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Properly styled eyebrows can make your face

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Everyone has an eyebrow horror story or two.

It was afternoon on the day of my daughter's prom. She had the perfect dress. I had styled her hair, and I was getting ready to do her makeup. Something was off.

I kept looking at her face. I couldn't pinpoint exactly what it was. Why did her face look so odd?

Then it dawned on me. Oh, sweet heaven. Her eyebrows were roughly two inches apart and started just above her irises. She tearfully confessed that in an attempt to "even" them she'd shaved down the middle of her face with a razor.

This was a pre-prom crisis. She had a strange, alien appearance that needed emergency attention.

The incident recalled for me a moment in college, when my darling friend (who did drag on the side) persuaded me to let him give my Brooke Shields brows a makeover.

Unless you're doing drag, you should not be walking around in everyday life with the constant unchanging look of surprise that comes with razor-thin super-arched brows.

Let me save you from an eyebrow nightmare with a few simple tips and techniques. Eyebrows can make or break your face. Yet nearly every woman messes up at some point in her personal grooming career. Here are some basics:

SHAPING: A well-groomed eyebrow lends a finished look to the face, with or without makeup.

TWEEZING: Tweezing only from the bottom is a myth! While I don't recommend tweezing/waxing/threading from above with abandon, it is OK to pull the occasional errant hair or to even brow height. No one wants to look like David Bowie in "Labyrinth" except on Halloween. It is also OK to use grooming scissors to even the height of your brows.

EYEBROWS: You should have two. If you're sporting a unibrow, rectify the situation.

In one of my all-time favorite fashion manuals, "How Not to Look Old," the late Charla Krupp, a guru of personal grooming, goes into great detail about the effect an eyebrow has on the face. The harsh fact is, hair thins as we age. Eyebrows are hair. A thicker eyebrow is an indicator of youth. And most of us want to look youthful.

So how do you get a well-shaped eyebrow? First, you need a few tools:

  • An eyebrow brush. The kind that looks like a small, thin comb/toothbrush combo on one end and an angled makeup brush on the other end is the most versatile but sometimes hard to find. You can always buy a separate angled brush.
  • Tweezers.
  • Nonglittery, nonmetallic eye shadow. It is typically cheaper than brow powder, more readily available and comes in more shades. You can use eyebrow powder in the appropriate shade or a pencil, but powder is more forgiving and easier to layer on for the beginner.
  • Optional extras are:

  • Eyebrow wax or gel for freezing the eyebrow in place.
  • Manicure or "mustache" scissors for trimming errant long hairs.
  • Soft white makeup pencil. If you don't quite trust yourself on the shape, you can "white out" the portion of your brow you want to remove pre-tweezing. This will let you step back, look in the mirror and get a test-drive on your new look.
  • Next, pick the shade of eyebrow for your skin tone.

    POWDER SHADE: Picking the right shade is crucial. If you're a brunette, redhead or have black hair, pick a shade close to the hair on your head, possibly a shade or two lighter. If you're blond, pick a light brown. If you have a color not found in nature, please pick a brow color close to your natural hair color. It will better match your eyes and skin tone.

    Now you're ready to shape the brow.

    Here is what you need to know for bare minimum shaping:

    INSIDE BROW: Take an ink pen or a long-handled makeup brush. Hold it beside your nose, pointing it toward your forehead. This is roughly where the inside of your eyebrow should stop. So tweeze everything toward your nose not covered by the brush handle/pen.

    OUTSIDE BROW: Where should the outside corner of the brow end? This is a little tricky and depends on your eye shape. But a good rule of thumb is: Too long is better than too short. Err on the side of caution. Take the makeup brush/pen and hold it along the outside of your bottom lash line, pointing toward the side of your head, at about a 45-degree angle. Everything below the brush should be safe to tweeze.

    CENTER ARCH: Looking straight into a mirror, hold the brush/pen straight up in front of the iris. Where the pen meets the brow line should be the pinnacle of your arch. From this point in toward the nose, you should remove nothing except the random straggler. From this point toward your ear, you should shape slowly and cautiously. Your brow should not get smaller and smaller until it forms a point. It should have a gradual angle but remain mostly the same depth from this center point all the way to the edge.

    Remember: Thicker equals younger. Better to take off too little than too much. You can always go back and remove a little more. You have to wait weeks for it to grow back in.

    Let's now talk about coloring in. Thinning brows can leave gaps. I like a brow powder (or eye shadow) for this step. This lets you start lightly applying color and building the level of pigment based on the look you want to achieve and your comfort level.

    My own brow intensity depends on what I am doing that day and how dramatic I make the rest of my eye makeup. Generally, if I am wearing more than three colors of eye shadow, I lower the intensity of the brow powder. If I am wearing three or fewer colors of eye shadow, I powder on a more intense and defined brow. (And by three colors, I mean base shadow and liner also. So that leaves only one additional color for sculpting.)

    Dip the angled end of your brow brush into the color, tap off the excess and then, starting at the end of your brow closest to your nose, lightly tap the brush into the hair, against the skin. Pick it up off the skin each time -- do not drag it more than a fraction of a millimeter; dragging the brush can cause powder to smear outside the brow line, and tapping gives you a more natural "hair" appearance as opposed to a drawn-on streak.

    The final step is to flip your brush over to the end that looks like a small toothbrush. Use it to comb your eyebrows upward toward your hairline and then out. Do not comb straight out to the side and never, ever comb down. If you have a stray hair that sticks up or pokes out, tweeze it or trim it! Do not try to comb it down into the brow. Combing upward also has the benefit of making the eye look more open and lifted.

    There you have it. Easy brows to flatter any face.

    Still too nervous to shape them yourself? Have a professional do it, and then keep the shape they have created with weekly maintenance. Stay on top of tweezing and you can maintain that shape for ages. Here is one last tip: Look closely at the technician's brows and ask to see some of their work. You don't want to leave the salon disappointed.

    Reach Autumn D.F. Hopkins at autumn.hopkins@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1249.


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