Ruth Griffin's ultimate party season makeover
How do you 'cheat' your way to a more symmetrical-looking face and simultaneously shave years off your look? Or make your eyes bigger-looking and defined without make-up? The answer is unbelievably simple - it lies in properly tended brows.
This week in my Ultimate Party Season Makeover, I'm focusing on one of the most transformative aspects of the beauty routine that a lot of women overlook. If you've ever questioned the current obsession with all things brow-related and thought that it's a passing fad that doesn't apply to you, it's time to pay attention. It's a long-held beauty-industry rule that good eyebrows, along with good skincare, are the starting point for any beauty look. No matter what your age or colouring, and whether or not you wear make-up, a good brow is the gateway to a put-together, youthful look.
Our eyebrows frame our faces and act as an 'anchor', on which the symmetry of the face is viewed, so it makes sense that if our brows are over/under-plucked, uneven, mismatched, wonky or patchy-looking, it will negatively affect our entire look. In a nutshell, the whole facial structure will look off with a bad brow - even if you're Angelina Jolie!
The good news is that this is something that anyone can address, easily and inexpensively - but with a lot of guidance.
Studies have shown that a well-defined, well-shaped brow can shave five to seven years off our age (appearance-wise, that is: they can't turn back time). On the flip side, an over-plucked, harsh, ill-defined brow can actually make us look up to 10 years older. This is especially relevant for more mature women, because we lose eyelash and brow fullness as we age. I'd gently recommend that women over 50 have a good read of this column: be brave and give addressing your brows a bash, if they have been an overlooked part of your beauty routine. I promise you, it will reap benefits.
Brows are involved in over 70pc of our non-verbal communication - so, yes, people are looking at your brows. Lots of women have told me that they are far too nervous to shape and define their own eyebrows, and are essentially stuck in a brow beauty rut - a brow time warp! My top tip is to make an appointment at a brow bar and bring in pictures of women of a similar age and colouring to you, who have brows you love the look of. Then let the brow expert advise you on what will work best for your face. There are brow-shaping and sculpting techniques like threading, waxing, plucking and tinting (see glossary, overleaf) that will make an unbelievable difference to your look.
If you're still using that same harsh brow pencil you've been using since the 1990s, its time to check out the amazing new formulas available now. From mousse and soft crayons to gel and waxes, there's a mountain of new brow products that are easier to use and give more subtle, natural and flattering results.
Those who have over-plucked their brows to the point they didn't grow back need not despair. I did this myself in the 1990s - I essentially plucked them to nothing. Rest assured there are methods to get your brow groove back.
I started by taking a hair-growth supplement - Hubner Silicea Capsules (€16 from health food stores. Always consult your GP before taking supplements.) I also stopped plucking my brows completely for a few months. As a pluckaholic, this was very hard to do but worth it. I also used a tiny dab of Regaine on bald patches for a few months, until eventually my brows returned. I learned then to leave well enough alone.
Now, I pluck the area between my eyebrows only to avoid a monobrow, and I define them with a wax and powder brow kit that I apply and brush through the hairs thoroughly (see overleaf for more).
If you want to transform your own brows, now's the perfect time to book a consultation or start experimenting with new products and techniques at home, so that you have wow brows by Christmas.
5 of the best brow tamers
● Best diy starter kit
The Benefit Bigger & Bolder Brows kit (currently on offer for €26 at Brown Thomas) is a great way to start your eyebrow experimenting. It has a top-tips guide, stencils and a fool-proof description of how to achieve amazing brows yourself, along with every brow product you'll ever need. Also available from department stores, Benefit salons and Boots nationwide.
● Best DIY tint
Maybelline Tattoo Brow Gel Tint (€16.99, from pharmacies nationwide) is best for the experienced brow artist. If you're confident to shape and sculpt your own brows, try this tint, which lasts for three days, at home. Just apply over your eyebrows in the desired shape (brow stencils are a great helper here). Leave on for a minimum of 20 minutes, but two hours is best, then peel off gently from the inner corner of brow to the tip.
● Best brow mascara
Brow mascaras are simply a tinted gel that you apply all over the eyebrow area. They are best for women who have a strong brow naturally and don't need to fill in gaps. My own favourite mascara has seen a product recall due to eye issues some people have had using it. So, your best bet is to opt for an ophthalmologist-tested brow mascara such as Clinique Just Browsing Brush On Styling Mousse (€21, from department stores and pharmacies nationwide). NB: Always follow packet instructions carefully when using products near to the eye area.
● Best growth serum
If you've over-plucked your brows in the past, are recovering from illness or have a stubborn bald spot, try a brow hair serum. RapidBrow Eyebrow Enhancing Serum, €49.99, is a little gem is jam-packed with peptides and amino acids to stimulate hair growth. From littlewoodsireland.ie. Alternatively, a dab of Regaine applied to the brow bald spot with a cotton bud will help with regrowth.
NB: Always follow packet instructions carefully when using products near to the eye area.
● Best multi-tasker
I love a multi-tasking tool, and this is one of the best from make-up maven Charlotte Tilbury. Her Brow Lift Three-Way Shape, Lift & Shade Tool (€30, from Brown Thomas, BT2 and Arnotts) is a subtle-toned brow fixer with an inbuilt brush, available in six shades. Charlotte's top tip for a natural brow is to go for an eyebrow colour half a shade lighter than your natural hair tone.
1 Your best bet is to go with what you have naturally - i.e. if you have fine, thin brows don't over-apply products, and if you've thick brows, just tame them a small bit.
2 Book an appointment with a brow pro. Benefit employs the stand-out brow experts in Ireland and is the most popular choice for brow shaping and products for Irish women. Check out the list of brow bars (benefitcosmetics.com/ie) and an expert will guide you.
3 If you have bald patches or have over-plucked your brows for years, consider using a brow hair serum daily. Alternatively, use Regaine (from €42.99 at pharmacies nationwide), applied in a tiny amount onto sparse areas and bald spots with a cotton bud.
4 If your eyebrows are thin on hair, try a hair-boosting product like Sisley Thickening Setting Gel (€40, available from department stores nationwide).
5 When filling in brows, the trick for getting a natural-looking finish is to use a shade of product that is half a shade lighter than your own hair colour.
6 Use a firm, fine slant brush to apply any brow product and brush through thoroughly at the start of the brow to get the right shape, and at the end for a subtle finish.
7 If you have super-bushy brows, it's a myth that you can't trim them - in fact, doing so actually helps stop the need for over-plucking. Just brush them straight up and, with a nail scissors, trim any hairs that poke out too high up over your brow line.
8 After a lot of trial and error, my go-to brow product is the Benefit Brow Zings kit (€35 from department stores, Benefit stores and Boots nationwide). It's a wax and powder brow kit. I apply the wax first to sculpt and shape brows. Wax is ideal for keeping stray hairs in line and setting them in place and giving the illusion of extra hairs. Then, I apply the powder to fill in gaps. An effective budget-friendly alternative is Catrice Brow Palette Matt & Glow Powder & Wax (€4.50 from pharmacies nationwide).
9 I've noticed a big difference in my brows, and my lashes, since I started using castor oil to remove my eye and brow make-up. The safe-to-use natural oil removes product in a jiffy, but also naturally encourages hair regrowth.
10 Brow crayons/markers are a new formula for brow products that have recently hit the market. These are best for experienced DIY brow artists, as they can be quite heavy in appearance. They need a very light hand to apply for best results. A good option is YSL Brow Marker (€26, from department stores nationwide).
NB: Always follow packet instructions carefully when using products near the eye area.
The last five years saw a huge surge in popularity for fuller, thicker, much darker brows — e.g. the HD or ‘Instagram brow’ that was very strong and deeply defined (and maybe not so flattering on all ages). At this season’s catwalk shows, we saw the defined brow trend continue, but a more natural-looking, lighter version than previous years. Look to the models at Elie Saab (pictured right) and Oscar de la Renta shows for inspiration.
7 WEEKS TO CHRISTMAS: 3 THINGS TO DO THIS WEEK
Book your beauty treatments
December is the busiest time of year for most salons, so get ahead of the pack by booking in for your brow, hair, waxing, tanning and nail appointments now.
Try a mask treatment
Start a weekly mask and you will see the benefits in one skin cycle (four to six weeks).
Boost your base
Begin a beauty supplement now to get glowing for Christmas. I swear by Revive Active Beauty Complex for Skin, Hair and Nails (€49.95, from health food stores and pharmacies nationwide). NB: Always consult your GP before taking supplements.