"What works for her wouldn't work for me, and it might not work for you," says Tonya Crooks, better known as the BrowGal, of Cara Delevingne's bold, bushy brows, arguably the most coveted set in Hollywood. Crooks' vision focuses on the individuality of our brows, rather than blindly following a trend because, well, it's trending. And really, this approach makes perfect sense — you're always told to consider your face shape and features before choosing a haircut or style, so why wouldn't you apply the same logic to your brows?
The story of the BrowGal starts in 1992, when Crooks, who was studying fine art at the Royal Academy of Art at the time, found herself in need of extra money to fund her school-supply purchases and started doing makeup on the side. Then, she says, "I pursued brows because I couldn't put my name on and be proud of my beauty portfolio photographs because something was always off," she tells Refinery29. "Having a classically-trained eye, when I looked deeper, I saw that the symmetry was off because of the eyebrows. When I moved back to Los Angeles, I noticed a model had bad brows on a shoot I was doing, and I laid her down on the floor and began tweezing and waxing her brows, and mixed a [brow] color for her. I couldn't have my portfolio looking off any longer!"
Crooks' brow career has come a long way since the floor of that studio: Her BrowGal brand now boasts a 500,000-strong Instagram following, and a list of celebrity clients including Megan Fox, Julia Roberts, Gwyneth Paltrow, Molly Sims. (In fact, it's Sims who first dubbed Crooks "the brow gal.") She opened her first brow studio in 2008, and as her reputation in L.A. grew, so did the demand for Crooks to create her own range of brow products. After two years spent perfecting the products in production, the BrowGal range officially launched. Now, it includes everything from tweezers and scissors to growth serum, highlighters, and pencils.
"What I love the most is finding the perfect individual brow for each person I see," Crooks says of her specialties. "Brows for me fall into one of three categories: arch, arc, or straight. Megan Fox has a classic arch, and Natalie Portman has a straight brow. If you switched their brows, they wouldn't look as beautiful as they do now, because they wouldn't look like themselves." And therein lies the secret to Crooks' success, and why clients keep coming back to her time and time again. There is no uniform solution — everyone leaves her studio looking like themselves, only better.
That said, if you sit down in her chair in pursuit of Cara brows, Crooks might not exactly be on board. "I love a big, thick brow, but there's a very fine line between bushy and masculine," she says. "I do men's brows a lot too, and it's a completely different style, since their faces demand straighter, bushy brows. Cara has strong features that can take the big, bushy style, but that isn't true for everyone." She says that there are plenty of ways to try exaggerated brow trends on for size, but her personal prerogative is simple: "It's a bit like building a house," she explains. "Once you get the foundation right, the whole house will be solid. I find the balance and shape of your brow 'foundation.'"
And while serial over-plucking victims are turning to microblading as a quick fix for repairing the bad brow decisions of the early '00s, Crooks recommends turning to other methods first, with microblading as a last resort when other ways of healing and nourishing butchered brows fail. "It takes 52 days for a brow hair to grow, so I want you to put down the tweezers for a while," she advises. Instead, try stimulating the hair follicle every day, and applying a serum to encourage hair production. Crooks' Second Chance Enhancement Serum delivers on both counts: It has a three-speed vibrating wand that promises to increase circulation and deliver product straight to the root of the hair for maximum benefits.
The one cardinal rule that Crooks says she sees far too frequently? Over-plucking the arch to try and create the illusion of shape. But, she says, "That's what we do at The BrowGal — we educate our clients so that when they walk away, they know more about their own brows and face than they ever did before."