When it comes to brows these days, everyone knows bigger is better. Cara Delevingne’s thick, dense arches—the ones that helped kick-start the movement—are as famous as she is. But if you weren’t blessed with boy brows, not to worry. There’s no shortage of products and services to help.
This global obsession with brows is instigating a major swing in beauty spending everywhere from salons to makeup counters. “The brow trend is set to become even bigger this year,” says Theresa Ye, senior beauty editor at fashion and lifestyle trend forecaster WGSN. This is something experts agree on. “Eye makeup is currently the strongest performing segment, driven largely by the popularity of bold eyebrows, which have spurred the launch of numerous brow-specific products,” says Shannon Romanowski, category manager for beauty and personal care at global market research firm Mintel. “Historically, eyebrow products have not been a big growth area in colour cosmetics, as women relied on hair-removal items to create thinner brows,” says Romanowski. But now brands are delivering, with brow fillers in numerous shades, as well as innovative textures and technology, from tinted gels to powders to pencils. More than a singular product, there are brow-centric lines, like M.A.C’s Brows Are It! collection, a collaboration with Hollywood eyebrow king Damone Roberts. And this summer Benefit’s Brow Collection hits stores and is the largest launch in the company’s history. It includes upgrades from Benefit’s existing brow hits, such as Gimme Brow and Brow Zings, as well as novelties like a conditioning primer and a 3D highlighting gel.
If beauty outsourcing is more your speed, salon services can help you achieve fuller arches. First off, there are extensions, a treatment in which individual synthetic hairs are adhered to the skin or natural eyebrow hairs, lasting up to two weeks. Next, there’s eyebrow embroidery, alternatively known as microblading—one of the hottest treatments of the moment. This ancient technique works via a small blade, which deposits pigment under the skin to give the appearance of hair. Microblading doesn’t penetrate the dermal layer as deeply as tattoos, so the results are only semi-permanent. A wide variety of pigments are available and results can last up to two years, although touch-ups are typically needed sooner. Sparse-haired women are spreading the word about the dramatic results. “It’s insane, we can’t keep up,” says Maria Cristina Bruno, owner of Toronto’s Ritual, where eyebrow embroidery is currently their most in-demand service.
While you never want to see an inexperienced practitioner for any beauty service, the stakes are especially high when it comes to brow grooming. “The key is to not go to a facialist or a bikini waxer,” says Maybelline New York’s global brow expert, Maribeth Madron. “Those people are super talented at cleaning things, but you need an actual artist for brow shaping. You need someone who has a very good eye.” She is vehemently anti-waxing and anti-threading. “Those are cleaning methods meant to remove large amounts of hair.” Instead, she advocates for reliable tweezing. Mary Dang, owner of Toronto’s Eye Love Brow & Beauty Bar, agrees. “Waxing and threading often overdo it and make the brow lines too sharp. With tweezing, you have more control and can be more meticulous. The end result has a more natural finish and makes the brow softer and more feminine,” she says. Dang’s business success story is itself a sign of how far brows have come. Just a few years ago, it would’ve been unthinkable to sustain a salon primarily on brow treatments.
But even if you’ve successfully avoided overplucking, you can take it too far the other way as well. “I’m now seeing a lot of overshaping,” says Dang. “Brows are starting to look almost too manicured, too trimmed, too filled in, too arched, too boxy,” she says. “They call it the Instagram brow, inspired by tight shots of super-perfect, drawn-in, overgroomed ones. It doesn’t look right when you take a step back.”
If natural isn’t your goal, you can find inspiration on the runways, too. Whereas seasons past have pitted bleached arches against boyish brows, things have taken on a more artistic turn as of late. At Giambattista Valli’s Fall 2016 show, makeup artist Val Garland applied silver glitter across the brow bone. Beyond the runway, brightly coloured hair dyes, Swarovski crystals and 3D glitter are being showcased on social media. “The eye area is now a ‘skin territory’ that extends from the lid to the temple and also the forehead, making it a wide zone of expression,” explains Dominique Assenat, creative director of beauty and cosmetics at trend consulting agency Peclers Paris.
And while the obsession with selfie-worthy brows is changing how we dress our arches, there’s another major factor responsible for our brow fixation: youth. The reality is bigger, thicker brows can make a person look younger. “The women who championed thin, chopped-off brows in the ’90s are now 40 and, all of a sudden, their face is drooping,” says Madron. “They lose the fat pads in their cheeks. They’re like, ‘Oh, my God. I look older!’ Those high arches that were so glam have fallen into little semi-circles,” she says.
And that, above all, should tell you where the brow pendulum is going to stay. “I don’t see the trend going back to thin,” says Dang. Instead, tending to the real estate above our eyes is just going to be the norm. “Filling in your brows is going to be just part of the day-to-day beauty regimen,” says Bruno. “You put on your mascara, put on lipstick and do your brows.”