We have few features as expressive and transformable as our eyebrows. We pay little attention to them until they are altered somehow, and yet they can change everything.
Eyebrow aesthetics have been a fixation for centuries, evolving with changing culture and style into beautiful, sometimes striking, and other times perplexing results. In Ancient Egypt, women used kohl to darken and define eyebrows, and applied coloured eye shadows beneath them for emphasis. Some Ancient Greeks wore false eyebrows fashioned from dyed goat’s hair, affixed to their faces using tree resin or natural gums. There have even been historical periods where bare foreheads were the style of the day.
Eyebrows have been defining features for many Hollywood stars over the years: in the 1920s, “it” girls like Clara Bow sported pencil thin eyebrows, which worked well to express emotions on film. Marlene Dietrich eliminated her brows altogether in favour of a raised, drawn line. Decades later, Brooke Shields sported the strong, natural brows that made a comeback in the 1980s. Even men have their defining styles; who could forget Groucho Marx’s bold brows?
With change comes experimentation, and anyone who has had eyebrow shaping go awry knows the lengthy pains of rectifying the situation. Eyebrow follicles are vulnerable to injury and may shrink or stop producing hairs if they are damaged. For the best set, leave shaping in the hands of the pros.
While westerners have favoured plucking or waxing, the eastern depilation practice of eyebrow threading has been gaining popularity in recent years, and for good reason. The technique’s exact origins are unknown, but it is said to have begun in the Middle East and South Asia centuries ago. It is still favoured there today, particularly by Bollywood stars, known for their crisp, defined brows.
The major benefit of threading is its precision. An aesthetician begins with a loop of fine cotton thread about the thickness of dental floss, and spins it into a series of knots that circle around individual hairs to pull them out by the follicles. In the Indian tradition, a practitioner puts the thread between her teeth and pulls back to close the knot around each hair; in the Persian practice, practitioners loop the thread around their necks.
“It’s a tradition that’s been handed down through generations of Indian women,” says Bombay Brow Bar CEO Ravy Mehroke, who co-founded a Vancouver-based chain of brow-centric salons with her sister, Amy Minhas. “I wanted to introduce a new group of women to eyebrow shaping using the ancient Indian technique of threading.” Her own brows are perfectly groomed, with nary a hair out of place and a bold arch above the corner of her iris, right where it should be.
The threading process is quick, and while not completely painless, it’s certainly much gentler on the skin than waxing, and allows practitioners to remove even the tiniest of hairs (including those on the forehead and eyelid), unlike plucking with tweezers. Because follicles are removed at the base, it’s also relatively long-lasting—repeat visits after three to four weeks are standard.
Along with Bombay Brow Bar’s three locations around the city (Yaletown, Kitsilano, and at the Shangri-La Hotel Vancouver), Blink Brow Bar and 4 Angels Beauty Care also offer threading services in the downtown core, both helmed by expert aestheticians. Navkiran “Kiran” Sokhi and Kulwinder Malhi of 4 Angels have a combined 35 years of experience in the beauty industry. Sokhi has trained many of the city’s brow sculptors herself, her hands so nimble she can thread her own facial hairs with just a twist of her fingers.
Allow about 30 minutes for a threading session. The standard greeting involves a steaming cup of chai tea, followed by a brief consultation to outline your brows’ optimal shape and thickness. An aesthetician will use a pencil aligned with the nose to determine each eyebrow’s start and end points. The threading itself takes 15 minutes or less, and is followed by a brow massage using aloe gel to soothe the skin and relax the body before the application of brow make-up.
You’ll be offered plenty of tips along the way too—where to pluck if you want to extend the time between visits, where to leave hairs to grow if you’ve over-plucked, and how to best to shade brows in with powder. If our arches are such defining features, best keep them impeccable.