Brow rehab – how to boost your eyebrows

How to boost your brows
There’s a thriving industry devoted to removing excess hair, but what if your eyebrows need boosting? Megan Bedford puts her ‘squiggles’ on the line:

My name is Megan and I’m a browaholic. It has been 14 days since I last plucked. I’m the owner of two sparse, skinny squiggles known as post-90s brows, and although I know makeup, a defined, face-framing pair of brows, constantly eludes me. To use social media-speak, my brow game is weak – a hangover from the days I obsessed over Kate Moss’ Calvin Klein moment with her slim, streamlined arches. Back then, the hunt-and-peck tweezer routine was essential to my teenage beauty regime – along with MAC Spice Lip pencil and a dousing of Gucci Rush. Who knew that 20 years on I’d be wishing for Cara Delevingne’s caterpillars instead?

Eyebrow expert Nicky Shore of specialist brow salon On Browhouse, says it is likely that over-plucking has caused a build-up of scar tissue at the base of my brow hair follicles. “That makes it difficult for blood supply and nutrients to reach the hair to enable it to grow. The hair follicle may still be present but has become dormant.”

Hair-growth serums such as LiBrow have impact if follicles are ‘sleeping’ and have not been obliterated, as I suspect mine have. Serums haven’t done much for me in the past, so I called on experts to help strengthen and lengthen what I have left.

Bobbi Brown’s Everything Brows Lesson
Bobbi Brown has at-counter makeup lessons, many of which are free, and the Everything Brows one covers how to use makeup to enhance (what’s left of) what God gave you. Aimee Heyrick, Studio Manager at Bobbi’s Smith & Caughey’s Queen Street counter, selects the two tone eye-shadow brow kit and applies the powder with the tip of the angle brush pointing down. She uses a light up-and-down motion to feather on the colour.

“The mistake people make is trying to draw a long line with too much colour,” says Heyrick. “Instead, mimic the hairs with short strokes, working from the start to the arch, reassess, then complete the brow, extending just past the outer eye.”

She suggests trying to find a product close to your natural hair colour and using the lightest touch possible, tapping off any excess powder. Use a darker shade to define where the hair is most sparse and a lighter one to add fullness.

Cost: Free

Benefit Brow wax and tint
American cosmetic brand Benefit is almost as well known for its full-service brow bars as it is for its collectable quick-fix makeup and skincare. With eyebrow tinting, tidying and waxing – and demos on how to use the brand’s products –available by simply walking up to their department store counters, it’s the place to go if you don’t have time to keep to a scheduled appointment. The perky brand reps are full of wisdom such as, “Brows are sisters, not twins” and “Your brows are the frame to your face, and you wouldn’t put a pretty picture in an ugly frame would you?” Their own impeccable brows, however, are all the advertising needed.

National sales and education manager Sarah Taiapa-Bell looks at my set and immediately recommends entering voluntary brow rehab. She suggests stepping away from the tools and allowing my brows to grow, save for a tidying tweeze, for a couple of months. At my insistence – I want to start things off right – she takes me through the brand’s tint and wax service using a signature brow mapping technique as a guideline to create the best shape.

After examining my hair colour and applying a custom tint to match, she uses a clever plastic tool to measure the start, the arch and the end of each brow in relation to my nose, before getting to work with wax. Finally a combination of Benefit Brow Zings, a long-wear wax colour and setting powder duo, is applied to fill in gaps and define the top line of the brow. Afterwards I marvel at how the tint has amplified all the tiny vellus hairs, meaning my brows look fuller, and the clean brow bone makes me look younger and surprisingly well rested.

Cost: Wax $29, tint $19

Brow extensions from ON Browhouse
From her sleek salon in Auckland’s Britomart, Nicky Shore, also the powerhouse behind the city’s Off Wax bars, offers
a haven for those like me. Shore’s sole focus with this venture is brows, and not trendy ones, just natural, believable ones. She sees clients who are frustrated with their own brows, thanks to over-plucking or illness, and are seeking solutions.

After a detailed consultation about my own brows’ colour and shape, I’m placed in the reclining chair of expert Ericka McQuinn-Taylor to receive a full set of 3D brow extensions. She spends around 90 minutes fixing hundreds of single colour-matched human hairs over my existing brows and to the skin nearby. These create strong, dense and softly arched brows that begin where they naturally should (straight up from the curve of my nostril) and taper slightly past the end of my own scraggly few. Up close you can see each individual hair but from arm’s length the effect is perfectly natural and flatteringly uniform. It’s quite striking how my face suddenly looks sharper and my skin looks clearer. Over the next few days I wear less makeup and marvel at how good my brows look.

Then, four or five days later, even though I’ve followed the rules about avoiding oil and cleansers and pulling my shower cap down over them, the hairs start shedding, until day six and seven when I again need powder colour to fill in the gaps. These are great for an occasion, but aren’t a long-term solution.

Cost: From $75

Browography from On BrowHouse
Here’s where I cease speaking from experience, and instead offer up the options. Shore has recently begun offering Browography, essentially brow tattooing, but using a far more precise and elegant technique, where fine single strokes are etched onto skin by brow artists to recreate the appearance of hair. Given the tendency for brow tattooing to be obvious and clunky I’m reluctant, but I’m put in my place when I learn several colleagues have had it done and I’ve never noticed.

“We do not go as deep as traditional tattooing – the strokes look much more natural and there is gradual fading in the colour and clarity of the lines over the period of about a year,” Shore says. “This means there is more room to move later on and it doesn’t have the tendency to age as harshly.”

The option is popular with older women, whose brow hair has thinned thanks to changing hormones, as well as those who want just a small area, such as a scar or patch, camouflaged.

Cost: $895, includes consultation and three appointments

In the end I decide to rely on my at-home solutions for now, embracing Taiapa-Bell’s advice to leave the plucking to the experts and allow the fine hairs to mature so I can achieve slightly more volume. While I haven’t opted for Browography just yet, the appeal of going makeup-free in the weekends is compelling. It is reassuring to know it is an option and that what’s available is changing all the time.

“Everyone is now talking about brow transplants,” Shore points out. Though she stays abreast of developments internationally, it’s not something she’ll be offering just yet.
“From the treatment of burn victims to people with illness-related hair loss, it is now the next level of brow perfection. The most common type is where follicles from the back of the head are transplanted into the brow area, a couple at a time. “It’s quite crazy to think about, but I understand that the hairs continue to grow for a lifetime and therefore need to be trimmed generally once a month.”