What The Pluck? One Woman's Quest For Better Eyebrows
The Debrief: How to deal when your brows end up more 'eek' than on fleek
For the most part, I adopt what I like to think is an Edith Piaf-esque attitude to the beauty misadventures of my youth. The crispy hair mascara, the Sun-In, the Spectacular lipstick so thick with glitter that it doubled up as an exfoliating scrub – non, je ne regrette rien. They’re part of a rich personal tapestry of errors and experiments and I wouldn’t change them for all the unsplit ends in the world.
But the one thing I do wish I hadn’t done, the thing I will be all over like the parental tweezer police if I ever have a daughter or an aesthetically liberated son, was plucking all my eyebrows off when I was 11. And also when I was 12, and 13, and halfway into my teens until common sense took hold and I realised that 'surprised forehead sperm' wasn’t exactly *the look* for me.
It was fine circa 2001 – we were basically swimming in sperm brows. There was barely an adolescent girl my side of Crawley who wasn’t walking around in a state of permanent astonishment, as though they’d just been told that DJ Sammy’s Heaven wasn’t the original version.
But here’s the tragic twist in our tale, reader: the hairy bastards never grew back.
A decade and a half later, I am a fully grown woman with adolescent eyebrows. They're patchy and sparse, with about a centimetre of hair missing on the inner corners, which makes me look like one of those childhood pictures with the iron filings you would move around with a magnet. Sometimes I just sit and look at a school photo of 10-year-old me, with her full, lustrous monobrow, and tut at her angrily. If only she knew.
Since we are now living in The Age of the Eyebrow, my shit brows are my secret shame and constant project. I have tried a procession of pencils, powders, pens, waxes and wigs (ok, not wigs) to fake their former glory. When walking in the rain my first thought isn’t wet feet or the vague threat of pneumonia, it’s “PLEASE GOD, LET MY EYEBROWS STAY ON.”
In the course of my brow odyssey, I’ve learned things. I’ve learned that I’m lucky to have colouring that is naturally very slightly ginger, as so many cosmetic brands still seem to assume that brows only come in two colours: pitch black, and ‘spag bol moustache’. I’ve learned that brows that look great in real life AND on Instagram are very rare beasts indeed. I’ve learned that at a push, a standard graphite school pencil will fill in your brows and look natural on most people (thanks Sali Hughes for that tip, and also for the reassurance that it won’t give you lead poisoning).
I’ve learned that those inner corners are the most crucial bit; the absence of a feathery little tuft either side of the bridge of the nose is the most immediate giveaway that your brows are from Superdrug, not Mother Nature. And I’ve learned that it is possible to regrow lost hairs as well as painting them on – but you have to go totally cold turkey on the tweezers.
Brow guru and threader-to-the-stars Shavata Singh, advises: 'If you feel like you have over-plucked your eyebrows, stop tweezing immediately and let them grow out. The cycle of hair growth is around 8-13 weeks so it’s best to be patient and wait for them to grow back. In the meantime, get your eyebrows professionally tinted as it will make brows appear naturally thicker and fuller. Then I strongly advise seeing a professional who will analyse your features to find the perfect most flattering shape for you.'
'Over-plucking should be avoided at all costs as hair doesn’t always grow back,' she warns. 'You run the risk of permanently losing your most flattering shape.' Contrary to the myth your Gran told you about six hairs coming to the funeral of each pluckee, repeatedly ripping out the same hair can damage the follicle and sometimes shut up shop for good.
I can’t build a time machine to go back and knock the tweezers out of child Lauren’s hand, but there is hope in product form. Singh just launched her own Shavata Brow Strengthener, a castor oil-based treatment to nourish brow hair and kick lazy follicles into action, and I’ve been using RapidBrow, a spendy but potent brow serum, for the past three months. Combined with a strict no-plucking regime, I’m thrilled to say I’ve grown four brand new eyebrow hairs (four!) on my missing inner corners.
They look a bit weird sprouting there on their own, but I haven’t been this proud of anything I’ve grown since I managed to keep a pot of Tesco basil alive on my windowsill for more than a fortnight. I’m tending to those four hairs as though they are my children. I keep combing them and stroking them and shoving them in friends’ faces, demanding 'HAVE YOU SEEN MY NEW HAIRS?'
Meanwhile in the cosmetic corner, faking the fleek is getting easier too. After years of field research, my favourite make up finds are: Benefit’s Gimme Brow, a fibrous brown gel that clings to existing hairs to fill out your brows, Rimmel’s Professional Eyebrow Pencil, a £2.99 make-up bag stalwart that gives great brow as long as you keep it sharp and don’t try to crayon it on like a toddler, and i-brow by New CiD, a fine waterproof felt tip that passes under the radar so much more easily than cakey, crumbly formulas.
But best of all is the cult hit DipBrow Pomade from Anastasia Beverly Hills, which you paint on painstakingly with an angled brush. It takes a few goes, but once you have the knack you can actually fake individual hairs rather than just a hazy block of colour. It doesn’t budge, either – not rain nor sweat nor swimming pool has been able to shift it, so I can walk around with a brow confidence I haven’t had since long before Cara Delevingne first glowered her way onto a magazine cover.
So yes, je regrette all the pre-teen plucking. But while The Age of the Eyebrow continues, my four new hairs and I are getting along quite nicely. And now I come to think of it, Edith Piaf had pretty terrible eyebrows too.
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