You may not have thought much about your eyebrows before cancer treatment. Maybe you tweezed them now and then, or shaped them with a little color, but when they start disappearing during chemotherapy, you suddenly realize how important they are.
“Your eyes are the most identifying facial feature,” says makeup artist MidoriLei. “Now think about it, your eyebrows frame your eyes. That’s why they’re so important.”
Unfortunately, chemotherapy damages fast-growing cells, and can rob you of your eyebrows at the same time that it steals the hair on your head. Suddenly you’ve got naked eyes-and that can make a big difference to your look.
“As they fell out,” says survivor Jana Rosenblatt, “I began to lose the healthy expression of my face and began to look sick. This was NOT okay with me.”
Powders, pencils, and stencils abound in the makeup aisles, but without a little guidance, you can end up with one eyebrow higher, wider, or longer than the other, and you may find yourself frustrated after spending an hour in front of the mirror. That’s what we’re here for!
First, you need to determine the eyebrow shape that’s right for your face. (Eyebrowz.com has a great chart to help you determine your face shape.) Women with round faces, for example, should choose a more angular brow shape. Rounded brows are great for those with large eyes or a wide forehead. The standard arch shape is flattering to most women, as it helps open the eyes, and the low arch helps give the illusion of length to those with small foreheads.
Once you’ve determined the shape you want, choose a stencil. The stencil will guide the application of makeup, sort of like a cut-out eyebrow. Bobbie Brown offers five different stencils in four different widths, and eyebrowz.com offers many stencils inspired by celebrity looks. ChemoChicks has developed their own eyebrow guide that actually fits on your face like a mask, leaving both hands free to apply makeup.
Now it’s time to choose your eyebrow makeup. (Go for shades that most closely match your natural hair color.) Of course, we advise you to use non-toxic formulas to protect yourself from dangerous chemicals and avoid taxing your already sensitive skin. It may be easiest to find an eyebrow kit. (We like Jane Iredale.) Most come with two shades of powder, to help you get a realistic look, plus a highlighting pencil to mark the beginning and end of your brows, perhaps one to use as a base before you apply color, the stencil to establish the shape, and powder to set the makeup when you’re done. As for the actual application, stay tuned-we’ll be posting video tutorials on how to do your eyebrows.
What about the semi-permanent makeup that’s becoming all the rage? Some patients have chosen this option-particularly if they have 4-6 weeks to plan before treatment starts. (DON’T do it if you’ve already started treatment-the risks of infection are high and you won’t be able to heal as quickly.) It’s like a tattoo, so if you’re thinking about it, don’t plan to change your look anytime soon. You’ll need 2-3 applications to make it stay for 4-5 years, but one should be enough for a year, which could get you through treatment totally brow-full. Headcovers.com also has synthetic eyebrows for both men and women to try.
If you go for it, have fun, and give yourself the time to learn, you may find yourself fooling everyone. “I was telling one of my sisters how pleased I was when my eyebrows started growing back,” says survivor Liz G. “She said, ‘Oh, did you lose your eyebrows?’”
Have any tips for creating great brows during treatment? Please pass them on!
Photo courtesy of Snap Village.