I Wish I’d Listened to My Mother...And Left My Eyebrows the Hell Alone

I want eyebrows that are more "Groucho Marx" than "Marlene Dietrich."
Publish date:
May 11, 2012
eyebrows, beauty, bad '90s style, mother knows best, tweezers

As far as eyebrows are concerned, Groucho = good, Marlene = bad (I'll take her cheekbones though, ta)

Last week, I went on holiday and forgot to pack my tweezers. Please understand, for someone who has been plucking their eyebrows since they were 11, this was, quite frankly, terrifying. Then I realised that I was holidaying in the Lake District, where the average age is about 150 and everyone wears Gore-tex, so I stopped fretting and decided to treat the week as a hardcore attack phase, if you like, in my ongoing quest to Grow My Eyebrows Back.

It's raining, I'm wearing an anorak and I forgot my tweezers. FUNNN.

In recent months, I have become obsessed with eyebrows; when I flip through magazines I barely notice the clothes or make-up; it's the brows I'm scrutinising. The likes of Arizona Muse and Cara Delevingne with their sweeping, heavy, bushy brows make me particularly jealous.

Look at those caterpillars! Want want waaant...

Other eyebrow icons include: xoJane’s very own Hannah (and I know lots of you agree with me), Louise Lombard of seminal costume drama The House of Eliott (the ‘90s Downton Abbey), Audrey Hepburn, Keira Knightley and Lily Collins. Big, bold brows are dramatic, confident, witty; imagine Elizabeth Taylor elegantly arching hers in Cleopatra, or Audrey’s gamine fringe sitting neatly above her inky beauties. There’s something masculine about them that enhances the delicacy of the other features -- it’s that contrast which is unexpected and pleasing to the eye. I want them.

Basically I want her face, but I'll settle for the brows

But what is at the root of all this eyebrow envy? Are my own brows so pitiful? Sadly, yes, although I do my best to fill them in and generally big them up with the artistic application of Rimmel’s Dark Brown Eye Brow Pencil -- I’m a freaking Picasso with that stuff. I’m pretty relaxed about make-up -- I could happily leave the house with a bare face (slight lie), but you would have to prize my eyebrow pencil from my cold, dead hands. My brows are weak, thin and patchy. And most gallingly, this is all my own stupid fault, because like so many women, I didn’t listen to my mum.

Pluck, pencil, pluck, pencil - it's a never ending circle of shame

It all dates back to the early ‘90s, when I zoomed in on my eyebrows in a perfectly harmless school photo and my 11-year-old brain decided that the best thing, probably, would be to just get rid of them all together. So I started pulling them out, ruthlessly, with my fingers. Luckily, my horrified mum noticed before they became completely bald and made me cease and desist, but still I sullenly persisted, sneaking tweezers from her dressing table to inexpertly yank the skin, leaving angry red welts and ingrown hairs. Fool.My eyebrows became the (albeit pretty tame) battleground on which our mother-daughter power struggles were played out. Clearly, it could have been a lot worse, but I still really wish I’d listened to my mum, who has always been the proud owner of strong, elegant eyebrows that frame her face beautifully, and left mine the hell alone.

My beautiful mother with her amazing eyebrows

During my teenage years, I sported those hideous spermy eyebrows (fat at the front, skinny at the ends) that were inexplicably popular during the ‘90s, and it was only in my 20s that I started to realise that my "strong" features (polite euphemism for big eyes, nose and teeth) would make more sense, be better balanced, by thicker brows.

Baaaad spermy eyebrows and disturbing mid-90s fashion. All in all, not a good look

However, it seems hair never grows back where you want it to, only where you don’t. So after a week of cold tweezer turkey, hairs were tentatively emerging practically down on my eyelids, and none filling out the middles or edges. And sorry, there is no stubbly photographic evidence -- I tried, but tragically the camera phone couldn’t zoom in enough. Shame. Rebecca insisted on pulling rank as Ed-in-Chief of xoJane UK and took this picture of my brows as they are post-holiday-pluck when I was reunited with my beloved Tweezermans, so that will have to do.

What can I do to boost these babies?

So I’m going to carry on the struggle and resist viciously over-plucking to see if they can be persuaded to grow back. Like a desperate balding man, I’m willing to try any product or treatment to coax those timid little hairs out of their follicles. I’m currently slathering them in Peter Thomas Roth’s Lashes To Die For Platinum serum which is meant to encourage re-growth of eyelashes and eyebrows. I’m also intrigued by the TouchBack brow marker that Julie (another one I have brow-envy for) used in her Camilla Belle make-up tutorial -- will have to see if I can find an equivalent in the UK.Is there anything else I should try? Can I get little eyebrow-merkins (the Internet must have that, surely?) Do you have any beauty-related regrets or mother-knows-best stories to make me feel better?

Find me tweeting about beauty, books and all sorts of random London-related jazz at @PhoebeFrangoul and @xoJaneUK