By the time you are born, they have been forming for nearly four months — hairy arches that will define the way you look, determine the way you are perceived and reveal your inner feelings. We are talking eyebrows, and these days they are having their moment.
“Brows have exploded,” says Danielle Santagata, 36, an award-winning shaper and owner of Stamford’s Brow Boutique. On a recent Saturday, she juggles tweezers, scissors and makeup brushes to create graceful, curving lines on what would be, by day’s end, about 10 clients. Santagata eyes each opportunity as a new work of art — art that will need a touch-up in about three weeks. “I am able to see someone’s eyebrows and know exactly what shape I want them to be.”
These bands of facial hair are driving a booming grooming business. Aspiring “browsperts” are fueling a surge in brow bars offering waxing, tweezing and threading, as well as an increase in eyebrow styling products on store shelves. For the past two years, Santagata has made this her full-time gig, acquiring a growing client base — she’s up to more than 100 — through word of mouth and a website. Prior to that, she worked full-time in another industry and shaped brows during her free time.
“There has definitely been an increased interest in specialty brow shaping over the past eight years,” she says. “Most people would just tweeze themselves. Also, there were limited places where you could get your brows done or cleaned up. But brow shaping goes much deeper than just cleaning away unwanted hair. More and more people are starting to see that, because having well-shaped brows leaves you looking put together at all times.”
There is a standard to brow beauty — a series of angles and straight lines based on the position of your nose and eye. However, in specialty shaping, the overall shape of a person’s face and other features guides how a brow rests and falls. Santagata gets people talking, too. Are they expressive? Do they raise their brows? “You don’t want to look like you are constantly surprised,” she says.
These days the reigning look comes from British model Cara Delevingne and fellow celebrities who favor bold, full brows, leaving many women wishing they had left those tweezers alone. In the 2000s, Santagara, a lifelong Stamford resident, plucked to get those thin, curved arches favored by such celebrities as Gwen Stefani and Cameron Diaz. She hopes parts of her brows grow back, but the pair she has does what great eyebrows do — pull off the neat trick of nicely setting off her other features, while simultaneously blending into the background.
“I’m not a fan of changing brow shapes depending on what’s trending,” Santagata says. “A classic brow shape will never go out of style. Even if your eyebrows are not full, having a smooth transition from the start of your brow to the end, with a soft arch, is going to be complementary and low-maintenance for anyone.”
Full, thick arched brows or full, wispy less-manicured brows are classic shapes, she says. To achieve them, there are more and more pencils, powders and gels coming to market. Hair extensions and microblading, a semi-permanent tattooing that recreates natural-looking brows, can help those with bald spots. As to what is firing up interest, it’s largely social media. One need only look up #EyebrowsOnFleek to see image after image of perfectly groomed and shaped brows from celebrities to common folks. (Slang for on point, on fleek has been used for everything from eyebrows to food.)
Looking to do it yourself? An online search for “eyebrow tutorial” offers up 3,850,000 results, largely videos posted in the past several years.
Santagata’s second client that day, thanks to genetics and some subtle shaping, has the kind of eyebrows that stand the test of time. “See, she has the ideal brow shape; it’s thick with a sharp arch, but it’s not too sculpted.”
Santagata works quickly, plucking out small hairs right below the brow. She finishes by brushing and sweeping the hair up and into a small pair of scissors that evens off the top. “It’s fun for me. It’s like a puzzle. Some brows have stumped me, but eventually I figure them out. A good set of brows can be face changing.”
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Brow quiz answers:
1. Cara Delevingne, model
2. Frida Khalo, painter
3. Kendall and Kylie Jenner, entertainers
4. Groucho Marx, comedian
5. Gwen Stefani, singer
6. President Barack Obama