Arch Envy: what to do about thinning eyebrows

— by Alyson Walsh

grey haired model, mrs robinson

Photo: Marian at Mrs Robinson Management

Silly pluckers like me regret those years of over-tweezing. But that doesn’t mean we’re brow-beaten, says Vicci Bentley.

So once again, eyebrows are having a major fashion moment. And that’s yet another challenge for those of us with fallen arches. Well, I say fallen – mine have all but vanished and ironically, fashion’s to blame. As a dedicated Biba babe, I’d already plucked my brows to a pencil-thin, Sarah Moon crescent. Then, in my Ziggy Stardust phase, they got in the way of the makeup and had to go. By the time the Hemingway sisters’ (Margaux and Mariel) beetle browed their way into Vogue, repeat plucking had killed off my roots.


I’m not the only silly plucker, either. Makeup artists can always tell a 70s swinger by her brows: those half-hearted ‘ticks’ and shiny bald browbones are a dead age giveaway. The perfect arch, however can take years off. ‘Eyebrows lift like a good bra,’ my makeup artist friend Sara Raeburn reminds me. She brushes powders or gels through brows that are patchy, grey or faded and trims – not plucks – wiry ‘Dennis Healey’ stragglers that look mad and spoil the shape.

She’s also a stickler for the right brow colour – as I found when I went grey and had to lighten up. ‘Avoid very dark and reddy browns and go for a cooler taupe or dark blonde instead,’ she advised me. But I’m sticking to the technique I’ve perfected over the years. Use two pencils: lighter to sketch the basic shape and darker draw quick, light hair-fine strokes that mimic the real thing. Then brush through with a spoolie to soften and blend. Sounds fiddly, but this 2-D approach looks strong, but surprisingly natural and not at all Kardashian-like.


Laura Mercier eyebrow pencil, available HERE

So products. There’s a veritable slew of them out there, but to be honest, most are best for grooming younger, bushier brows. For reconstructing over-plucked or chemo brows, you need a pencil that’s hard enough to sharpen to a needle point and Laura Mercier’s Eye Brow Pencll, £18 is still the only one I’ve found. (They softened the formula a couple of years back and there was almost a riot. Thankfully the hard version’s back by popular demand). Otherwise, Benefit cream-gel Ka Brow! £18.50 looks good brushed through Alyson’s fair but bushy 1980s brows (although she says it takes some practise); and the very highbrow Tom Ford Brow Sculptor, £35 is wedge-shaped and makes sketching easy. I’ve also persevered with Fabulous Brow Shape, £19 from Look Fabulous Forever, a range formulated for 50+ faces. The fine, flexy brush paints long-lasting, waterproof ‘hairs’ that are convincing if you get them right and like a brow tattoo gone wrong if you don’t. But at least you can wipe them off and start again – unlike the semi-permanent inking I had done five years ago now and has now faded to pale, red scars which show no sign of leaving.

Iris Apfel-1-copy-copy-683x1024

Iris Apfel photo: Advanced Style

I should of course, get them ‘refreshed’ but frankly, I resent the idea: like Botox, tattoo’d brows are painfully high maintenance. And let’s face it, won’t those selfie starlets with their brutalist brows feel daft when they’re our age and scarred for life? Better to go for a shape and tint at one of Benefit’s nationwide Brow Bars or Shavata’s Brow Studios in selected M&S stores. Don’t be a silly plucker – leave tweezing to the experts and sharpen those pencils.


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Silly pluckers like me regret those years of over-tweezing. But that doesn’t mean we’re brow-beaten, says Vicci Bentley.