Eyebrow Taming

My eyebrows have a story to tell. It’s been a journey to figure out what to do with them. Now that I’ve gotten to a better place in how I maintain my brows, I love looking at past pictures of me to see what eyebrow phase I was in at certain stages in my life. First, there was the pre-plucking stage, where I had very thick natural eyebrows that looked a bit like Oscar the Grouch. Until high school, it never occurred to me to do anything with my eyebrows. When girls in high school would exclaim their eyebrows looked a mess and they needed tweezers, I never really understood what they were talking about. Maybe it was in part due to my poor vision, but when I looked at my friends, their eyebrows looked perfectly normal to me. High school was the first time in my life when it occurred to me that maybe I should be doing something to take care of my eyebrows.

My theater coach and director in high school had an interesting approach to managing high schoolers – he would often times insult people. Not optimal, but his insult comic style approach to classroom management worked for some. I liked theater and wanted to act so I kind of weathered the storm of his verbal cruelty in order to get do what I liked. I remember so distinctly when one day he jokingly told one of the boys in my grade that he had a unibrow and he would help him to pluck it. I immediately became very self conscious and was terrified that the director would call me out for having a unibrow as well. It wasn’t until that day that I thought my eyebrows were so thick they could be a unibrow. It pains me to write this, but we try to keep it real up in here so I’ll admit it. I was so scared he would insult me, I ran home and plucked the nearly invisible hairs in between my eyebrows that very day. He never did comment on my eyebrows, but that episode was the first time I took tweezers to my brows.

Other than managing the unibrow that was mostly visible only to a self-conscious teenager with no beauty knowledge whatsoever, I didn’t do anything else to my eyebrows in high school. Eyebrow maintenance was still a mystery to me. I still laugh when I look at my high school senior pictures and see how thick my eyebrows were. In retrospect, if someone had just taught me how to clean up my brows a bit, I think I would have beautiful thick eyebrows today.  Growing up with a mom who never wore make up, all my beauty knowledge for better or worse was self taught. I am somewhat low maintenance in my hygiene routine. My friends are probably rolling over thinking that is an understatement. I would read beauty magazines where they would have all these rules about shaping brows and I just didn’t get it. They said not to pluck from the top, line up a pencil with your nose to figure out where your arch should be, etc etc. I could not figure out how the heck this was supposed to work and why my eyebrows looked nothing like the models on the pages of the magazines. I’m a little wiser now.

When I got to college, I was surrounded by experts in beauty with lots of dorm mates who were far more well versed in all things – from ironing your hair on the floor in lieu of a straightening iron to using a lash curler to perfecting cat eye with eye liner. All of this was completely foreign to me. I was caught up in the thrill of redefining myself in a collegiate atmosphere and I had so much to learn. Friday nights were often spent primping in front of the mirror with all the ladies who lived on my floor. It was so much fun. Here’s the stage in my life where I picked up the tweezers and quickly transitioned into my “surprised” phase. I still had no idea what I was doing, but at the suggestion of my friends and my own curiosity in self exploration, I decided to expand my eyebrow plucking beyond my “fear of unibrow” minimalist approach.

I had NO idea what I was doing. In retrospect, none of my new found friends really gave me great advice, but at the time I thought they were so helpful. I just carried that knowledge from beauty magazines and my fellow 19 year old dorm mates. Always pluck from underneath. Thinner eyebrows were in fashion when I was in college. I also kept channeling one of my friends from high school who always had very thinned, arched brows. I ended up over-plucking my eyebrows into high half circle type arches. No matter how many pencils I held up to my nose, I never really grasped the concept of how to shape to your natural arch. I can tell right away from any picture I see of me taken during this time period because my eyebrows are thin, highly arched, and I look chronically surprised. I thought at the time that I was so hot, gorgeous, and chic with those brows. Ahh – to be young and ignorant!

After college I toned down my plucking a little bit, but I still felt like things just weren’t quite right. What I kept reading about and seeing on TV just didn’t seem to match what my eyebrows looked like. After starting a fairly stressful teaching job, I decided to focus on self care and treat myself. Looking back, I think I was also paranoid the kids would make fun of me. One of my students told me I had a mustache (kids can be so cruel when they are actually looking to be loved and noticed) and that rapidly prompted my journey into the world of waxing. I booked an appointment for a lip and brow wax at a spa in the city. I was terrified, but also felt like such a grown up. I had never been to a spa in my life and certainly never waxed anything in my life. I thought, finally paying a professional to do this, somehow I will get my whole eyebrow shaping thing right. I might solve the mystery of eyebrow shaping that I was always reading about in those beauty magazines that were so captivating to me as a teenager.

DID. I. EVER.

I had an amazing experience at the salon and left thinking I looked incredible. There is something to be said for the power of brow shaping. It can really change your entire look. I felt amazing! After I got my eyebrows waxed, this was a game changer. I finally realized how shaping your brows can truly change your entire face. I entered into the waxing stage of my life where I looked like a grown up. My eyebrows were thinner than they’d been in high school, but they were now shaped appropriately to match my face. I officially left my half moon surprised face college eyebrows in the dust and never looked back.

I mostly stuck with waxing and a little bit of plucking to maintain between waxes. I don’t think I went too often because waxing was an expensive indulgence for me at the time. I now knew what was possible with my brows. My eyebrows and time marched on. Eventually I moved into a phase in my life where I was trying to reduce my plastic footprint.  There was a brief period where I tried to make sugar wax and use strips of cloth to wax my brows at home. That was a very short-lived plastic free failed experiment. This then led me to eyebrow threading as I was trying to be more natural, plastic free, and realistic about what I am capable of doing. There was a tiny hole in the wall threading studio near my house that only took walk ins. It was amazing. I could stop by whenever I felt I needed a clean up. I loved how threading didn’t yank on my brows, it was less painful, cheaper, better for the environment, and I was supporting a local female owned business. The owner was a genius at shaping my brows in a beautiful way to compliment my face. Life was great.

Around this time, I decided to have my eye surgery that I talk about in detail on other pages on our site. I was really nervous about what was going to happen with my eyebrows. I went and got threaded close to my surgery in the hopes that my eyebrows would at least be tamed and take some time to grow out in case I could never shape again. My surgeon during my consult lectured me on the evils of threading and how it can lead to infections. While I respected her opinions and expertise, I decided I felt comfortable with continuing to thread post surgery.  Post-op after surgery, they run through a litany of things you can’t do – don’t wear make up and a bunch of other things I now forget. My favorite part about this was that you’ve just gotten out of surgery and they run down this long list of things you can’t do, but nowhere do they give this to you in writing. I remember thinking, when the anesthesia fully wears off, how the hell do you expect me to remember this? And I remember being super entertained that they gave me this laundry list of items that I couldn’t do for the next two weeks and then they dropped this bomb at the end – stay out of the sun for A YEAR. I burst out laughing. It was meant to ensure I didn’t have scarring around my eyes, but every time the sun came out the year after my surgery I would laugh and half jokingly think “Oh god, get OUT of the sun!”

I actually don’t remember anymore if they said I could wax or thread again post surgery. I was really nervous because I had slings put in place, so I was paranoid threading might irritate them. I waited a long time post op (like months and months) before I decided to start threading again. I am still a bit cautious with threading, but in general it is really gentle and it hasn’t caused any pain or seemed to affect my slings in anyway. I now use threading and a little bit of plucking in between trips to the salon to keep my eyebrows shaped. I worry a bit that threading isn’t good for my post-surgical brows. This seems like a good question I want to ask the next time I see my eye doctor.

I didn’t do this post op, but over the years I’ve returned to a really nasty habit of  compulsively rubbing my eyebrows. I really want to kick this. I vigorously rub my eyebrows (sometimes until they ache) more than I should and I am very nervous that I might damage my slings with my compulsive eyebrow rubbing. I am grateful that post surgery I can still get my eyebrows gently shaped via threading, even with all my worries and unexplainable compulsive rubbing (which I want to write more about another day). I kind of miss my bushy caterpillar eyebrows of my youth and maybe if my thick brows were still around, they’d better conceal my tiny surgery scars. I wonder if I’ve come full circle and I should just let Oscar the Grouch come back in all his glory.

J3

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