural as possible,” says Lavy. “With blondes, it’s a good idea to use a light powder or even a tint.”

Cost: Depends on the product, but the usual range is $10 for a pencil and up to $30 for eyebrow wax.

Naturally restored brows: Following the natural growth cycle and leaving your brows alone for a while will give you the best idea of how your brow should look. If your brows need encouragement to grow, try using something like Wink, an all-natural product made from fatty acids that encourages lash and brow growth. Once they’re grown, consult an esthetician to shape them according to your face, not trends.

Upside: You’ll end up with natural brows that look like they were intended, with a few minor adjustments. While the technique does involve removing hairs through tweezing or waxing, the point it to let a professional take charge.

Downside: How much time do you have? According to Wilson, the natural growth cycle could take several months to go through, during which time you might be tempted to pluck. “The anatomy of the brow is important; we restore it to its natural position.”

Cost: $100