The rise of the brow: why eyebrow products are set to rival mascara

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Market analysts predict that brow products are set to become as popular as mascara. Founder of Shavata Brow Studios, Shavata Singh, explains why brows are having a moment

Photography: Florian Sommet

“A few days ago, a first-time client sat slumped in my chair. She’d come to see me as a last ditch attempt to fix her ‘unfixable’ brows. They looked a little like tadpoles – thick and rounded at the inner corner, thin as a single hair-width at their tail. They were the one thing she didn’t like about herself, and she had resigned herself to a lifetime of bad brows, thinking there was no cure. Ironically, it took little more than plucking out ten hairs to restore her beautiful, natural shape, but when she saw it she started sobbing. I think she was shocked that just a small change to her brows could make her look – and feel – so different. She left my studio happier, stronger and more confident.

It’s reactions like this that remind me of the power of brows. They can change a face and they can change a life.

I never planned a career in brows; I always say that brows found me. I started out as a beauty therapist, working at the Michaeljohn salon in London’s Mayfair. Some of our clients had heard about eyebrow threading and wanted to try it and, for some reason, I was the only therapist on the team trained to do it. That meant I did it all. The customers loved the results and kept coming back, which really helped me build my name. Soon, Harrods approached me to open a brow bar there under my own name; 12 years later I have 24 studios across the UK and a range of 28 brow tools and products.

My success is testament to the growth in the brow market over the past decade. When I opened my first studio, I could barely find staff who wanted to specialise in this area, but as press coverage evolved and more women caught on, brows have steadily grown into a massive phenomenon. It’s incredible to think that the UK brow industry now stands at an eye-watering £20million. So steep is its rise, market analysts NPD Group report that brow products are experiencing the same trajectory of growth as mascara had when sales exploded in 2011*. How amazing is that? Brow products are the new mascara.


This new popularity explains why brands are launching more and more products for women to perfect their own brows. When I started out, women didn’t have much more than a dodgy pencil. Now, there are powders and gels, brushes – even stencils. So well equipped are we, I’ve found that many women have built up their own brow wardrobe – a range of different styles to suit different occasions. For me, I like to accentuate the arch of my brows on a night out as it looks slightly more elegant than my ‘day brows’.

So how have brows grown to have such a huge importance in our lives? On a visual level, I’ve been preaching for years about what a good pair of brows can do for your face. Done correctly, a preened brow will draw attention to your most important feature – your eyes – and a well-proportioned arch can take years off a face; they’re the ultimate anti-ager. But that means there are no set rules when it comes to brows: it all depends on the face they sit on. Of course, trends will always come and go (right now everybody wants their brows to be as thick and full as possible), but my school of thought is that the best brows are suited to an individual’s face shape and bone structure. Your perfect brow might look nothing like your friend’s.

Much more than the visual difference they make, it’s the emotional impact of well-groomed brows that has kept me in this business for over 20 years. I’ve witnessed teenagers who have been teased grow into confident young adults at the end of a tweezer. I’ve seen women desperate to hide the fine lines around their eyes be amazed that a simple brow tint can draw the attention away. And the best bit is that it doesn’t take much – perhaps just the plucking of a few hairs, the threading of some wayward strands or the darkening of a lightened brow in order to achieve a whole new look.

Eye-opening success

Which is why we, as modern working women, want to care for our eyebrows. A brow-shaping treatment gives the same instant transformation factor as a blow-dry or a haircut, but no-one else can really notice, which is exactly what we want. Beauty booking website Treatwell received 89.4% more bookings for brows than blow-dries last year and mobile beauty provider Milk Beauty told me brow appointments are their third most booked corporate service (behind only regular and Shellac manicures).

Brows aren’t just having a flash in the pan moment. They won’t fade with our love for Cara Delevingne. The perfect brow arms a woman with an extra shot of confidence to face the world. As long as brows keep transforming women’s faces and lives, I will continue to pluck, thread and tint them.”

Your capsule brow wardrobe

You needn’t stick to one look. The four brow styles in the gallery below work whatever your face shape

  • The Straight Brow

    Straight brows add an element of strength to the face. Eradicate your arch by sketching a line from the inner edge of the brow straight across to the outer corner and fill in with tiny, hair-like strokes.

  • The Arched Brow

    An accentuated arch makes eyes look wider. Brush hair upwards and sketch along the underside with a pencil. At the highest point, draw a tail out at a 60 degree angle, fill with brow cream then brush hairs back into place.

  • The Untamed Brow

    This is a favourite of backstage make-up artists for its ability to add a boyish edge to a face. Brush the hairs up in vertical strokes, setting with clear brow gel. If your brows are a bit sparse, use a soft pencil to fill in.

  • The Power Brow

    Make a statement by adding weight to your brows. Using brow powder one shade darker than your natural hair, slightly overdraw both the top and bottom of the brow, buffing the product into the hair for a natural finish.

*Research courtesy of Benefit Cosmetics
Illustration: Kei Meguro

Shavata will be appearing at this year’s Stylist Live in October, tickets on sale now here