The ultimate brow beat

Global brow expert with Benefit cosmetics Jared Bailey gives us the lowdown on how to get those arcs just right


Janice Rodrigues

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Published: Fri 18 Sep 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Mon 29 Jan 2024, 8:25 AM

Bold, bushy, thick, dainty or plucked. Eyebrows are probably one of the most crucial, and yet, undervalued parts of a person's face. It's common knowledge that their primary, natural function is to protect - by deflecting water and sweat away from a person's eyes. But what most people don't know is the fact that their eyebrows basically define them - or their features, at the very least.

Take the case of supermodel and actress behind the highly successful Paper Towns, Cara Delevingne - her powerbrow (read: the bold and bushy look we all love) is not only her most defining feature, it's so famous it has its own Twitter account! As the English lass best known for her bushy brows shot to fame, there has been a steady influx of both celebrities and fans waking up to the hair-raising truth behind the beauty of brows - as can be seen in the sudden surge in the sale of eyebrow pencils (by over 42 per cent in the UK in 2014!) and, of course, those all-too-popular online posts on just about every website showcasing celebrities with and without their brows.

In a 2003 study, published in the journal Perception, people were shown images of celebrities without their eyebrows, and then the same snaps - only this time, without their eyes. Interestingly, participants were able to recognise 60 per cent of the celebrities without eyes, but only 46 per cent without eyebrows. Which can only mean one thing - your eyebrows do a whole lot more for your face than your eyes! It's almost no surprise the brow trend has blossomed over the last few years - from a barely-thought-of trend to an integral part of a woman's daily routine. Today keeping your brows shipshape is as important as putting on lipstick.

Which is exactly why global brow expert Jared Bailey was emphasising the importance of keeping those brows in perfect shape, during a recent trip to Dubai. "It's hard to explain the transformative power of eyebrows unless you have already gotten them done at some point. But shaping your eyebrows is the easiest thing that anybody can do to 'open' their eyes and transform their overall look. It's all about finding the right brow shape for your face type."

Having worked in the brow business for over a decade now, Jared's word is law on the subject. Jared started out in the field of journalism - business journalism to be exact - but was quick to realise that his interests and talents lay elsewhere. That's when he first decided to venture into the world of makeup and ended up learning more about the transformative powers of brows.

"I decided to enroll in an aesthetician school, and when you're there, you start to realise how many other services you can offer others," he explains. Since then, he has written the official education curriculum for brow experts in Benefit's US branches, and he now travels the world, working with influencers, bloggers, vloggers and others, to showcase just how important eyebrows are.

Merely explaining how crucial it is to get the perfect brows cannot just be explained - which is why Jared decided to prove it with a demonstration. He started showcasing a technique started by Benefit as far back as 1976 - brow mapping. "There was no cookie-cutter style that fits every face - but every person has three distinct sections of their eyebrows that need to be customised," Jared says.

In order to do so, he takes a simple ice cream stick and aligns it vertically from the dimple of the nose, up to the eyebrow, to make the first point - this is where the eyebrow must begin. Along the way, he keeps up a running commentary so those not well-versed in the art of brow mapping - namely, me - can keep up.

"The closer your brows are, the slimmer your nose if going to appear," he explains. "If you want a wider nose, just move them further apart. The same goes for if you have wide set eyes - drawing your eyebrows closer together gives the illusion that your eyes are also closer."

The next step is holding the stick from the outer part of the nose passing through the centre of the iris - this is where the brows are supposed to be at the highest. The third - and final - part of brow mapping involves holding the stick from the outer part of the nose along the corner of the eye. This is where your eyebrows should end.

At this point, I'm rather befuddled about just how much there is to know about those oft-ignored arcs. Having made all the necessary points, Jared joins them to map out how the eyebrow should be, and uses wax strips to shape them. The overall effect is surprising - the face does appear more symmetrical - just in a very subtle way.

"Those who have a rounder face should make the eyebrow from the arc to the end a little longer - this slims down the face," explains Jared. "It also works vice versa."

I ask Jared to clue me in on the latest eyebrows trends, and his answer is simple - and also an eye-opener. "There have been a lot of trends coming in. Sometimes, the way you do you eyebrows is based on your culture - for example, in Korea, the trend is to see stick-thin eyebrows, as people believe it makes them appear younger. However, nowadays people are looking for what's natural - just like how women who have been dyeing their hair for years suddenly decide they want to go back to natural look. That's because what's natural is timeless.

"People have been increasingly talking about 'eyebrow trends' for the past few years now. But I'm going to be the first one to tell you that eyebrows are not a trend anymore. I remember my mother would never leave the house without mascara on - even if she was going to go out to check the mail, she'd put on mascara. Today, women are putting on brow products in that same way. They are now a fundamental part of our daily beauty regimen, and not something to be ignored." In short, nothing is too highbrow for eyebrows!

These beauty trends from around the world are bound to make you raise your brows.> Eyebrows played an important role in ancient Egypt - so much so that both men and women would darken their brows with the help of kohl and other substances. If an Egyptian family lost their cat, they would shave off their eyebrows as a sign of grieving.

  • In ancient Greece and Rome, unibrows were preferred, and even those women who did not have unibrows would draw them on using powdered minerals.
  • Mona Lisa, the highly-acclaimed painting by Leonardo Da Vinci, is as famous for her enigmatic smile as she is for her lack of eyebrows. Researchers believe that she has no visible eyebrows or eyelashes because it was common practice, during that time (in about 1503), for women to pluck out these hairs as it was considered unsightly. However, there is also evidence that suggests that Da Vinci actually had drawn on eyebrows, but they were erased over time. The truth? We guess we'll never really know.
  • During the reign of Queen Elizabeth I, highly tweezed and narrow brows were all the rage.
  • Remember the golden age of silent films and their dramatic leading ladies? Eyebrows during the 1930s were all about being narrow and severely plucked.
  • Towards the 1980s, eyebrows started to take on a more natural, bushy form (as can be seen with actresses like Brooke Shields). It was all about being bold and beautiful.

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