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Deepika Padukone has thick brows with a hint of gloss. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images
Deepika Padukone has thick brows with a hint of gloss. Photo: Clive Brunskill/Getty Images

High-brow business

Eyebrows, yet another conspiracy of the beauty industry, are having a fame moment

Eyebrows are having a beauty moment. From supermodel Cara Delevingne to super royal Kate Middleton to superstar Deepika Padukone, it is all about super thick brows with a hint of gloss.

Like many current beauty trends, it goes back to exuding youthful good health, a look possible with a little help from the ever-obliging beauty industry.

Getting and maintaining the perfect brow now requires an entire line of profitable products—a brow combing “spoolie" brush, brow gel and pomade, brow tints, brow fillers, angled brow brushes, duo-shade powders. Not to mention threading machines, several grades of tweezers and waxing strips.

Celebrity brow specialists who can shape and contour brows into a more flattering angle and thickness are in demand and have spun off empires that generate millions of dollars in profits.

Anastasia Beverly Hills’ waterproof DipBrow Pomade, Brett Brow’s duo-shade eyebrow powder, Blink Brow Bar’s Neelam brow kit with four brow stencils and Benefit Cosmetic’s Brow Zings all have a cultish feel about them.

Anastasia Soare and Brett Freedman have celebrity status in Hollywood. And Blink is from the UK-based brow queen Vanita Parthi, who introduced Londoners to the merits of threading, Indian style, in an easy walk-in format. Vaishaly Patel and Shavata Singh are also well-known names in the UK, where the brow business is estimated at about £20 million (around 180 crore).

Brow bar listings in TimeOut US and UK include quirky names such as Wink, Browhaus and iBrows. And as the listings increase in number, there seems to be room for more growth. Every big beauty brand is now working this trend. Maybelline has its Brow Drama Pro Palette, while Bobbi Brown has her Dark Brow kit, to name just two big brands. Check Huda Kattan’s YouTube brow tutorials to know how popular thick brows currently are.

You can go either the product or services route, or both, when setting up. California-based Billion Dollar Brows, owned by Bob and Natalie Plain, started as an e-commerce site with a star product, a Brow Boost primer and conditioner.

Reema and Mohsin Khan’s SHAPES Brow Bar, which started in Chicago off a mall cart, has 70 outlets and generates an estimated annual revenue of $14 million (around 95.2 crore), according to a 2011 report in the Time magazine.

Many of the brow bars are helmed by Indian expatriates. The reason: our inherited skill of threading.

We are said to have invented threading—skilfully wrapping a line of hair around a thread and lifting it off from the roots. So much better than plucking or tweezing or, heaven help us, waxing.

One look at the high-arched, spectacularly shaped brows in the Ajanta frescoes and Chola bronzes makes me believe that we did export this to the world, despite some murmurs that this technique could well have originated in the Middle East or ancient Iran.

Brows have always been an important part of Indian grooming habits, for both men and women, but as a revenue generator, threading has occupied the bottom rung of the beauty pyramid—traditionally, it has been the cheapest and quickest service available. It’s a service we took so much for granted that we only realized it wasn’t the most obvious, easily available service when we travelled abroad.

Brows are an easy entry point into the beauty business, requiring minimum overheads and investment. The proliferation of stand-alone brow bars abroad is testimony to this. Recently, Sephora, the French multi-brand chain of beauty products, has started Benefit’s Brow Bar at its Mumbai store. It seems ironic that we haven’t been able to create a chain of Indian brow bars.

We should, in fact, quickly learn how to leverage our amazing, unorganized beauty services economy into a powerful revenue-generating one.

For personal brow grooming lessons, remember that eyebrows can stop growing back, so don’t over-thread, over-tweeze or over-pluck. When using a brow pencil, go a shade lighter rather than darker if you have dark hair. Never go too thick in the centre when touching up brows as this can age you, or worse, make you look ill-tempered.

Brow gel is the perfect last touch to make the eyebrows look really finished and glossy. When in doubt, use brow powder over brow wax—the wax can make very dark eyebrows look fierce. Remember not to become a trend slave but choose the look that suits your face most.

With fashion, you never know.

By 2018, eyebrows may just be arched and thin again—but you will still need a brow bar to get them right.

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