In many ways, my appearance is of little importance to me. In fact, it’s one of my favourite things about my chosen sport and career: horses really don’t care what you look like. I’m comfortable leaving the house – even for a full day out, as opposed to an emergency pint of milk and box of eggs – having given my appearance a limited amount of attention. It’s the big blessing of having naturally curly hair: I’ve never owned a hairdryer and it makes absolutely no difference to me if I get caught in the rain (in fact, that’s a good thing, because it tends to revive my corkscrew curls). I’m not the type to put on a full face of makeup every day (consider yourself truly honoured if I’ve cracked out the foundation for your benefit), though as I’ve mentioned previously, I struggle to leave the house without applying fragrance.
But over the last few years, I’ve developed an obsession with one physically-small but drastically important part of my appearance: my eyebrows. I’m not alone: eyebrows are having an extended moment, thanks in part to pop culture references (see “Scouse brow” for details) as well as highly-focused lenses being trained upon personalities such as Ms Middleton and Ms Delevingne, but also because women have begun to listen to those who assert that your brows frame your face.
Four years ago, my eyebrows were untouched – and pretty wild – virgins. They match my hair in the unruliness stakes – naturally thick and dark, I’d never been a fan of them but also not been sure of what to do about it. I couldn’t muster the patience (or skill) for plucking, and waxing seemed like a (painful and expensive) step too far. Fortunately, I always had the common sense not to reach for a razor either, and so persisted mainly by ignoring them. Until my best friend insisted that I get something done about them prior to our end of university ball.
I plucked (sorry, couldn’t resist) up the courage to find another way and, with a bit of prodding from a housemate, discovered threading. Although it was 2010 and affordable brow bars weren’t present in every branch of a certain popular beauty store chain, the treatment was available in a lot of salons. Unfortunately for my purse, that was me hooked. I’ve been a threading devotee ever since, due to the pleasant difference it has made to my appearance. And in the years since getting my act together, several friends and colleagues have commented positively.
I have my brows threaded approximately every three weeks. There are some places where you can pay an extortionate amount to get this done – I don’t care if you’re the guru who threads royalty and catwalk models, it’s insane that you charge double figures for a few minutes work. The most I’ve ever paid is £10, and that was several years ago when the town this salon is in was the only place in the area offering this service. At the moment, I pay £5, but I have paid as little as £3 when I lived in south London and $4 last summer in New York. I’m not fussy about having a regular person, though there have been a couple whose treatment I’ve disliked, causing me to avoid them. If it’s someone I don’t know or I’m re-considering the shape, I take time before they start to use the mirror and explain what I want. Otherwise, I just let them get on with it – they generally know their stuff.
My second brow revelation was last spring when I discovered brow powder. It wasn’t something I felt I needed (and I still don’t use it daily) due to my brows being naturally-thick, although they are now tamed. But when I sat down for a demonstration and saw the difference, the sales technique worked. I use a Beautiful Brows kit: the powder is semi-permanent and the stencils are utterly foolproof (that’s the big secret to my accurately-groomed look, and now you know). Some of the before and after photos on the website don’t do this product justice – in my opinion, whoever’s done most of the models has been too heavy-handed, but the one in my colour (dark brown) is an accurate representation. You only need the tiniest amount of this powder and it’s a two-stroke job (one against the hair growth to apply the colour, one with it to set it). I’ve only ever used the “sleek” stencil, but this product has taken my eyebrows from tamed to treasured. Now, they really do frame my face, and mean that I can get away with absolutely minimal makeup but still look smart.
My final trick is highlighter. In my daily makeup arsenal, along with the brow kit, is mascara, concealer and bronzer. As long as I’m not having a casual day, I’ll also add primer, sometimes foundation and usually a highlighter or eyeshadow. The colour I choose depends on the season, weather and what I’m wearing or where I’m going. The highlighter provided with my brow kit is very good – as with the brow powder, you don’t need very much, so in that sense it’s economical. Sometimes I’ll just dust a neutral but uplifting eyeshadow powder over my eye sockets, to make me look a bit fresher. But after that, I’m done, face framed and ready for the world.