Now that lockdown has entered its next stage of easing, what have you been up to? Going for a drink? Getting your hair done? Shopping in an actual shop where you can feel fabrics and try things on?
Here at Sönd we’ve been enjoying the simple pleasures of posh burgers sitting outside a restaurant without a takeaway wrapper in sight and wine in a pub garden whilst wrapped up in a blanket. And despite the cold and the odd reveller who’s had one too many, it feels good.
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But one thing we can’t get excited about is the array of beauty treatments now available to us again, in particular, eyebrow treatments.
Because, like so many of you, we have sensitive skin. Including the seemingly small and innocent skin in our eyebrow region. Waxing leaves our skin angry and red and tinting makes us itchy and inflamed at the mere mention of the sentence “pop in for a patch test”.
Our eyebrows frame our face and complete our look (especially since we’re all still in Covid face masks), and never before have brows been so fashionable. (Let’s all forget the brows of the 90s, shall we? Hats off to Brooke Shields who was literally the only person in the entire decade not to turn her brows into a skinny, overplucked, super arch…)
So, we got thinking. How do we get the eyebrows of our dreams? How do we join the brigade of people with enviable brows? How do we wake up looking effortlessly fresh, and not surprised? (A friend at a sleepover once told me I look permanently surprised before I’ve dutifully drawn on my brows in the morning and it’s made me laugh ever since.)
Ever your skin servant, we decided to take a look at all the various eyebrow treatments on offer and how they might impact your skin if it’s sensitive and contrary.
First up, plucking. This is perhaps the first foray we all experience when it comes to shaping and maintaining our eyebrow shape, and quite possibly the first time something has gone wrong. And we don’t just mean overplucking à la 90s brows.
Pretty much any kind of hair removal, in my experience, can cause the skin to react with red bumps and irritation. So if you’ve plucked, you may notice some irritation where you’ve removed hair.
But plucking is arguably the best way of keeping your brows tidy when you have sensitive skin because you can be targeted in your approach. That is, you can remove one hair at a time, concentrating on the darkest or most visible, leaving the finer, lighter ones until next time.
Top tip from the pros - someone once told me, never, ever, pluck above the brow line. Only ever pluck below it. This will help you to maintain the shape of your brows, while helping to keep their fullness.
Plucking only the visible hairs will help to give your skin a rest, but only if you have minor rogue hairs to get rid of. If you have wild or particularly unruly brows, then the amount of time you’ll need to dedicate to plucking might mean that you’re better off getting rid of all unruliness in one go...
Eyebrow waxing is most definitely best left to the professionals. Even on the most well behaved skin, waxing done wrong can cause bruising and skin damage. On sensitive skin, it can be even worse, even if professionally done and carried out correctly.
Waxing, using hot wax, on sensitive skin isn’t advised as it’s really quite an aggressive treatment. Unlike plucking, which leaves the less visible hairs behind (if you choose to), takes away all of the hairs in the area of skin covered by wax.
Which is great for tidy brows but not so great for the skin. It removes the hairs at the root, meaning that regrowth is slow. But it also pulls at the skin, so some people may experience a reaction to the wax used and such forceful tugging at the skin can cause it to react.
Threading is an ancient Asian hair removal technique and should only ever be carried out by a trained professional using clean, antibacterial wax coated thread.
It’s less aggressive on the skin, since threading involves your therapist holding thread in both hands and effectively twisting it over the hairs pulling them from their follicles.
Whilst it’s kinder on the skin and there’s no change of allergic reaction or skin burns, it can be damaging to the hair follicle. Threading can also cause the hairs to become broken off at the surface of the skin, causing them to grow back in the wrong direction.
However, done right, threading may suit your sensitive skin more than waxing.
Now let’s discuss brow colouring. As I mentioned above, all hair colouring treatments now must be preceded by a patch test, at least for the first time (and again if your situation changes, if you change hair colourist or brand or the brand changes their formulation).
This is because hair dyes, henna tattoos and brow tinting can also cause allergic reactions, even if we don’t have sensitive skin, and it’s all down to the chemicals used in order to colour the hair. The only way to know if you'll either have an allergic reaction or your sensitive skin might react, is to take a patch test.
A patch test involves applying a tiny amount of dye or tint to an inconspicuous area, such as behind the ear. If, after 24 hours, you feel fine and your skin is fine, then you’re good to go ahead.
If your skin feels itchy or irritated, then don’t go ahead with a brow tint, or try another salon that uses a more natural brand of tint. Failing all of that, it’s best to stick with a brow pencil or powder and an angled brow brush to add colour.
The beauty of this is that you can build the colour up depending on your look. For me personally, a strong, dark brow with a red lip, even though I have (bottle) blonde hair, is my go-to.
You might think that after plucking, waxing, threading and tinting, there isn’t anything else we could do to the relatively tiny patches of hair above our eyes. But think again, for brow lamination is here.
Brow lamination involves the uses of chemicals (similar to perming lotions, which surprisingly, don’t actually curl the hair - that’s the job of the curlers used during a perm - but change the structure of the hair, allowing it to be manipulated into a different shape).
During brow lamination, the hair is chemically treated to break down the protein bonds, then brushed upwards into place, then a chemical relaxer is used to set the bonds again. The end result is fuller brows, since the hair has been trained to sit upwards against the skin, giving the appearance of fuller brows. The whole process takes less than an hour (and you could well end up with brows that even Brooke Shields would be envious of).
But as any sensitive skinned individual will know, the word “chemical” strikes fear into our pores. And we’d be right. The chemicals used during lamination are associated with skin irritation, redness, dryness, itching and inflammation. So as amazing as brow lamination sounds, if your skin is sensitive, it’s probably one to avoid.
Finally, microblading for the brows is a type of semi permanent tattoo for the brow area. It allows for full, tinted brows for months at a time - amazing. But it can also be a nightmare for sensitive skin.
Microblading involves a very talented and qualified technician using a tattoo like machine to draw fine lines, representing hairs, to literally draw on the perfect brow. It’s normal to expect redness and some bleeding after the procedure, which can be inevitably worse if your skin tends to react.
Speaking to a microblading specialist will help you work out if you’d like to commit to this kind of procedure. I certainly would, and I’m told it’s less painful than you’d think, so I’m definitely going to do my research with local salons.
Eyebrow Treatments and Sensitive Skin - the Bottom Line
Obviously, you know your skin better than anyone. If you’re keen on an eyebrow treatment but you’re worried about the effects on your skin, then speak to your beauty therapist. They can help you weigh up your options to make an informed decision on what treatments might be right for you, and how long any side effects might last.
We’re definitely keen on a bit of experimenting to see how we too can achieve tame, groomed, full eyebrows, so let us know how you’ve found your brow know-how!
In the meantime, if you’re looking for skincare products that will not only suit your sensitive skin, but will respect and nourish it, look no further than our range of skin loving, alkalising skin care.
This article is not meant to treat or diagnose. Please visit your doctor for advice about any health concerns you may have.