As far as Meghan Markle’s glam squad goes, she has the absolute best in the biz on speed dial – George Northwood (hair stylist to Alexa Chung, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Lily James) is on hand for messy updos, Sarah Chapman (who counts Victoria Beckham and Gigi Hadid as clients) is there to take care of skin and Daniel Martin (a long-term friend of Meghan’s, Dior ambassador and makeup maestro to Jessica Alba and Priyanka Chopra) is a dab hand with a makeup brush, bestowing sheer, radiant coverage that let her freckles shine through. As for brows, Meg’s been known to frequent insider salon, Nails & Brows Mayfair, founded by Sherrille Riley in 2014.
With good reason, obviously. If there’s anyone who knows brows, it’s Riley, who, twenty years into a trailblazing career, has perfected some of the world’s most high profile faces. Her route to the success, in fairness, was a little less than smooth. In fact, her dedication to cultivating brows was kickstarted as a teen after an unfortunate run in with her mum’s razor. “I’m very artistic and I loved looking through magazines. I remember seeing a model with beautiful brows and going to the bathroom to recreate it and I ended up shaving most of mine off!” she says. A bona fide lesson in making triumph out of disaster. Since then, Riley has honed the art of naturally filled-in brows and, having grown hers back, mastered how to make the very best of the shape you’ve got. “I’ve not met anyone yet with absolutely, one hundred percent perfect brows,” she says, “we all need a little bit of additional support”.
Instead of a smoke and mirrors makeover, Riley’s approach is very straightforward – and she talks you through how to do it yourself at home. She’s as much about education as transformation. After all, there’s no point in giving you uber brows, if you don’t know how to fill them in yourself solo.
We asked her to spill her secrets (among them, which brow shape we should all be wearing this season)
The tools for the job:
“The best experts will use a mix of techniques,” says Riley. Interestingly though, the technique chosen may depend on the sensitivity of your skin. “Now with women using retinol and glycolic [which can weaken and thin the skin], it’s very easy to take off the superficial layer of skin with wax, so it’s not great for everyone, especially those with sensitive skin,” Riley adds. “I personally prefer threading and tweezing. Tweezing, because it’s good for achieving a great shape and because you can work more precisely, and threading for removing soft fluffy hairs (which aren’t always visible), but which helps to sharpen the shape. I’ll follow with really good brow products.” Maintenance-wise, she suggests a follow-up every four to five weeks, though if you can’t commit to that often, have them done professionally once, then use the expert’s template to follow the shape when new hairs grow through.
Getting the shade right:
“The right colour should be a shade darker than the natural brows,” says Riley, who recommends looking at your natural hair line above your ear (where you’ll more likely find your natural regrowth if you use colour) as a good guide for non-experts. The reason for going slightly darker rather than matching your exact shade is to create depth and definition. “But any more than two shades darker will look too harsh,” she warns.
So. Many. Pitfalls. It can be all-too easy to overdo it, but here’s three of the most common mistakes
- “A lot of women remove too much hair from the beginning of the brow,” says Riley. “Where your brows start gives proportion, it’s what balances the face, so if you’re starting them too wide apart, it draws emphasis on the nose and makes it look larger than it is.”
- Overarching is a no-no. “Often you’ll find people’s brows will start really naturally, then suddenly they arch really high and create this tick which creates quite an angry looking expression. It doesn’t flatter the features at all.”
- “Another one I’ve noticed is taking the brows too short at the end, which disrupts the whole proportion of the face. Especially the profile. A lot of people remove hairs for the sake of it, but that way you end up with almost half a brow.” Avoid.
The shape of the season:
“I love that the trend for brows is moving to something that’s really natural, full and brushed up” says Riley. “What was being offered before was a really contoured, sculpted, sharp look. The opposite to that is soft graduation, where you gradually shape the brows removing a little bit from the front, lightly through the arch and bringing the tail end out rather than creating a tick,” she says of the shape she’s hailed The Audrey (after its inspiration, Audrey Hepburn).
“I discovered if you brush the brows upwards and focus on lifting them outwards, you get that continuous lift right the way through and it’s really flattering and modern,” she adds. “Leave the front natural, then use a spoolie to brush up and out from in line with the centre of your pupil. No more smoothing downwards.”
“Obviously, it will look different on different features and face shapes but the basis of it – the brows lifted upwards – suits everyone. It’s our most in demand brow treatment because it is timeless and universally flattering.”
It may be a classic look, but it has a very modern poster girl, thanks to support from the Duchess of Sussex whose brows, you’ll notice, stick strictly to this formula.
What good brows will do for you:
“It’s really surprising how much a good brow shape can bring the features into harmony. When they’re badly done it can over-emphasise areas that would otherwise be flattering, whereas a great shape opens up the eyes, gives proportion to your cheekbones, lips and nose and brings modernity to the face. And, it’ll add that last bit of polish to your makeup. There’s no point doing the rest of your face if your brows are untidy.”