Achieving the perfect brow

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I was waiting for an oil change the other day when something on the courtesy TV caught my attention. It was a demonstration of microblading, a newish technique for revitalizing fading brows.

I say newish, because it is a take on a process of permanent makeup, or tattoos, that has been around for a couple of decades. The new technique uses slender needles to create hair-like small cuts that are then pigmented by an ink selected by the client; it is said to be subtler than just tattooing the brows.

Many women suffer from thinning brows, especially post-menopause. It is natural for hair to become thinner and grayer on the scalp, brows, lashes and anywhere hair grows, once a woman passes through that milestone. Some women effectively lose all of their brows, especially if they have been plucking the grays, not realizing that sometimes those hairs will never grow back. Unless as a young woman you had brows like the actress Brooke Shields or current it-girl Cara Delavigne, undoubtedly your brows have thinned as you’ve gotten older.

Younger women, too, have brow concerns, although they may revolve more around shape and grooming than thinning. I am old enough to remember the skinny brows of the 1970s, achieved with nothing more than tweezers.

But oh, how things have changed. Now you may choose to tweeze, wax or thread. For those who don’t know, threading is a process developed in India, which twisted thread is skillfully deployed to remove errant hairs. At first, this process was only available at upscale brow bars. Now, I can get them threaded in the mall near my home.

I recently paid paid a visit to one such establishment, where I was asked to choose between thick, medium and thin brows. I am fortunate that I still have relatively thick brows, which I like to keep full but defined. The process takes about 10 to 15 minutes and stings a little. After, the area may be subject to some transitory redness.

Waxing also is a popular way to groom brows. Waxing does take a good deal of skill, and not everyone is good at it. I had a cosmetologist for a few years who was an absolute expert. She had a great eye and her own method to put a slight arch in my straight-across brows. At that time, some of the brow bars were using stencils to shape brows, which this woman, Maria, eschewed. As with threading, you may have some slight irritation following waxing. Tweezers, of course, are the old standby for many women.

Fortunately, shaping brows can be very cost effective; waxing and threading can both be found for around $10 at nail and brow spas. Not everyone dyes brows, so you can count on paying more if you also want your brows colored. I have paid $50 for brow shaping and coloring at a finer spa.

If you dare, brows can be dyed at home with vegetable-based kits available at beauty supply shops. It is frowned on to use hair dye around the eyes, as it can be dangerous to get in the eyes.

If you want to get a sense of the evolution of brow grooming, look no further than our former first lady, Michelle Obama. When she arrived at the White House, her brows were thin, highly arched and a little severe. Lately she’s been sporting lush, thicker brows with a less severe arch.

In terms of keeping your newly shaped brows looking fresh, there are countless cosmetics for this purpose. There are, of course, the old standby eyebrow pencils, usually now with a sspiral brush on the opposite end for grooming. Fine, short strokes should follow your natural brow line, experts say. Also popular are gels, clear or colored, that keep strands in place. It is recommended that you choose a shade that’s one shade lighter than your natural brow to avoid that painted-on look that can be so aging. There are brow powders that serve the same purpose as gels, but with a softer finish.

For another more permanent solution to thinning brows, there are prescription solutions, as well as some less potent over-the-counter brow solutions, that actually grow hair back. Check with your dermatologist to see if they are right for you. In a similar vein are gels that have fibers to create the look of natural brows.

There’s no hard and fast rule for whether brows are thick or thin. Celebrities such as Delavigne are famous for their thick brows. However, just like in fashion, how thick you prefer your brows and the shape you prefer are largely a personal choice. Yet, I feel every woman could profit from better brows. As my former cosmetologist, Maria, used to say, “It’s like an instant facelift!” ■

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