When it comes to my eyebrows, there's only one person I trust: Mary Dang.
Since 2012, she has been tending to my arches at Eye Love Beauty Bar, her boutique Toronto salon specializing in brow, lash and makeup services. Back then, it was just Mary and her tweezers, but now, Eye Love has grown to a team of three people—all specializing in natural-looking brows that are customized to each client's features.
There's no waxing or threading involved, just tweezing, and I credit Mary for improving my brows by 1,000 percent. Like so many women, I had bounced between various brow bars for years, never feeling that happy with the angular, skinny shapes they'd inevitably give me (especially as they grew out). Mary eased me into a fuller, feathery, lower-maintenance brow, and I've NEVER looked back.
I'm far from the only beauty editor in the city who can't live without Mary (she has clients from FLARE, FASHION and ELLE Canada, to name a few)—but in case she's not on your radar yet, I want to share the love.
Read on to learn about her signature feathered brow technique and more:
How would you describe your beauty philosophy?
Less is definitely more. I think it's important for people to celebrate what they have naturally instead of trying to change things. With everything that's going on right now with injections and plastic surgery and all that stuff, I think it's a shame. Everyone is beautiful in their own way. It does sound cliché, but it's true. You've got to find your best features and focus on that—instead of trying to manipulate and change your whole face.
What's your approach to brows? Is there a certain type of brow you're known for?
From what I gather, people say that I'm known for a more natural-looking brow. So not overly manicured, and something that suits your face shape, bone structure and overall aesthetic. More of a natural, feathery brow.
I love that word, feathery.
I know. It's funny, when people are trying to describe the kind of eyebrows they want, they don't know exactly what word to use. Once I say "feathery," they say, "Oh my God, yes! Feathery, that's what I want." It describes it perfectly.
How important are brows to a person’s overall look?
Oh, it's probably at the top, like the number one most important thing. There are so many factors that make you look great, like your skin and your hair. But your brows are the finishing touch. If you have great teeth or great skin or great makeup and then you have brows that are badly shaped or just not a shape that's working for you, it throws off the entire look. Brows really do finish the whole look.
I know your background is in makeup. How did you come to specialize in brows?
I started as a makeup artist. I was very passionate at an early age and it's something that came super-naturally to me, so that was my main focus for a while. I freelanced a lot, and I worked with a couple modelling agencies doing model testing. The girls that you work on, they're already beautiful—they don't have any major flaws, and their eyebrows are always untouched. So that was my image of what brows should look like. These untouched, natural brows that looked great the way they were.
Later on, I got into bridal makeup, and I started to realize that not everybody has these great brows. So many women have pretty much hacked off their eyebrows, or someone else did it for them. When I started doing brides, I was like, "Oh my God, these women have such beautiful faces and great bone structure, and they want to do all this with their makeup for their weddings, but their eyebrows are horrible." Their eyebrows were overly shaped and waxed and skinny.
I started putting them on a grow-back routine, and that's how it really started. I wasn't focusing on brows at the time, just doing makeup, but my makeup clients would contact me after a few months. They would ask me to fix their eyebrows because they went to get them cleaned up somewhere, to get them waxed or threaded, and the person totally destroyed their eyebrows. Then they would come see me, and I'd say, "Okay, let's leave them alone for four months." And it was a repeat cycle of that. Over time, my makeup clients became my brow clients.
After a few years, my clients encouraged me to do this on my own. They'd say, "You should really focus on eyebrows. They're so trendy right now, and you're great at it." That's how it pretty much started.
When did you open Eye Love Beauty Bar, and how is it unique?
I've been here since 2011, so we're going on five years. The girls here, I hired them and it took me a while to find each girl. We all believe in the same philosophy. Less is more, big brows, natural brows. So whether you see me or you see any of the girls, you'll be 100 percent happy.
How many brows do you do on an average day?
I probably see about 15 to 20 people. So the amount of amount of faces I've seen and people I've helped... it's a lot.
Like you, I find model eyebrows the most aspirational. Is that true for most of your clients?
Celebrities are popular as well, but there's a large group of women who want to have that feathery, natural brow—and that's where you get your inspiration, from models.
Which model or celebrity brows do you admire?
There are so many. It occurred to me the other day that Emma Stone doesn't get any attention for her eyebrows, but they're actually really great. We kind of covet these women with really big, thick, dark eyebrows, and the ones that are fair, we don't pay attention to them. But Emma Stone has a really good set.
I like Olivia Palermo; her brows are nice.
Also Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Lily Aldridge, Jessica Alba, Kate Bosworth and Joan Smalls.
Gigi Hadid—I hate admitting it.
And Isabela Rangel, Taylor Hill, Karlie Kloss, Fei Fei Sun and Liu Wen.
Do you find that different age groups prefer different brow styles?
There's definitely an age category to it. The younger girls, they want to go for that very manicured look, which I always advise against. Usually, women in their late 20s and up want to go the feathery route. They want brows that are low-maintenance, easy to take care of and that grow in naturally. It doesn't look ridiculous when they grow in because they're not overly shaped and overly thin.
Is that why so many women think they have to have their brows shaped every three weeks? Is it because their brows are so thinned out, it looks bad when they start growing in?
Oh yes, most definitely. That happens to a lot of women who seek professional help. A lot of women don't really know what to do with their own eyebrows, so they go get them shaped by people who do waxing or threading. But these people are making them super-small. I don't know if it's intentional, but over time, it gets really small. Your brow hair grows in quite rapidly, so if your brows are naturally thick and you're going super-thin, then the hair's going to come back quickly and look obvious. Then you're on a vicious cycle of trying to clean them up and make them look nice, but you're doing it every two to three weeks. You should really be going to see a professional maybe every few months. Your brows shouldn't look horrible when they're growing in, they should just grow in nicely.
Do you think these waxing and threading places are encouraging frequent brow maintenance not because it looks best, but because it makes them more money?
I think so. Yeah. The more people you get in and the more often they come in, you're making more money. It's unfortunate.
How do you go about determining the right brow shape for a client?
When I have a new client, I usually assess what they're wearing and what they do, but also I'm assessing their features—their face shape, eye shape, where their eyebrows are sitting on their brow bone, and how low or high their brows are to their brow bone. Then I'll go about making sure the brows are shaped according to their natural shape, and not manipulating it too much. Once you start manipulating and changing someone's shape, that's when you have to do a lot of maintenance, and the regrowth comes faster and looks messy. Usually, what you're given naturally works for you. It's just a few minor tweaks here and there to complement your features.
What types of things do you tweak?
With myself, for example, I have an oval face shape and my brows have a slight arch. But if I was to extend my arch even more, that means my face is going to look longer, and I don't want that—I think it's long enough. So if you've got a long face, I would tend to go on the straighter side. But if the space between your eyes and your brows is quite tight, then I would lift them a tiny bit. There are all these little details I take into account when I'm shaping someone's eyebrows. It's not only their face shape, it's their eye shape and where the brow is actually sitting on their face. It's totally customized.
Why do you only use tweezers instead of waxing or threading?
I use tweezers because to me, it's the most accurate way of shaping the brows. I have full control over which hairs I'm taking out, and I can be meticulous and detailed about it. I feel that waxing and threading are very intense hair removal processes.
With waxing, you're removing bulk, and you're removing a bit of the skin, so you end up having shiny skin around your eyebrows. I don't think that's a really good look. You notice it when you wax your skin—you take out all the little baby hairs. Our faces all have these baby hairs, so wherever you've waxed will have this squeaky-clean skin. It's not the best for putting on makeup, either.
Threading is also an aggressive form of hair removal. It's meant to remove bulk. The space around your eyes is pretty tight, so it's really hard to be meticulous and take out a row at a time, or one hair at a time. You have to take out bulk. So over time, your brows will get thinner. It also creates a very distinct line. It's all very straight and angular, and you can't customize the arch.
Can the feathery brow look be achieved at home or is it best to go see a professional?
There are so many people that have a feathery brow naturally. For example, yourself—you've got a natural feathery brow. So it's easy to achieve on your own. But for someone who doesn't have that look already, it's really hard to create it, so if you want that, it's better to see someone. Mainly, it has to do with not over-trimming your eyebrows. A lot of people over-trim their eyebrows. Also, the feathery brow works for most people, but some faces need a little more structure.
Do you advise your clients to leave their brows alone in between appointments?
Some people do a good job on their own because they've been given strict orders to not overdo things. People who are really obsessed with their eyebrows and want them perfect all the time tend to make more mistakes than people who don't care. It's the ones who need to have them groomed all the time, with every hair in place and every hair perfectly trimmed, that tend to make more mistakes.
If you're one of those people who obsesses over her brows, how do you suggest getting out of that mindset?
It's getting the right information from someone like me, and also learning to let go. Learning to not really focus on your face so hard. Nobody sees you in a magnifying mirror—nobody in the world sees you that way. So you have to kind of stop and not stare at your face and your eyebrows all day. The first thing people see is not your eyebrows, it's your face.
What are the biggest brow mistakes you see out there?
I wish people would stop trimming their eyebrows so much. Either over-trimming them or trying to make each hair so short. Another big one is tweezing their arch in the wrong place. People are tweezing too much into the arch from underneath. They're not going on top, but they're going from underneath and climbing way too high.
So that old "rule" that you should only tweeze from below your brows is outdated, right?
I don't think that works. Again, it's different for everybody. Not everybody has a perfect top line, so it's okay to tidy up and contain the top line—not necessarily shape it, but contain it. Once you've seen me and once the line has been distinguished, then it's okay to maintain it on your own. But don't go and tweeze your whole top arch off—which I've seen!
What happens when people over-trim their eyebrows?
When you trim your brows too short, a lot of the skin underneath gets exposed. Your brows sit in layers, and the layers help fill in the sparse areas. For example, your tail. That's a sparse area. You trim that too short and the skin underneath will be exposed. That'll make your brows look thinner than what they actually are. When they grow back in, they grow in spiky. It's like when you get a really blunt bang trim. That's what your brows sort of look like if they're not trimmed properly.
Should trimming only be done by a professional?
I don't think people shouldn't trim, they just shouldn't be over-trimming. And not over-trimming chunks at a time. It should be like, one hair at a time. You're just trimming the hair that's kind of out there, far away from the eyebrow, and you're just trimming that one hair. And you're not trying to trim the hairs down so they're short.
How do you transition from the wrong shape to the right shape? Should you not touch your brows at all while they grow out?
I think it's best to come in to get some guidance as to where they need to grow in and what's the right shape. Once they get that guidance, they can leave it alone for a month at a time. Once there's enough hair, then come in and get them shaped in the right shape for them.
How often should people schedule maintenance appointments?
For maintenance, to tidy up the brows, it depends on the person, but no sooner than six weeks. That's the cap; you can't come in sooner than that. It can go from six weeks to two months to two and half or three months, depending on the person.
Let's talk about tools. Which type of tweezers do you use?
I've always used Tweezerman—the slant tip—and I really like them.
Do you prefer brow pencil, gel or powder?
It really depends on the person who's using the product. There are so many cosmetics that are really made really well. As long as the product has the right tone, and it's easy to use—pencil, powder, pomade, gel—it doesn't really matter as long as it's the right tone of colour.
How do you choose the right shade of brow filler?
It's the tone that matters. Most people have cool-toned hair, so they need to find something in a cool tone. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of cool-toned products out there. They're often too red.
Should you go lighter or darker than your natural brow colour?
It depends on what look you're going for. Generally, if you're on the fair side, you want to go a little darker, like a shade darker. If you've already got dark hair, I would do it a shade lighter.
Should everyone be filling in their eyebrows?
It depends on what you like. Less is more, obviously. Not everyone has to fill in their eyebrows. I think some people don't really need to fill in with any product, but can benefit from using a gel to keep everything in place. It keeps the brows looking groomed and polished.
What do you use on your own brows?
Personally I use a brow gel. There's this brand called The BrowGal. Her brow gel is extra-strong for those unruly brows; it keeps them down and it's water-resistant. As a filler, I'm using a taupe brow powder from Anastasia Beverly Hills.
Who can benefit from tinting their brows?
People that tint, it's not that they don't want to have to fill in their brows. Usually it's people who have a lot of brow hair, but they're very fair. Tinting defines and darkens the hair. People that tend to have very blonde eyebrows like the tint, because it gives them a good base. Even if they still want to still fill in their eyebrows, they can, but the tint is a natural way of darkening the eyebrow.
Brunettes also tint their eyebrows. Some brunettes love having a really full, dark eyebrow. Their eyebrow hairs are usually fine and not as dark. So brunettes like to do it, too, because it darkens everything and makes it a bit more exaggerated.
What are your best brow and beauty tips?
Every woman has a right to have her brows shaped properly for the first time—whether it's something you want to do on a routine basis as a part of your beauty regimen, or something you want to treat yourself to every few years or once in your life. I think it's really important for women to understand their potential.
It's also important to know there are other methods. Waxing and threading are not the only options, and your brows are not a template. What I do is customized for each person.
Don't think that everyone is a brow expert, even though they claim to be. You have to do your research. It's just like hairstyling. You don't want to go to someone just because they claim to be the best, or just because it's convenient.
Don't focus too hard on your imperfections—or whatever you may think is an imperfection. Because really, it isn't, at the end of the day.