NerdGlam: In Praise of Full Eyebrows

Liz Taylor: The original full brow glam

Confession: I am the child of an Avon lady. When I was in fifth grade, she pulled out her color wheel, informed me that I was a “summer,” and forbid me to ever wear yellow (I have since rebelled with a number of butter-colored dresses). Sometime around junior high, she plucked my eyebrows for me. I cried, my whole browline swelled and turned an angry red … and my brows have been shrinking ever since.

After that first fateful plucking, I took over my own eyebrow grooming, and (visions of Kate Moss dancing in my head) proceeded to deforest the area like a real estate developer planning a strip mall. After the first six months, my eyes didn’t water — yanking out my own eyebrow hairs didn’t even hurt. The brows got thinner and thinner. By senior year in high school, my eyebrows were barely there, and they showed little sign of spontaneous regeneration. Ruefully, I bought my first eyebrow pencil.

Thus followed at least five years of badly drawn arches, weird little points hovering a half-inch out from the magical meridian that runs up your face through the center of your eye. The shape may have fluctuated, but there was one advantage to having sparse brows buttressed with pencil: if you are light skinned, at least, you can make those brows any damn color you want, including lighter shades.

Want to go blonde? Easy: buy a soft brown eyebrow pencil, and the faux brows will greatly overpower the color of your few actual eyebrow hairs. At least you’ll never accidentally blind yourself by putting bleach an inch above your eyeballs.

Brows, once gone, are unlikely to return, and even if they do, it can take awhile: according to the New York Times, “brow hair grows for 30 days before it rests for roughly 3 months. By contrast, scalp hair grows for 2 to 6 years before requiring a 100-day break.” In the meantime, you may find yourself — as I do — vexedly brushing off entreaties from men standing on street corners all around town handing out little flyers for threading.

So if you have sparse brows, here are some options (and, yes, I have stenciled, and I have no regrets).

Instant Brows

The author's brows, photographed by Eric Walton

Fran Wilson Instant Brows are stencils made of sticker material. You pop out the brow-shaped part of the sticker and throw it away, then use the “outline” part of the sticker as a stencil. It’s a pretty great system, since you’re going to want to stick one sticker on, then position the other sticker evenly before applying color. When I say “color,” you’re going to want a brow powder and a brush or eyeshadow applicator. (More on powder below). Finally, peel off the stickers and clean up any mess or smudges with a wet cotton swab. (80% of the time that I do this, I peel of the stickers and say, “Damn, Cleopatra!” The other 20% of the time I sigh at my lopsided, crazy- lady brows and contemplate whether I can bolster one of them with an eyebrow pencil to make a match).

I love the Instant Brow stickers. Love them. However, each $3.49 set gets you six uses. That’s fifty-eight cents per day, or $212 per year. That might be okay for some people; I’m sucking it up. The back of the package does suggest that you can use the stickers more than once, but if you wear foundation or powder, you pretty much have to put that on before you do your brows, and then once you put the stickers on, some foundation will come off on the sticker, and it will no longer be sticky, alas. It was the cost and waste factor that led me to seek out…

Eyebrowz

I’m ambivalent about Eyebrowz. On the one hand, you can pick which celebrity’s eyebrows you would like in stencil form. On the other hand, the stencils are simply thin, clear (reusable) plastic; not only does the stencil not adhere to your head (which, of course, is decidedly convex), Eyebrowz goes so far as to suggest that you use an elastic headband to hold the damn thing on. This will make you look ridiculous, and will still not cause the tail end of the stencil to stay flush to your face.

Even worse, they only sell you one stencil at a time. You’re supposed to wipe it off, flip it around, and use it on the other side. In my experience, this causes lopsided, crazy-lady brows, oh … 100% of the time.

I do use the Eyebrowz brow powder, in dark brown (I’m wearing it in the photo at right). They also sell a white outliner stick that you can apply first, which gives the powder something to stick to and will waterproof (or sex-proof?) your
brows.

How to put stickers on your face

Tattooing

Do not tattoo your brows on unless you have no arms, no ability to move your arms, no fine motor control, are blind, or have some other condition preventing you from applying your own makeup. And even then, caveat emptor: tattooed brows, like all dark tattoos, will ultimately fade to purple (this very thing happened to the Daily Mail’s Liz Jones), while also spreading and becoming less defined. Additionally, since most people’s faces are not entirely straight, if you have your brows tattooed on completely level, your face will look crooked.

Temporary Tattoo Brows

Slogan: “Now you can throw away those ugly, over-priced false eyebrows made of human hair!”

I haven’t tried these. I have used other temporary tattoos, and they tend to peel when they start to come off. I’d be a little concerned that you would look utterly insane – like Zoolander “Derelicte” insane – if your temporary tattoo brows started peeling. You’d look like you got your face from the inside of a Cracker Jack box. However, these brows are inexpensive and the risk is virtually nil, as they come off with baby oil. Because you can’t put a temporary tattoo over
hair, this is a product for people with little to no eyebrow hair, and is thus quite helpful for people with medical conditions resulting in zero eyebrows.

RapidLash

This is an over-the-counter version of Latisse, which Brooke Shields has been advertising as an eyelash-growth serum. The stuff also works on brows, and putting it on normal skin creeps me out a lot less than putting it on your eyelashes and more or less in your eyes. I have used RapidLash, and it did help my eyebrows grow (which they hadn’t
done since the ’90s!) But it costs nearly $50 per month, and if you stop using it, the effect completely disappears; the new, phantom follicles, like the replicants in Blade Runner, are running on borrowed time.

Oh, and if you’re more than a bit batty, you can get an eyebrow transplant. With hair from the back of your head. Which you will then have to trim regularly, forever, or it could grow to be a foot long or more. I once knew a guy who, after a terrible accident, had skin from his thigh grafted onto his arm. It looked like man-thigh, with curly man-thigh hairs. I can’t help but think of that when I think of perfectly healthy people slicing off parts of their scalps and having them implanted on their faces. Makeup, folks. Makeup.

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    • Sharonica

      Jealous! I have to pay to get mine waxed.

    • eEv

      I don’t have problems with them being too thin, but the coloring tips will come in handy as for some reason, dye just doesn’t seem to want to stick to my eyebrows. Thanks Jen!

    • Jen Dziura

      So, I might have to take back the tattooing bit. After this ran, a friend of mine who does not want to be named wrote:

      My eyebrows are tattooed. So are my lipliner & eyeliners. I get them done once a year or so, and it’s been about 5 yrs since the first try. Best. Investment. Ever!!!!

      Upon further questioning, she said that the color does fade, but not to an unnatural color. She’s very pleased (and she’s in her mid-30s). Her eyebrows have always been very dramatic.

      Just thought everyone should know.

    • CurlyComedy

      I use Anastasia Brow Ex-press kit I bought from Sephora ($38). The stencils are plastic, not stickers, so you can reuse them as many times as you want. In addition to helping boost definition of sparse brows, stencils are also great for people with thick, unruly brows. After your apply the color powder and remove the stencil, the stray hairs are easier to identify and remove with tweezers. I only stencil on occasion (on-camera or special events). Through stencils I learned I am a petite arch, not the high arch I’ve been freestyle plucking, and that’s why I’ve looked like a villain all these years.

    • cheri

      After cortizone treatments I had hair thinning, including brows and lashes. I used Rapid Lash and my brows and lashes came back better than they ever were before. I don’t know about long term, (I’m still using it. It is available at Bed Bath & Beyond and at Ulta. Both those stores accept their 20% off coupon.

      Note to Jennifer . . . love the new column!

    • Idol Lash
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    • http://torontopronto.com/author/estella-whitewolf/ kaleidoeeyes

      I had the same problem for about a year, after a particularly passionate uprise in my usually dormant trichotillomania left me with barely-there brows. Eventually, I got my eyebrows done at a salon known for its excellent brow technicians, so at least the awkward smattering of regrowth looked a bit neater.

      What I didn’t expect was that the waxing and plucking in all of the right places led to my eyebrows coming back completely (and in better shape, with monthly visits) after 3 months.

      So that may be something you want to consider, if you ever become bored with the stencilling shenanigans, as I did.