Arch de Triomphe: Eyebrow Therapy

Plauged by a tweezer-happy bad habit, Ashley Ross aims for the brows of her dreams.

When my older sister began shaving her legs, I became intrigued by what else the shiny new pink toy in our shared bathroom could remove. So, at 9 years old, I ran the blade over my furry, blonde brows, naively unaware that the hair wouldn't come back anytime soon. I should have learned my lesson, but when anemic eyebrows cropped up in the early 2000s, I eagerly plucked and tweezed until my face was frozen in a look of perma-confusion. Later, living in New York on a Hannah Horvath budget translated to zero investment for eyebrow maintenance. Instead, I'd tweeze weekly in my tiny bathroom, obsessing over thick hairs and long hairs and blonde hairs and barely-there hairs.

These days, skinny brows seem so last decade. Well-endowed brows have become ubiquitous on runways; Lily Collins and Cara Delevingne are the latest modern beauty icons. After admiring Lizzy Caplan's set in Save the Date, I made an appointment to see brow guru Janna Morein at Sothys spa in New York City, and it came as no surprise when, in her commanding Russian accent, she barked, "Time to put the tweezers down!" She confirmed what I had suspected all along — my brows were each different shapes, too thin, and lacking a natural arch that would frame my face to lend the illusion of near-perfect symmetry. She did a minor wax and tweeze to clean up strays, then sent me on my way with strict instructions: "Don't touch them for six weeks."

Knowing I'd never be able to leave them alone that long, I weighed my options for how to speed up the regrowth process. Morein told me the Russian remedy of rubbing castor oil onto them, but Google searches returned little evidence of its efficacy. The market for eyebrow growth enhancers has exploded in recent years, with serums from RapidLash, Anastasia, Talika, and even Latisse — but I wanted a more immediate solution. My research uncovered increasingly popular eyebrow tattoos and even a sketchy-sounding transplant procedure, in which, for about $4,000, hairs from my head would be grafted onto my brow area in just a few hours. But permanent ink seemed extreme, and with my curls — and budget — surgery didn't seem viable. Instead, for 40 days and 40 nights, I abstained, staring in the mirror as hairs sprouted in the most inconvenient spots. Everywhere I went, everything I watched, all I noticed were people's brows. Finally, I revisited Morein, who, sadly, delivered bad news: I needed another month of growing them out. I promptly decided to get a second opinion.

I scheduled a meeting with Joey Healy, who tends to the brows of A-list celebrities and much of Manhattan's Upper East Side, so I was in good hands. "It's like tending the world's smallest garden," he told me in his studio, a tiny grooming comb tucked behind his ear. "Your brows need to be styled like hair does, cut and brushed and parted the right way." He's of the tweezing-only school, which he says allows for more precision. "With waxing, you put it on and it's like Jesus takes the wheel! Who knows what might come off." We discussed how I could style my brows at home by combing the hairs in the right direction (for me, it's a 'comb-over' in order to hide the result of my childhood razor incident) and the secret to getting the dimensions right: "Our facial symmetry is essential to overall balance," Healy says. "The arch shouldn't be centered, but instead be about two-thirds of the way from the start of the brow." The last step is darkening, courtesy of his own incredibly natural-looking Luxe Brow Powder.

Six months (and two more visits to Healy) have passed since I put down my tweezers, and I've noticed a huge difference in how sophisticated my face looks — even without wearing any makeup. I have a little more growing to do, and you never know, pencil-thin brows could be all the rage next season. Until then, I'm staying away from sharp objects.