For Shapely Brows, Put Down the Tweezers

SHAPED Maribeth Madron shows her technique on Sherry Kreek, manager of Sharon Dorram Color at Sally Hershberger.

Published: September 21, 2011


“TAKE your tweezers,” Maribeth Madron, a makeup artist and eyebrow specialist in New York, will say to about a quarter of her clients, “and put them in a glass jar and freeze them.”

To women who obsess over and excessively pluck their brows, tough talk is sometimes necessary. Ms. Madron, 39, who charges $85 for a shaping done with tweezers — perhaps setting a new threshold for the service, as Sally Hershberger did before her with haircuts — acts as a coach through the gantlet of overplucking and waxing. When asked if she ever lets clients tweeze on their own between visits, Ms. Madron said, “If they can be trusted, I tell them ‘O.K., but don’t do the top or anywhere near the line.’ ”

“For most people,” she said, “self-shaping is a bad idea.”

At least some women have taken her advice, deciding to ditch their magnifying mirrors and leave their eyebrow grooming to professionals. But the best method (whether waxing or removing individual hairs with tweezers) and the people picked to enact those operations are still very much up for debate — that is, if eyebrows are something you concern yourself with at all.

Hiroko Masuike/The New York Times  

DON’T PLUCK At Anastasia in Sephora on Fifth Avenue.

“Women ignore their brows or they overdo it,” Ms. Madron said. “There’s not really a middle ground.”

There are a host of people you can pay to remove unwanted hair from your forehead: waxers at nail salons, aestheticians at spas or makeup artists at hair salons, like Ms. Madron, who works out of the Sharon Dorram Color salon at Ms. Hershberger’s on the Upper East Side. Katy Walsh, a brow specialist at the Martial Vivot salon in New York, will even bring her Tweezerman tools to you if you get five friends together. “People bring wine, cheese and veggie dip, and have a little party,” she said. “It’s not a weird or invasive service. It takes 15 minutes, and then you’re back with your friends.”

On busy days, Ms. Madron sees up to 35 clients, from 10-year-old girls who beg for grown-up arches to 85-year-old women who yanked out their brow hairs as they turned gray. In keeping with the general trend of strong, thicker brows like the movie star Megan Fox’s or as seen in Proenza Schouler’s spring 2012 collection, Ms. Madron removes very little hair with the Rubis tweezers she favors. Instead, she uses the peach fuzz around the brow to create a shape. “I hear ‘They look bigger’ more than anything,” she said.

Ms. Madron’s affinity for arches started early, when she was 12 and saw the bushy-browed Brooke Shields on the cover of Vogue. To mimic Ms. Shields, she put hair mousse on her own brows and brushed them up with a toothbrush. In 1996, she helped start the makeup brand Laura Mercier with brow-shaping events. “I’d meet 200 women in a day and spend two minutes with each of them,” she said. “I realized eyebrows are the most transformative feature on a person. It would just change their entire face.”

Her theory is that women start emaciating their brows during adolescence when their hormones are raging and continue to do so whenever they have PMS. Women who come to see her sometimes say, “My eyebrows are disgusting.” Ms. Madron looks and says: “They’re not that bad. You must be PMS-ing.” They say, “How did you know?”

“When your hormones are out of whack, you want to tweeze,” she said. “You want order. You want everything to look clean. I think that’s because of the chaos that’s going on in your body.”

Ms. Madron is opposed to waxing, the dominant method at the Anastasia Brow Studio, which was founded by Anastasia Soare, perhaps the country’s best-known eyebrow guru. “A lot of people who do brows are very good at cleaning, like facialists or bikini waxers,” Ms. Madron said. “But they take off too much hair. An out-of-work graphic designer is a better choice to do your brows than a bikini waxer.”

Ms. Soare operates studios in Nordstrom’s 84 locations across the United States and two Sephoras in New York, as well as in two standalone locations in Beverly Hills, Calif., and a recently opened one on Wilshire Boulevard in Los Angeles. Waxing or shaping with tweezers both cost $32, but Mike Hong, an account executive in New York, said 90 percent of customers choose waxing, which he prefers as well. “It gives you a sharper, cleaner look,” he said. “I really encourage clients to get a wax.”

A recent visit around noon on a Friday to the Anastasia studio where he works found all four chairs full. The lunch and after-work hours there are consistently booked a week in advance, Mr. Hong said. The women lay supine with dark powder outlines around their brows, looking a bit as if they were being prepped for cranial surgery. All of the Anastasia groomers use stencils, with names like “High Arch,” “Full Arch,” or “Petite Arch,” as a guide for contouring the brows. “You’re always going to get the same Anastasia shape,” Mr. Hong said.

He clarified that the stencils aren’t meant to create one-size-fits-all eyebrows, but rather to prevent waxing malfunctions. “The last thing we want is to take off too much,” he said. “We’re trying to avoid any client saying, ‘Oh, they butchered me.’ ”

Ms. Madron, however, calls the stencil a “nightmare.” “I understand why they’re necessary, but everyone has a different face shape,” she said. “It’s just like a haircut. You need to look at height, bone structure and how wide the face is. Beauty is about the individual. You can’t get that in a stencil.”

If you are going to take your tweezers into your own hands, with or without a stencil (which Anastasia also sells), Ms. Madron will at least give you some advice. First, ape Lady Gaga and make a poker face instead of what she calls a “makeup face” — unless you generally go through life with wide eyes and an open mouth. Although common beauty wisdom says to pluck when you get out of the shower so it’s less painful, Ms. Madron refutes that. “You don’t want those hairs to come out easy,” she says. She says to tweeze when the brows are filled in with makeup. “You’re going to do a lot less damage that way,” she said.

To enhance the brows, Ms. Madron suggests using a pencil, powder and gel — the gel prevents filled-in brows from looking like cake frosting — but, she said, “I realize not everyone has time for three products on their face, much less three products on their eyebrows.”

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Moxie is the Editor-in-Chief at Moxie Reviews, a cruelty free only blog.
She reviews the best in hair, makeup, beauty, and sometimes pet products.

She is a proud Mom of children and dogs.

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  1. Moxie, you are getting to be too physic for me! lol i have been working on my brows just recently after a really long time. this was just the thing for me. i like the tip about the tweezers being cold. i usually put ice on my brow and it makes such a mess! lol someday i will have a brow party and you are invited! i think that is such a cool idea, having a few friends over and chilling out, getting your brows done. i would love for Sonya to do the brow shaping, i don’t have an arch, and would love one! and i would promise not to touch them in between the visits, because i would be one of those people who would ruin things lol! thank you Moxie for such a great write up! i really enjoyed it, and learned alot.

  2. What a fab post! I totally agree with Ms Madron, brow shape is too individual, and I’ll never again let hot wax come near my browns!… Only once it happened and I dreaded the result.
    I went for a facial, the therapist suggested I did my brows (I like them thick, but, yes, ok, they were a bit neglected), and I said yes without hesitating not realising she was going to wax them. It was too late once I ‘sensed’ it – literally!
    I really like threading, and go to a good ‘specialist’ every other month, and maintain the brows myself in between. Wonder if Ms Madron would allow me to keep my tweezers! 😉

    • moxiereview says:

      Ugh! Sorry to read about the wax!! I’ve never tried threading, but people rave about it.
      yes, I bet she’d let you keep your tweezers, you seem in “control” of the situation! LOL! x Thank you for visiting and for leaving a comment. I really appreciate it!! x

  3. Funny you should post this today. This morning I spent 2 hours taming my brows! I finally broke down and purchased one of Anatasia’s kits and had been waiting for it to arrive. I locked myself in my bathroom and followed the directions that came in the kit (with stencils). I would agree that not one size fits all but WOW, this was a great way to get my brows back under control. A very professional result, I might add. I had been having them waxed for about 20 years, never again. I’ll be doing the maintenance myself now. It was a lot less irritating to my skin.

    • moxiereview says:

      That’s great! I’m so glad that you wrote this; it’s always nice to read the success stories. I had to laugh about locking yourself in the bathroom! I bet we’ve all done that–or at least, I certainly have! LOL! x Thank you again, I really appreciate you “visiting” and leaving a comment!

  4. Per Jen, if you choose to do eyebrow stuff, that’s OK for you, but PLEASE don’t diss women that choose to leave their brows the way God made ’em. As for Jen, she only uses her tweezers on her chin hairs.

    • moxiereview says:

      Hi, Rumpy.

      Hello, New York Times? If anyone mentioned in this NYT article reads my little blog, please respond to Rumpy’s comment. Thanks.
      Thank you, fur friend, for visiting! x

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