If you’re anything like me, everything in your life begins and ends with your brows. That may sound hyperbolic, but those furry little caterpillars and their maintenance make or break how I feel when I head out the door and into my day. If they’re in tip-top shape, then I’m on top of the world. If they’re not…then I’m pretty down in the dumps. You know what they say: clear eyes, perfect eyebrows, can’t lose…or something like that.
But, if you’re also like me, you know that “perfecting” your brows is one of the hardest things to do—especially when you’re on a budget. We’ve all heard that brows should be “sisters, not twins,” but when it comes down to actually figuring out how to achieve that, it’s easier said than done. As someone who is obsessed with my brows but also obsessed with not spending money (relatable, right?), the idea of doling out more than $4 for threading at a South Asian hole in the wall seemed outrageous! But, after one too many instances of my go-to ladies shaming me over my brows being uneven (ma’am, you’re the *only* person who touches them!) and countless hours staring at my brows trying to then figure out if they are even—I’d had enough.
Kira Thompson, owner of The Brow House—one of the first concept salons dedicated to eyebrow shaping and correction in Toronto—knows the struggle of trying to get your perfect eyebrows; and the cycle that many people fall in to trying to achieve them. One of the issues, she says, is people forget it’s not just about the hair. “We have muscles [around our eyebrows],” Thompson details. “It allows us to organically and naturally move our forehead to show expression, but if one brow appears higher, it’s not because the eyebrow hairs are uneven, it’s because the muscle sits higher on one side.” So while we’re plucking at pesky hairs we *think* are making out brows uneven, we might be making things worse. “When you try to get your hairs to be the exact same, they become more different,” Thompson says, “and then it becomes a nightmare because everything that’s growing back there is stubble, and the people that keep doing your brows keep taking out the stubble—so you just get thrown into a cycle of brow gloom.”
Which, I 100% can relate to. And because there’s enough doom and gloom in the world already, I decided to ditch convention (ie: my $4 brow ladies) and see if getting my brows professionally mapped would solve my problems.
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How does brow mapping work?
While some salons might use rulers or pencils to map brows, Thompson says that’s not always the best approach. “You can do measurements, and you can use rulers or whatever you want to map out a brow, but the problem is that nobody’s face is the same and nothing’s ever going to be equal, because if it’s equal it looks like a stamp,” she says. Because of this, Thompson’s salon specifically bases their shaping and correction on six components, informed by Thompson’s 15-plus years in the industry: face shape, the way your hair naturally grows, the width of the brow, the natural brow line, arch placement and symmetry. It’s broken down like so:
It turns out that the shape of your face doesn’t just affect how that new haircut will look on you. According to Thompson, individual face shapes are important to consider when deciding which shape will work for someone’s brows. The higher the arch, the longer the face appears. So someone with a naturally long face, for example, won’t want super high arches in their brows, she says, and someone with a rounder face may want a higher arch to create the illusion of length.
“What I mean by the way hair grows is how fast it grows, the direction it grows in and the texture of your hair,” Thompson says. “And that’s kind of different for everyone.” For example, Thompson says that both she and I, an Indigenous woman and South Asian woman, respectively, are likely to have a sparser hair type that grows back quickly. These factors are important to consider, because they impact how the brow shape will look at any given time throughout the month.
Width of the brow
The width of your brow is determined by the head (the part of your brow closest to your nose). According to Thompson, this is an area that doesn’t *usually* need to be messed with. “Some might be like a fan and some might be crazy as hell, but the width is always great,” she says. And if you mess with it, the pros will know. “If [the brow width has] been compromised, we can tell by looking because it’s not symmetrical,” Thompson says. The head of your brow should typically fall in line with the side of your nostril.
Natural brow line
The bone or ridge under the brow, above your eyelids — you’ll know it when you see it.
This refers to the highest hair on the angle of your brow.
The final component in Thompson’s methodology comes from years of training and working in the industry, and is essentially just checking to make sure your brows “make sense” in their symmetry, she says.
In my case, Thompson did a consultation in which she analyzed the shape of my face to determine how high and angular my arch should be. Because I have what she calls a “mixed” face (i.e.: angles in my jaw a rounder forehead), she recommended I go for a more shapely brow (which could be achieved without thinning them) and a softer arch. (FYI, I came in with what she called “stern” brows—not the vibe I’m going for.)
Next, Thompson went in with a eyebrow pencil to create what she calls “guidelines,” essentially a sketch or outline of how my perfect eyebrows should look based on my natural brow line, arch placement and the other factors outlined above, that lets Thompson know what needs to stay and what needs to go, and helped me see any areas I need to grow in. Of which there were quite a few. Turns out my previous ladies had done me dirty.
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Then she went to work tweezing. To end, she added a dark tint to my brows, something I—as a brunette with already dark brows—would have never considered doing, having long associated tinting with my blonde friends who darkened their brows to make it look like they actually *had* some. At the end of the shaping, Thompson’s manager took photos of my fab (if a little red) brows, along with notes on my “brow plan,” all which was then stored in a personal file for future appointments.
Why tweeze rather than thread or wax?
As a long-time waxer, then diligent threader, the idea of meticulously tweezing my monstrous brows seemed tedious to say the least, but as a “tweeze only” salon, Thompson says there’s a reason The Brow House no longer uses those methods. First of all, waxing and threading can irritate your skin and, secondly, they don’t allow for the utmost precision.
“[With threading] you’re removing maybe 10 hairs, but let’s say everything in that line doesn’t need to come out,” Thompson says. “So now you’ve just taken away that whole line [of hair].” Brows aren’t just one, straight line, so a more tailored approach is key.
How frequently do you have to have your brows done?
In order to maintain your ideal shape, Thompson recommends having your brows done every three to four weeks. This is especially important if you’re working on growing out some parts of your brow organically; as it can help you maintain the shape (and stop you from accidentally removing any necessary hairs!).
Because of my previous eyebrow mishaps, Thompson recommended that I book at least three appointments upfront—about two months apart from each other—in order to allow my brows time to naturally fill themselves in and give the stylists more to work with in achieving my brows’ full ~potential~.
What else should you know about your brows?
When having your brows shaped professionally, it’s important to remember that a) your eyebrows *will* grow back and b) you have to give them time to do their thing. My former threading ladies were right—my eyebrows were uneven; because important hairs under and at the head of my brows had been “compromised,” a.k.a removed during one of my many previous threading appointments. The real issue? I—and my previous threaders—hadn’t given them time to gradually grow back. And it’s a process that can take a lot longer than you might think. “It’s a three- to five-year cycle,” Thompson says. So patience really is key.
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How much does it cost to get perfect eyebrows?
The price depends on exactly where you go and the intensity of the mapping procedure. At The Brow House, a first time visit and brow tint (including consultation and your brow plan) is $60. If you just want to have your brows assessed and shaped, it’s $42. After that, follow-up maintenance appointments are $38, not including tinting. So, yes, a big jump from my $4 threading situation. While the price is a little steep, Thompson points out that what you’re paying for is a little different than your regular place. “What you pay for is continuity,” Thompson says of her clients. “We not only assess your brows when you come in, but we also take notes; so you have an actual profile here about your brows [that’s] based on our theory and informs the future and whether or not we’ll recommend microblading or shading.” And, Thompson says, when you pay that price, you’re paying for excellence—in both the training of the staff and the correction itself.
“We actually care about your brows,” Thompson emphasizes.
For this story, The Brow House provided me with three complimentary sessions.
So, is it worth it?
Depending on your budget: yes. As someone who kind of thought this whole experience would be BS, seeing my brows after Thompson’s treatment was a serious revelation. I honestly did not know my brows could ever look this good. Despite Thompson telling me that I wasn’t yet at my perfect eyebrows, and would have to do some growth work before my brows would be more symmetrical, my little caterpillars were noticeably more aligned and super feathery in their shape. And while I was initially hesitant about tinting my brows (seriously, how much could it do to my already dark hair?), there was a noticeable sheen to them that lasted for at least two weeks. It added a special depth to my brows and I honestly couldn’t stops staring at them as I walked home.
But more than the actual physical outcome, it was super helpful to have someone knowledgeable not only confirming or denying any insecurities I had around my brows, but also talking me through how we could address them. Instead of having someone just tell me that your brows are uneven and send me on your way, it was awesome to know why exactly they weren’t lining up and what could be done about them.
Can’t commit to a monthly or bi-monthly thing? You’re not alone. While I’ll personally be cutting back on my Starbucks consumption to put towards my longterm brow plan, having your brows mapped and shaped even once is worth it if you can afford it, if only so you know what the heck is going on up there.