After Overplucking, It’s Time to Call the Professionals
By CATHERINE SAINT LOUIS
Published: December 16, 2009
LIKE many D.I.Y. projects, plucking eyebrow hairs is easy to overdo. One tweezer-happy moment in a magnifying mirror can result in months of pencil-thin or patchy brows that no one wants to have to explain to puzzled relatives. So, too, an eyebrow wax in the wrong hands can leave you stripped.
“I would say 7 out 10 clients that come in have either overplucked or simply don’t have as much brow hair as they’d like,” said Sherlyn Mosaurieta, a makeup artist at the Sephora at 5 Times Square. “They desire to fill the brow in.”
Overplucking has become so entrenched a faux pas that a raft of eyebrow powders and repair kits now exist to help disguise mistakes till the hair grows back. Some high-end eyebrow shapers, who charge $25 to $120 a session, have become known for their ability to steer the skimpy-browed to a fuller look. To say nothing of the fact that an increasing number of hair transplant surgeries are done to resurrect brows tamed into oblivion.
Sania Vucetaj, the owner of her namesake brow bar in Manhattan, said clients sought her out “looking for the best possible grow-out” after too many overpruning mishaps, self-inflicted or paid-for. After gently tweezing one regular’s stray hairs, Ms. Vucetaj used a Paul & Joe eyebrow pencil to outline “what’s missing” as she delicately put it. Results were subtle, and showed her client what her full-but-defined look would be once her eyebrows grew out.
Young women sometimes go too far in trying to recreate a celebrity’s brow out of a magazine. “The worst epidemic is teenagers,” Ms. Vucetaj said. “They get waxed and they are half gone.”
Pay no mind to trends in eyebrow shape, said Anastasia Soare, the brow expert with a salon in Beverly Hills and gobs of brow-centric products. Your ideal shape should depend on bone structure, not whether Megan Fox’s arches get ink.
Or, in an effort to be groomed beyond reproach, some teenagers unintentionally mar their looks. “Somebody says to you, ‘You got to tidy up’ and girls think, ‘Oh, my God, let me make them as thin as I can,’ which turns guys off,” said Madeleine Klein, owner of Mad About Brows, a boutique in San Francisco.
When I was in high school in the ’80s, not a soul — not the plaid-clad queen-bees, not the flamboyant theater crowd — shaped their eyebrows. Those days of laissez-faire grooming are long gone. Just as women coming of age don’t need to be told to remove their downy leg hair, they get the message that their eyebrows should be neat and shapely. “I definitely think it’s something that you have to go out and do,” said Katherine Vasile, 18, a freshman at Nassau Community College in Garden City, N.Y. “If people see that you haven’t done anything with your eyebrows, or you have a unibrow, they’ll think, ‘Wow, you haven’t done it yet.’ ”
Ms. Vasile, who went to high school on Long Island, suggested that not caring for your brows was a crime akin to sporting a “girl mustache.” For the record, she bleaches her ‘stache “so you can’t even tell” and she tweezes her brows just enough to retain the teardrop shapes a professional first fashioned for her at age 14.
Pencils used to be the weapon in a woman’s arsenal to beef up a sparse brow line. Now, brow powders, professionally applied tints and even a transparent gel with fibers can give the illusion of fullness. Some women use Latisse, a prescription-strength lash grower, on their brows. In recent years, over-the-counter eyebrow enhancers like Ms. Soare’s $36 serum have flooded the market. Take Peter Thomas Roth’s $85 Brows to Die For conditioner, which aims to fill out the “sparse, uneven and overplucked.” Since its October debut, it has sold out in more than half of Sephoras nationwide despite the mixed reviews at Sephora.com.
Experts point out that a hair follicle that’s habitually traumatized by tweezing, threading or waxing can die. “Once it’s dead, nothing is going to grow,” said Dr. Audrey Kunin, a dermatologist in Kansas City, Mo. She has written about the causes of eyebrow loss, including pregnancy and syphilis, for her site DermaDoctor.com, which sells eyebrow products. In the last year or two, Dr. Kunin said, enhancers that promote “eyebrow and eyelash growth have become booming business.”
Chronic repeated plucking is now a common reason why women have eyebrow transplants, which entail using hair from the scalp, arms or pubic area. A more timeless reason that spans the sexes is the gradual thinning, especially on the outer parts, as we age.
AND the number of such transplants is growing. In 2008, 3,484 eyebrow transplants were performed nationwide, up from 2,544 in 2004, the International Society of Hair Restoration Surgery says.
Dr. Robert M. Bernstein, a hair restoration specialist in Manhattan, said that the most natural-looking transplants for eyebrows followed a few rules. Hair has to lie flat; single-hair transplants, not units of multiple hairs, are used; hairs should follow a curve and be planted to account for changes in direction. (In general, Dr. Bernstein said, the upper hairs point down and lower ones face up slightly to create an interlocking ridge that gives brows their body.)
Some mothers are eager to have their daughters’ brows pruned appropriately, lest said offspring take matters into their own hands. “A lot of parents bring their kids,” said Tabitha Mainaly, who works for Uni.K.Wax in Manhattan. “They messed up their eyebrows. They are scared their daughter will do the same mistakes again.”
Stacya Silverman, a brow shaper in Seattle, said she worked with a “large number of mothers who bring their daughters in at 13 or 12.” But “it’s a touchy subject,” she added. The fear is that brow grooming will make a girl sexier or transform her into a “glamazon” conspicuous in a sea of parkas.
Ms. Silverman, who prides herself on her restraint, begs to differ. “We are preventing them from overtweezing at home, or with their friends at school in the bathroom.”
Kristie Streicher, a brow specialist at Warren Tricomi in West Hollywood, Calif., and Manhattan, sometimes sees girls as young as 11. But for the most part, it’s her adult clients she has to coax into a kind of brow rehab. “I nurse a lot of people’s brows back to health, and it gets people off the tweezing, like it’s a drug,” Ms. Streicher said. For the worst offenders who pluck daily, it’s a “control thing,” but a tint can add “definition, thickness and oomph to the brow, and it gives them hope.”