My eyebrows are rubbish. Not only are they the same uninspiring beige color as my skin and hair, they’re also as thin and patchy as a 13-year-old boy’s upper lip. To add insult to (literal) injury, I’ve got matching scars under each one (left eye courtesy of a hockey stick, right eye courtesy of my brother and my grandmother’s placemat). To top it all off, an operation I had when I was too young to remember means my right eyebrow rests considerably lower on my face than my left.
This was all fine. (And I don’t mean "fine" in the passive-aggressive, actually really not fine sense. I mean I genuinely didn't care.) I hadn’t even thought of my eyebrows as their own entity until 2011, when designer Christopher Bailey first cast Cara Delevingne in a Burberry campaign. All of a sudden, eyebrows were the only feature worth talking about.
Since then, I’ve had many emotions about my eyebrows. I’ve been sad about them, angry at them, and totally indifferent. I’ve been through so many different brow products I’ve lost count. I’ve tried pencils, I’ve tried powders, but nothing has managed to make my brows look like anything other than two anemic caterpillars slopped lazily above my eyes.
Then microblading came along and I'll admit I was tempted. The pictures I saw on Instagram were so good and natural-looking but the price tag made me hesitate. In that time, horror stories about badly-tattooed brows started doing the rounds. Obviously, I knew that a reputable salon would be fine to carry out the treatment after compulsory patch tests and a thorough consultation. But after seeing my third "Woman's Hair-Raising Microblading Fail Leaves Her Looking Like Angry Bird" headline, I decided that, nah, microblading wasn't for me.
This is why brow lamination piqued my interest. The technique, which originated in Russia and spread to the UK and beyond earlier this year, involves lifting and tinting the brows with a hypoallergenic serum, hair by hair. This achieves a finish similar to microblading but doesn't actually involve any blades or downtime, like scabbing and healing. In London, prices for brow lamination start from £75 (around $85 USD) and the results last for a month.
I decided to give it a go, and headed to Brow Bar BBM in Knightsbridge to try it out. I walked in just as a blonde girl with very dark brows left the salon. Her look concerned me. Was that what my future held? I just wanted something natural...
I needn't have worried, though. The treatment, which was delivered by a very nice Russian brow technician (who looked quizzically at my lack of brows) is pain-free, and the color my brows ended up was totally my decision. "It's like a perm for your eyebrows," the expert told me as I sat down.
First, the hypoallergenic "lifting" serum was painted on, and my eyebrows were covered in cling wrap while the serum worked its magic on each hair. This process was repeated several times before the actual tinting took place. The technician finished up by brushing my eyebrows into a shape that suited my face, and voilà: 50 minutes later, my brows were done.
The results are, quite frankly, astounding. Unlike some brow treatments which can make them look drawn on or flat, I appear to have grown actual thick eyebrows. They look like they have a personality; a purpose. They have a great shape and they simply look like eyebrows. Even my technician laughed at the difference.
She sent me off on the premise I follow two rules. 1) I don't get my brows wet for 24 hours (perhaps this is the perm similarity?) and 2) I brush them every morning. I do this dutifully every day, marveling at their new thickness.
However, £75 for a treatment that lasts a month means that, for me, this will be a one-off — I can't justify spending that amount on a regular basis. That said, if I had a special occasion coming up, like my wedding or meeting Rihanna or something, I'd absolutely go back. Secretly though, I'm hoping my brows will just stay like this. So far it's been over a week and there's been no decline in their quality, so fingers crossed this is just my reality now.
Either way, it's really nice having eyebrows, and I don't think I realized how much of a difference a good set can make to a face. In fact, according to the "inspirational" and somewhat bananas quote from Saoirse Ronan on Brow Bar BBM's website, "If you don't have eyebrows, you don't really have a face."
So, if you see me next month sans face, you'll know that the magic's worn off... and I'm busy deciding if the third Friday of November is enough of a special occasion to get my brows done again.
This story was originally published on Refinery29 UK.