THE POWER OF BROWS

Brow artist/permanent makeup artist, Emma Hendrick, shares her expertise. Why the brow-less trend did not gain traction and what clients want from their brows.

In 2016 models took to the runway for the Marc Jacobs fashion show rocking a “no brow look”. Celebs soon followed with their own spin on this no brow look. Most of these looks were created by brow bleaching, some celebs and trend setters opted for a softer sun-kissed lighter brow while others adopted a more extreme “no look brow”, including Madonna, Miley Cyrus and Kate Perry.

This trend did not stay around for too long and I think we know why!  We are obsessed with eyebrows: arched brows, flat brows, big brows, brushed up brows, we are a nation of obsessed brow lovers. Although, the eyebrow has many functional features, our concern is that they are aesthetically pleasing.

Fortunately, no matter what our brow problem may be there is a solution for it in this million-pound brow market, which is growing from strength to strength. Brow growth serums, brow gels, brow mascara, pencils to create hair strokes, brow stencil shapes, you name it, it’s out there! As an eyebrow artist I see this obsession on a daily basis with a broad range of clients.

The right eyebrow shape will frame and flatter the eyes, for example, a fuller brow can give a more youthful appearance (an anti-ageing secret), an arched brow can lift the brows making the eyes appear more open and wider. The wrong shape, however, can change your look entirely. An extremely thin brow is quite ageing and can add years. An over-exaggerated round shape can make you look shocked or surprised (this known as the “McDonald brow”) and a very big, dark over drawn brow (yes, the one often labelled the Scousebrow) can be mis-understood to mean that person is angry or even appear distracting for the wrong reason.

Well-structured brows that are more symmetrical in nature are pleasing to the human eye. This could be one of the reasons the “no brow look” doesn’t have staying power and why people will go to great lengths with their brows. This includes people who have lost their eyebrow hair due to illness or medication from alopecia to cancer.

As a permanent makeup artist I have been on this personal journey with many clients who come to me when they have lost their brow hair or are preparing themselves before they lose their brows. The client will explain to me during their consultation that the main concern after accepting everything else, is the fact they will feel “face-less” without brows.  They want to feel “normal, look normal”, not look tired or sick. This is terminology that is used repeatedly in the permanent makeup consultation, by male and female clients about how they feel.

For me, to be able to make someone physically feel that a treatment procedure, which allows me to tattoo individual hair stokes to mimic an eyebrow (permanent makeup), is aesthetically fitting is extremely rewarding.

Having the ability and skill of a brow artist/permanent makeup artist allows me to not only make someone physically look good by creating suitable eyebrows, I am also able to make them feel good, more confident, happier, more attractive, and sometimes, ‘normal’ (all clients words). Who would have thought those two little things above our eyes held so much power?

As a brow artist, this to me has been the biggest eye opener to the power of brows.

Emma Hendrick collaborated with us at our event at FACT in April and features in our upcoming documentary. She offered consultations and treatments to attendees. 

 

 

‘I Don’t have a Story to Tell’

I had not spent much time thinking about eyebrows until I became part of the team for the ‘Brews n Brows’ research event at FACT. My own PhD thesis is an oral history of dock work in the twentieth century, so I spend more time reading about hydraulic winches than HD brows. However, the focus on identity, culture and Liverpool in ‘Brews n Brows’ had me hooked. I also knew that I could not give up the chance to work in such a brilliant team. As an eyebrow novice, the experience was a learning curve both professionally and personally.

I developed my research skills and broadened my methodological knowledge through taking part in a focus group, using a 3D scanner, taking photographs and helping with filming equipment. My favourite aspect was being able to talk to people from Liverpool and people visiting the city about a topic everyone can relate to in one way or another. A lot of the conversations I had began with ‘I don’t have a story’ or ‘you don’t want to talk to me’ but ended with rich accounts of eyebrow grooming practices. Men and women who knew they were coming to the event were happy to discuss how they had trimmed, plucked or tinted their brows before arriving. Likewise, many participants were very pleased to say they had never done anything to them. That was the beauty of this project! Either way, eyebrows were seen to be an important part of how people understood themselves.

The common statement of ‘I don’t have a story’ really stuck with me throughout the event. At the start of the week, I would have said the same. The more I was questioned about my eyebrows, the more stories I seemed to have and mid-event the ‘Brews n Brows’ eyebrow technician had given me a wax and tint! I honestly felt like a different person and could not stop looking in the mirror. I began to realise just how important every part of our appearance is to our sense of self. The fact I had done very little to my eyebrows and kept my ‘owl brow’ – the part of my left brow that flicks upwards if left untamed – was deliberate. A choice which I realised was made based upon my teenage disaster with an eyebrow pencil. When delving deeper into my own story, I was forced to focus on my own values and the way I viewed myself.

The reflective element of my ‘Brews n Brows’ experience really taught me how to ask questions in research. Our daily lives may seem mundane or unimportant to us but our actions have far more significance than we think. Somebody taking part in the event said ‘you can tell a lot about a person from their eyebrows’. I am not sure how far I agree with this statement, but I do believe that you can tell a lot about a person by getting them to talk about their eyebrows.

Emma Copestake, University of Liverpool