All About Eyebrow Threading

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

**If you don't feel like reading my usual lengthy intro as this is a longer post, skip down to right below the next picture--but you'll be missing some funny stuff!**

As someone with Middle Eastern blood, my thick, almost pitch-black eyebrows were a constant source of agony for years. Before I got into tweezing, kids at school made fun of my "unibrow" (it wasn't even a full one!) and then when I started using eyebrow razors, I would mess around until I had a bracket and a parentheses for eyebrows.

Truthfully, had it not been for the amazing discovery of eyebrow threading, I would still be cursing my bushy brows. My cousins had taken me to get them waxed once but I couldn't handle the pain (this was years ago) and the well-meaning Asian lady kept muttering, "So much hair..." under her breath which only made me even more uncomfortable. After that experience, I sort of left my eyebrows alone for a few years, cleaning up stray hairs at home.

But almost 3 years ago, I started noticing little salons dedicated to "eyebrow threading" (whatever that was!) popping up all over Manhattan. I would peer into the windows and watch women typically of Indian descent weave some sort of string over a client's eyebrows. I was skeptical as my eyebrow hair is particularly rough and coarse--not the type to be coaxed off easily! But one of the places had a television screen in the window to show you an up-close shot of eyebrows being threaded, and the precision and quickness of the method was interesting enough for me to walk in.

A lot of people claim some moments in their beauty worlds have been life-altering, and this was totally mine. I don't remember the name of the woman who did my brows, I don't remember if it hurt, but I absolutely remember sitting up in the chair, looking at myself in the mirror and being shocked. Eyebrows really are absolutely vital as they have such a huge impact on your face--something I learned that day. (Fun fact: I once read that Meryl Streep's makeup artist always does her eyebrows differently for each character she plays). Post-threading, my face looked less round, my eyes looked brighter and my clean, defined eyebrows added a certain polish to my look that their former unkempt selves never could. Ever since that day, I have been obsessed with eyebrows, playing with different shapes and arches and studying how celebrities get theirs done.

What my brows look like at the moment. Thinner than usual, but I like it!

In the three years since then, I've gotten my eyebrows threaded approximately every 2-3 weeks at various locations at the hands of different people. So believe me, I'm quite well versed on the subject. Let's start with the basic facts, shall we?

How it Works: Much like the name of the technique implies, eyebrow threading is the removal of unwanted hair by rolling a cotton thread at the follicle level. It sounds like such a new and modern thing, but really this has been common practice for centuries--long before waxing even existed! You might have heard about brides in ancient times having all their forehead hair removed for their wedding and this is exactly how it was done.

The Advantages: Threading is the absolute best method of shaping eyebrows because it combines the efficacy of a wax with the precision of tweezing. With just a thread, one can remove a single stray hair or 10 with a pull on the string. It's also cleaner than waxing in a more literal sense--it doesn't involve questionably hygienic substances being gooped onto your face.

The Disadvantages: While it's very common in New York, I understand that this method isn't as popular elsewhere. If that is the case, definitely try it out if the opportunity comes up!

Now that you know the basics, let's go into more detail!

My Experience: Out of all the places I've been to, I tend to frequent the Perfect Brows chain in Manhattan the most. An eyebrow threading is a mere $7 and I've been to at least 3 of their locations and never had a bad job done. Now for me, threading is for cleaning up stray hairs but largely about shaping. I never request a specific shape or style, I tend to let the aestheticians do their jobs because I'm still not sure what is most flattering for my face. This could go terribly wrong, of course, (how many people would just let their hairdresser go to town on their hair?) but it seems that the ladies of Perfect Brows really have an eye for feature-flattering arches. If you're trying a new place, though, you might want to be a bit more specific until you get a feel for what that person works like. (I also really like how most staff of eyebrow threading locations are Indian and not shocked by my thick, coarse hair. Bless them!)

Kind of a crappy picture, but I wanted you to see how you hold your brows in place.

For me, a proper eyebrow threading job is one where the threader goes everywhere to remove excess hair. You can't see what's being done, as you're lying with your head back, holding your eyebrow taut, but you can definitely feel it. On me, those key areas are beneath my brows, between them, the space between my hairline and eyebrows, and above them. Not every aesthetician cleans up all those places and I find that it really does make a difference--your eyebrows really pop more if the skin around them is hair-free. The next step is usually trimming which sounds a lot scarier than it actually is. The aesthetician just brushes them up into place and takes a bit of the hair length off. This step is crucial for me because even if my brows are perfectly done, longer eyebrow hairs (and mine are long! glorious, right?) kill the neatness of the look. Finally, you're offered aloe vera gel (take it) which is smoothed onto your brows, instantly soothing the irritated and red skin. That's usually the last step, but some threaders will take another look at your gelled brows and remove another hair or two, and I love that attention to detail. You're told to come back in two weeks, but that will vary on the amount of hair you have and how quickly it grows back. Usually, I need to go in before two weeks is even up, but lately my eyebrows have been growing back much more slowly than usual. Here's hoping that trend continues!

The Pain Factor: Of course threading, which is just another form of epilating, will hurt--there's no denying it. But I find that it hurts far less than waxing does and it took me a little while to figure out why. No matter who you go see, hot wax + tearing off paper will hurt you just about the same, but with threading, the pain you experience depends on the skill of the threader. I have a very (VERY) low threshold for pain and I've only had one appointment that made me cry. The first "thread" off each brow stings the most, but after that, that portion of your face almost turns numb so you really can't feel it. However, if you get your lip done, prepare for some obnoxiously stinging pain. The skin around your mouth is super sensitive (or at least it is for me) so every time hair gets pulled out, I have to bite back a squeal. Just a warning! (Sidenote: I've seen quite a few grown men cry sob while getting threaded because they can't handle the pain, so if you're taking your man try to go in when the salon is less busy to avoid some embarrassment. Men are such wimps, eh?)

Tips: 1) If you're very nervous about your eyebrows, it doesn't hurt to have an idea in mind of what you want. Just like with haircuts, a picture can be a lot more helpful than any description you could give so bring one with you if you'd like. But remember that this is not a full-on brow salon in that they don't fill them in or anything--it's all about whatever hair you've got to work with.

2) When it comes to the threading, try and relax your face as much as possible. The temptation to scrunch up your forehead can be overwhelming, but resisting allows for the aesthetician to see your brows in their normal state. I find that particularly challenging when they go in between my eyebrows as I'm convinced that they're going to rip out my eyelashes (though they never have).

3) Avoid wearing too much makeup, because it will absolutely get messed up. It goes without saying that pressing down on your eyelids and such will make a mess of heavy eyeshadow, so go light on the eye makeup (or skip it entirely) if you can. Of course, there's also the problem of your stray brow hairs flying all over your face, which the aesthetician will then try and wipe away, so kiss your foundation and under-eye concealer goodbye! This is especially true of non-powdered face makeup, so if you don't generally do that step, you might want to if you're going to get your brows done. I tend to go to the threader on the weekends, with just some moisturizer slapped on and curled eyelashes, or if my day is over and my makeup can be a mess, I'll stop by on my way home. (Certainly, then, don't do a full face of makeup for a night out and swing by your threader for some brow attention before hitting the club. You'd think it'd be obvious, but I've seen quite a few girls make that mistake!)

4) If you're dissatisfied with the way your brows look at the end, tell the threader. This should be a standard rule of procedure with most beauty services, but most of us don't speak up (myself included). There's nothing wrong with asking for a little more off the bottom and all the aesthetician needs is another piece of thread and a few moments to correct it. This is especially crucial if you plan on returning to the establishment--they need to know how you like your eyebrows!

5) If you have particularly sensitive skin, you might not want to get them threaded immediately before a special event. The redness around my brows doesn't last long, but my skin is considerably resilient. If the irritated area looks particularly, well, irritated, a touch of aloe vera (in a more pure form than the salon uses) should do the trick.

Phew! That was a lot, I know, and I'll honestly be surprised if anyone reads the whole thing. But clearly I have a deep appreciation and love for eyebrow threading and a shorter post couldn't have done my feelings justice!

I'd love to learn how to thread my own brows, so if you know how or of a place to go learn the craft, please let me know! (Hey, people go to hair school--I would totally go to eyebrow school!)

If you have any questions or thoughts on eyebrow hair removal in general, please share them in the comments! I could talk about this all day (clearly)!

Hope you're well!


  1. I read the whole thing - thank you! I was curious as to what it entailed. I think I'll get it done too!

  2. I love getting my eye brows threaded. However I live in Idaho so it is a lot harder for me to find someone to do it.
    I am a red head with really sensitive skin and threading is the perfect solution for me. If I get my face waxed I break out bad, that is if the person waxing does not rip my skin off along with the hair stuck to the wax paper.

  3. Jessie, I live in Idaho, I too am a red head and if I get my brows waxed it rips off my skin!! Idaho falls mall has a lady that threads!

    1. which mall? Teton Mall? we moved to Idaho from WA state and I've been looking for months! pls, I too hate waxing. :(

  4. I love threading with a passion. Hands down the best hair removal technique ever. It gives the best look for eyebrows, and is better for them too.

    I get my entire face done. My makeup goes on so much smoother, and I swear on my life my moustache hairs grow back thinner every time. Threading has changed my life.

  5. so glad everyone seems to like this post!

    thank you all for taking the time to read it!

  6. @Dani,

    wow, your whole face-that's commitment! that's so interesting about your makeup going on more smoothly, maybe if i work up the courage i'll try it one day!

  7. My whole family gets threading done. Hubby works in IT and must look professional. Our teenaged son saw his father get "threaded" and decided to give it a go. Brave kid! He has dealt with a uni brow since 6th grade. At first I would pluck them, then he moved to allowing his girlfriend wax them now he only allows them to be threaded.
    I also read the complete post. :)


  8. I have a different sort of a problem. I have what most people would term, "barely there" eye brows... Does anyone know of a solution to have some semblance of normal eyebrows, without having to drawn/tatoo them on as it looks most unnatural.

    1. Have you tried brow serums? I'm sure they won't give you full-on, thick brows but every bit helps. Rimmel does one that works for both brows and lashes.

      And for product to fill them in, I don't have too much experience there but my favorite blogger Laura mentioned the Make Up For Ever Waterproof Eyebrow Corrector recently. It's still drawing them in, but she says it looks natural and is long wearing. Here's the link to her post.

      Hope that helps!

  9. Thanks. Read the whole thing. But my moustache kind hurts when I threa it so I tend to numb it with ice. But I did my forehead an my brows those don't hurt much at all. I've realised that where there's bone under that part of the skin it doesn't hurt much, while areas such as the cheek and upper and lower lip hurt like hell! Anyways hope this helps! Xx

    1. Interesting! I never thought about the bone vs. no-bone issue.

      Did the ice numbing work for you? I've heard of some people using tooth-numbing creams for a similar effect, but unfortunately, I've never tried them myself.

      Thanks for reading!

  10. . I would have to say not true, maybe I have a high pain threshold but it's not to a point where I would say it 'hurts way more', Indian threading