Sunday, June 05, 2005

Eyebrow Erosion!

When I went to have a "consultation" at Sephora, the make-up store at the mall, with my friend Sue the other day, I knew I'd be learning lots of new things. I knew I'd find out I'd been doing things incorrectly (concealer, then foundation, then powder -- wrong! "The concealer covers what the foundation doesn't," my make-up artist, Sarah told me, and Sue repeated it after her as though this was a hard and fast truth with which she'd been acquainted for some time). I knew I'd learn about products I never even thought of before (eye-lid primer! eyelash conditioner and mascara sealant! light reflecting concealer!) I figured I'd even find out a few new things about my own face, like which colors of eye shadow look good on me (I don't generally use the stuff) and that kind of thing. I did not, however, expect to be told that I had been allowing my eyebrows to slide downward on my face. That one pretty much came as a total suprise to me.

Let me start to explain that one by saying that, for the first 34 years of my life, I took a laissez-faire approach to my eyebrows. They are sparse and light in color, and since any time I'd tried to, say, darken them, I'd come out looking, in my own opinion, kind of scary, and since I didn't figure I really had anything to spare up there, I figured a no-pencil, no-pluck policy was the way to go. Unlike my husband, I do not tend toward overgrowth in the brow area. I could just let them grow hog-wild for years at a time and never develop the dreaded unibrow. They didn't bother me. They didn't enhance my face, either, but that was okay. I just felt it was best to leave them alone.

Then one day I went to the nail salon to have a mani and a pedi, and the lady doing my nails asked me if I'd like her to wax my eyebrows. I was surprised. "Do you think I need that?" I asked. "I mean, I don't really have much up there." She ran her finger along the lower part of my brow, explaining that she could shape them for me and it would look nice. I thought, what the hell, and I let her do it. The waxing part itself was minimally painful -- more so was the tweezing of the residuals, but I lived through it. When I got home, I studied my appearance and concluded that yes, my eyebrows looked somewhat better than they had before. It was worth the 12 bucks or whatever it was I'd paid for it.

Then a week or two later, I noticed that what had been plucked out was growing back in. It looked messy. I grabbed some tweezers and tweezed, and thought, what a pain in the ass! What had I done? Now I *had* to do this shit! A month or two later, I had them done again, by a lady who works in the same salon where I get my hair cut, and several months after that, this past fall, I finally used a gift certificate at a day spa my husband got me me for Christmas a while back and had my eyebrows waxed and shaped during an otherwise lovely facial. Since then, I've been maintaining them on my own, and evidently, I've been doing a poor job of it.

Let me just admit this upfront: I am lazy about hair removal. Whatever else I may hate about my body, I don't have much in the way of body hair. I shave the usual areas every day in the shower without incident. I have never worried about my bikini line one way or another. I don't get more than kind of a peach fuzz on my upper lip, and if it gets to bothering me, I am not above grabbing my razor from the shower and scraping it across my upper lip a few times. I have never bought any kind of fancy kit or appliance for hair removal, and I don't think I ever will.

The eyebrows, therefore, presented a complicated dilemma. Plucking them was painful and took just too damn long. I soon lost the shape of them and found myself plucking pretty randomly, which I don't recommend. I lost patience with that pretty quickly. Using my leg razor seemed like a pretty bad idea. Then I realized my husband's trimmer might come in handy. We ordered one of those little mini-hair groomer thingies off TV for him a while back -- he uses it to keep the back of his neck tidy between haircuts. I figured if it worked for his neck, it could work for my brows, and I went to work. Since then, I've used it from time to time whenever needed, with tweezing in between. Then, a month or two ago, I noticed that one side of my left eyebrow kind of had a gap in it. I wasn't sure what that was about, but I pencilled it in as lightly as I could and left it alone for a while. The next time I trimmed, the same thing happened. It occurred to me that it was probably time to involve a professional, but since I knew I was going to be told I was doing something wrong, I put this off.

Then Sue and I made our trip to Sephora. Sarah put some cooling products from Skin Iceland on me and then began to apply make-up she thought I would like. She put a regular, covering concealer on the dark bag under one eye, and a light reflecting one on the dark bag under the other and asked me which I liked better. When I chose the light-reflecting one (which just happened to be on the side with the not-as-dark bag, I realized later), she nodded approvingly and I felt proud for making the right choice. Then she looked at my eyebrows. "This is weird," she told me. "Your eyebrow is below your natural brow line." She had me look in the mirror. "This is where you eyebrow should be," she said, drawing a pretend arc up above my flat, plucked brow.

"Really?" I said innocently. I did not mention my husband's micro-trimmer, but I did proceed to explain to her how I'd manage to avoid doing anything at all to my eyebrows for most of my life.

"Let me show you what it would look like," Sarah told me, and she covered my actual eyebrow hair with concealer and drew in an eyebrow a good inch higher, using a color a good two shades darker than what I would be willing to wear. "See?" she said. "What do you think?" I thought it bent weirdly in the middle, and that it kind of made me look like a goth chick.

"Hm," I said, and then I let her draw the other one in. Now let me just say, for one thing it was hard to see what it really looked like, considering that even covered with concealer, my real eyebrows were still visible. Also, again, the dark color. Sarah said it matched my hair color, but my eyebrows have always been lighter than the hair on my head.

In any case, the end result was discovering that my lazy approach to eyebrow grooming had resulted in my having eyebrows that are both lower and straighter than they should be. This was apparently a bad thing. "You have a brow line like a model," Sarah told me. "A lot of people would kill to have this brow shape."

"Have you been plucking up above?" Sue asked me.

"Uh... yeah."

"You're never supposed to pluck above," she told me. "Only below." This was apparently another one of those things I'd failed to get the memo on.

"You should probably let those grow out and then have them shaped professionally," Sarah told me. She really was very nice about the whole thing, but I still have a feeling she thought I was kind of a moron. She told us a story about having done make-up on a production of "Madame Butterfly" and how all the actresses fought her when she tried to paint their eyebrows in lower and straighter in order to make them appear more Asian. I could imagine her telling a story about ME later on: "This one time I worked on this woman who had an awesome brow line but she'd been plucking her eyebrows all stupid..." I was glad I'd kept it to myself about using Ryan's mini-trimmer thingy.

So now I have a new goal for the summer, which is to grow out my eyebrows and have them reshaped. I just hope it doesn't take as long as growing out a bad haircut.

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