Perfecting your brows

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There's no need to be brow-beaten, DIY can rescue disasters.

These days brows are quite the fashion statement, with a natural, tidied look preferred for day and something a little more dramatic for evening. A well-defined brow draws attention to your eyes, so it's an easy way to add "oomph" to your look. Check out the likes of actress Jennifer Connelly and singer Lana Del Rey for inspiration on red carpet-worthy brows.

Full but flatter is the current favoured shape, but it's best to stick with what suits, which is usually pretty close to your natural brow outline. Overly arched, unduly tapered (the tadpole look) or thinned-out brows are ageing and unnatural, so whatever you do, don't get carried away with tweezing. If you have been too vicious in the past or are now facing greying or thinning brows, don't despair, a little artistry can fill in the gaps.

The advent of specialist brow bars and celebrities name-checking their brow groomers along with their facialists and yoga instructors means more women are seeking professional help. Many find it convenient to get a beauty therapist to tidy up the strays by tweezing, waxing or threading. This is a good idea if you are brow-challenged or need an initial shaping, but if you don't want to commit to regular visits and expense there is much you can do at home.

I've learned plenty about the transformative possibilities of making a little extra effort every day after having my brows groomed professionally and seeing the tools used by the experts at places such as Off Wax and Brow Bar.

To keep things simple you need no more than a decent pair of tweezers and a good brow pencil to get by with. Add in brow stencils, pigment powders and setting wax or gel and you will be able to achieve a more finished look. Waxes (or try good old Vaseline) can add a healthy sheen to brow hair and some even contain brow conditioning ingredients to encourage growth.

In choosing a pencil, you want something that is semi-soft and fine-pointed enough to create small, feathery strokes rather than obvious lines. Avoid anything hard and scratchy or, conversely, too smudgy. For those with very fair brows, pencils can look contrived, so the extra effort of brushing on a long-lasting powder is worth it. A stencil can help you achieve the ideal outline and there are a number of brow powder kits containing these, including from American salon brands Senna and Anastasia. Bobbi Brown and M.A.C also do a good range of brow powder colours, as do some of the mineral makeup brands. Apply with a firm, angled brush. Get help in choosing a powder colour that looks natural, not unduly dark. Taupe shades usually do the trick.

Tinting is an option best left to the professionals. It is great for holidays, but doesn't last that long.

Cosmetic tattooing, also known as micropigmentation, is a more permanent solution. For this reason you need to ensure you are going to someone with a proven track record of achieving good results. Your brow will be stencilled in, a shape agreed and pigment added, ideally in a mix of colours for a more natural end result. This will last several years.

For a few women - and quite a number of men - excessive brow growth is an issue. Other than losing any obvious mono-brow and decreasing the depth of the brow by careful pruning, care should be taken not to get too tweezer-crazy. At Off, staff use a specialist debulking technique to reshape unruly brows and chisel back wiry hairs. This is better than just pulling out any wayward long ones, for, while no one wants grandpa growth, if you pluck out persistent offenders rather than just trimming them you may end up with odd gaps in your brow line. Ouch!

Be a browtician

* Tweeze after a shower when follicles are more open and hair will slide out more easily.

* Use a decent-sized mirror, magnified will help, in good natural lighting.

* To grasp strays, pincer near the root and pull in a swift, sharp movement, in the direction of growth.

* Use stainless steel tweezers with well-aligned angled tips. Over time even quality tools will lose their edge and need replacing.

* Once your brow is in its ideal shape, tidying should only be needed every few weeks. With age, hair growth will slow.

* For the best shape, hold a pencil alongside your nose and fan it past the outside corner of your eye to the point where it intersects with the downward slope of your brow - this is the best end-point. The high-point of your arch should be above the outer edge of your iris.

1. Manicare Automatic Tweezers $17.99

These spring-operated retractable tweezers bring a jaunty quick-fire touch to tweezing. (Selected department stores and pharmacies.)

2. Shavata Tweezers $59

Cute but functional tweezers from a company that gets its name from a long-time British eyebrow guru. Shavata also makes brow compacts, gels and tamers. These Swiss-aligned tweezers slot into a mirrored case with x5 magnification. (Stockists ph 0800 223 299.)

3. QVS Metro Tweezer $10.99

Value buy in stainless steel, with a precision slant tip. Available in several colourful designs. QVS also makes good chrome-plated tweezers with scissor-style handles, which will prove easier for some to hold than pincers. (Selected department stores and pharmacies.)

4. Rimmel Professional Eyebrow Pencil $13.50

Well-priced and perfectly adequate pencil. (Farmers and selected pharmacies.)

5. Za Ever Brows in Natural Brown $17.99

Soft touch wind-up pencil lasts well and doesn't require sharpening, and it comes with an attached grooming brush.

6. Chanel Sculpting Eyebrow Pencil in Blond Clair $53

Prestige price, but it comes boxed with a separate sharpener and has a spooley at one end so you won't have to fork out for those. The colour is also good for those with fairer hair.

7. Smashbox Brow Tech in Ash Blonde $46

This is one of six shades of powder that shares its pottle with Brow Tech colourless wax. Use brow brush No. 12 to apply. The wax is also available alone ($36) and in a trio with two different powder shades.

8. Blinc Eyebrow Mousse $52

This stuff is like mascara for brows. Easy to apply, but mind it doesn't smudge before it dries, once dry you're set for the day. Comes in six colours, including auburn and light blonde. (From glamorpuss.co.nz.)

9. RevitaBrow Eyebrow Conditioner $170

Claims to make brows look darker, thicker and fuller, but carries a disclaimer that it is "not intended to treat prevent, cure, relieve, resolve, stop or reduce hair loss or to promote the growth of hair". As with all cosmetic products, you be the judge but it contains peptides that are routine in similar lash stimulators which can have a good conditioning effect. ((Stockists list, including Forme spas, at medtel.co.nz.)

10. Smashbox Eye Beam Double-Ended Brightener $40

Use the highlighter end beneath the brow and in the inner corner of the eyes to make it stand out. The other end applies to the lower rim to make eye whites "pop".

11. Becca Lash and Brow Comb $49

A dual-purpose grooming tool that allows you to brush brows into shape and then use the comb to separate lashes and remove excess mascara. Australian brand Becca has other handy brow-beaters and its importer, Glamorpuss cosmetics in Newmarket, also stocks the Tweezerman range, which beauty professionals swear by. (From the Department Store, Takapuna and Glamorpuss, Newmarket or online.)

12. Becca No. 9 brush $44

This is the best-shaped brush for applying brow powder. It is also good for controlled smudging of eye shadow. Becca's angled brush has a wooden handle and the natural bristles are flexible and hold powder well.

Are there any beauties who give you brow envy?

- NZ Herald

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