Bollywood Brows Or Au Naturale … the Great Eyebrow Dilemma

Isn't it funny how it's often the simple things that make all the difference in our lives? Small details that make us happy, bring a smile to our faces. Little things like a newly-opened rose, a child's chuckle or perfectly groomed brows. Yes, brows. Seriously. Because, if you're anything like me and have spent the last 20 years perfecting that arch, you'll know there's nothing quite like getting it right. And last week things had got well out of hand.

Okay, it seems terribly shallow but I'm prepared to admit it: while other people have bad hair days that ruin their mood, I have bad brow days. I have bad hair days too but you can always slip on a hat, pop in a clip or wrap everything offending up in a scarf. But, unless you plan on wearing dark glasses 24/7 there's little you can do to disguise or hide an unruly eyebrow. The only thing you can do is attend to it.

And that's where we all struggle. Unless you're professionally trained, it's the devil's own job trying to work out which hair to remove, where to put the arch, where to end the brow and so on. When I was a teenager I never gave my eyebrows a second thought. And, to be honest, if you see a very young woman, or a girl, with over-groomed eyebrows it can look a little odd. And the thing with being that young is that your face is still where it's supposed to be. Your cheeks are plump, your lips ruby-toned and your eyes as fresh and lifted as the day you were born.

You don't need to know that the very best secret for looking younger and fresher is a well-groomed brow. As you age, of course, and I'm talking even into your mid-twenties here, you begin to need a little more help to look, how shall I put it? Alert? Awake? Alive?
In my mid-twenties I began to want to 'do something' about my brows. I was very aware that I did not have 'fashionable' brows. My teenage years had been influenced by the heavy, slightly unruly brows of celebrities like Cindy Crawford and Madonna. But by the mid-1990s the barely there, almost tweezed away Kate Moss look was favoured.

I admit I did experiment a little. But I remembered the plucked away brows of some of the mums of my friends. These were women who had plucked and plucked away at their brows in an attempt to look just a little bit like Twiggy. In many cases their brows had never grown back and they were forced to pencil in a line where they thought their brows once lived. This scared me so, apart from the odd tweeze of a stray hair here and their and an attempt to pencil in a darker line, I left well alone.

It wasn't until I was offered a complimentary eyebrow shape during a facial that I really gave my brows that much thought. Having a beauty therapist, someone trained to recognise my face shape and, perhaps more importantly, the limitations of my natural brow, was a revelation. And I have never looked back. Since that day, I've probably gone no longer than three months between professional grooming.  Because, no matter how brow confident you think you are, it really does take a professional to start you off properly.

Over the years I've been tweezed and waxed by several professionals and, to be honest, had become an eyebrow obsessive. Having groomed brows that worked with my face shape made such a difference to the way I felt about myself that I began to study the 'art'. Yes, I know I'm weird, but I can't help it. I invested in proper tools for the job. No more cheap chemist-bought blunt, uncontrollable tweezers, no more too-dark nasty pencils. And nowadays, with brow beauty so much more en vogue, there's really no excuse not to use decent eyebrow products.

Be honest, did you ever think there would be not just celebrity hairdressers and celebrity manicurists, but celebrity brow tamers too? In the world of the brow obsessed the beautiful and very talented Shavata Singh is the Queen of Eyebrows. Her brow studios across the county provide any woman (or man for that matter) access to the very best eyebrow grooming and care. Shavata's website ( offers all manner of her own products from various tweezers, pencils, taming gels, brushes, combs and scissors.

And US-based makeup company Smashbox Cosmetics offers two different brow colouring systems. One a pot of separate powder and wax which you use with a special brush. The other an 'on-the-go' stick with its own taming gel. Both are available (from in an astonishing range of colours to suit everyone from the darkest brunette to blondes and even redheads.

For those really determined to handle their own brows, companies like Miss Bollywood ( sell sets of eyebrow stencils based on celebrities' brows. With screen legends like Madonna and Grace Kelly, pop divas such as Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce, as well as screen divas like Nicole Kidman and Halle Berry or supermodels Kate Moss or Elle Macpherson and many others to choose from, you're sure to find something to suit your face. But their star line is the Bollywood beauties featuring the fabulous brow styles of Aishwarya Rai and Shilpa Shetty. And I've noticed over the years that it's the Bollywood actresses who really have the best brows around.

So, when my skin suddenly began to react to the warm wax my therapist had been using to shape my brows, I was particularly keen to sample the art of eyebrow threading. When no less than two threading brow bars opened in our local shopping mall, I was intrigued. I'd heard of threading – an ancient method where twisted pure cotton threads are drawn over the brows to remove the unwanted hair and particularly popular in Arabian and Asian countries - but had never seen it in practice. I have to say, it's now the only method of brow shaping I'll even consider. Threading does hurt a bit – it's taking out many hairs at a time – but is nowhere near as painful as tweezing or waxing. And it's easier to maintain in between visits because the line is so very clean.  And, my favourite part, the practitioner can take away all that annoying fine 'furry' hair in between and above the brows. We all know we shouldn't tweeze from the top of our brows, but it's oh-so-tempting. And usually disastrous. But with threading the eyebrow can be successfully and safely shaped from all angles.

And those girls have taught me a lot about my brows. Like the fact that they're a good overall shape. That I have a defined browbones. That, apart from a swing accident scar on the inner side of one brow, I have a good hair density. But I've also learned that my brows are naturally rather flat with little natural arch. And they're a bit too close together. Oh, and the hairs are wavy and a bit too long. But that none of this should bother me because, with a little attention every now again from the threaders, and some minimal maintenance along the way I can disguise it.

But even a threading devotee like me can fall into bad habits. Lately, it seems that the beauty press have been full of stories about strong, wide, dark brows being 'on trend'. And this made me wonder whether I shouldn't allow my brows to grow out a wee bit. After all, if beauties like Jennifer Connolly,Sienna Miller and even our new Duchess of Cambridge could carry off strong brows, perhaps I could too. Plus, and big bonus point here, returning to the au naturale look would save me a lot of time and a bit of money. And that had to be a good idea. How wrong could I be.

This new 'relaxed' look was all very well while I wasn't going out. Even someone as vain as me  doesn't usually wear makeup when I'm indoors and alone, and with a week of few social diversions going bare-browed was no problem. But come the weekend, when I needed to put on some makeup I found it quite impossible to get anything to look 'right'. It didn't matter what makeup look I went for, something just looked 'off'. Then it struck me, no matter how well I concealed my blotches, smooths my lines or plumped up my lips, without a clean, groomed brow to define, I looked, frankly, unfinished. So I'm back to the perfectly manicured brows and happy again. And I've vowed never to experiment again. After all, while you almost never notice groomed or beautiful eyebrows, you sure as heck noticed the ungroomed ones! I don't want to be an eyebrow fascist here, but I've come to  unless you're doing something with your brows, you're just not doing your face justice. As Shavata Singh often describes it. Your eyebrows are the frame to your face and, if you have a beautiful painting, you don't put it in an ugly old, unvarnished frame, now do you?
And, oh boy, once you've got your brows in hand you don't half notice the people that haven't.

So, if you see me looking closely at you, don't frown. I'm just checking out your brows.

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