Hillary Johnson is a Los Angeles writer whose last book was "Super Vixens' Dymaxion Lounge" (St. Martin's Press)

After years of crummy cars, I finally bought a Cadillac. And to celebrate this happy event, I drove straight to Beverly Hills and had my eyebrows done. This isn’t as weird as it sounds. Have you ever noticed how eyebrow styles have come and gone over the decades in rough correlation to the vagaries of automotive design? Thus you have Claudette Colbert’s perky ‘30s fenders arching over her high beams at Clark Gable in “It Happened One Night”; Sophia Loren’s long, low-slung Maseratis, Grace Kelly’s Silver Clouds and Mary Tyler Moore’s Mustang convertibles.

As for the ‘90s, an era of chromeless, blobby vehicles that, as one friend put it, “look like M&Ms;,” it’s no wonder eyebrows are in a fallow period. Either they’re thin and contourless--diffident punctuation marks that turn the faces below them into half-hearted parenthetical statements--or they’re all bushy and unkempt, like little over-the-eye mustaches. But to judge from the new retro-styled Mustang and Jaguar, and even the VW Bug, jazzy cars are coming back, and so is the souped-up brow.

My eyebrow-ography is as sketchy as my automotive history. I’ve had the same dull Almay pencil in the bottom of my makeup bag for years, and I’ve seldom used it. As a platinum blond, I overplucked and overlightened. When I tired of blond and swung all the way over to a sleek, dark brown, I let my brows revert to their brunet unruliness. Then the ’85 Caddy came my way, and it was time to get serious.

With eyebrows, it’s best to consult a professional. Unlike lashes, lids, cheeks or even lips, good eyebrows aren’t painterly effects, but feats of engineering and draftsmanship. If you think about it, eyebrows are a three-dimensional graphic laid over a surface of compound curves. So I went to see a woman named Anastasia, who does nothing but eyebrows at her eponymous Beverly Hills salon.


Anastasia Soare trained in her native Romania as an architect. Like many frustrated immigrant professionals, she found work as an aesthetician and soon emerged as the architect of the new brow with clients such as Jennifer Lopez, Helen Hunt and Julianna Margulies. When you sit in her chair, she goes to work with wax, tweezers and intense concentration. After four or five minutes, you get up with both better-looking brows and an improved image. “The shape of your brow can totally change your expression,” she explains. “I can make you look happy or sad or angry.” Consequently, Soare is beyond popular: You have to wait two months for a turn in her chair, but it’s worth it.

Another new eyebrow guru in town is Liz Zaldana at Umberto in Beverly Hills. She has a slightly lighter touch than Soare and likes to fill in brows with powder and a tiny brush. “You use lots of small strokes, so it looks like hair,” she says. Although she believes that a soft, natural arch is best, Zaldana doesn’t limit herself to working with what you’ve got. She dyes too-blond brows, especially if the outer portion is thin, and highlights the brows of darker-haired customers. “When I use dye, I can totally reshape your brow,” she says. And to date, you have only a two-week wait for an appointment with her.

According to Mia Veresmortean, the eyebrow expert at the Trish McEvoy cosmetics company in New York City: If you let your eyebrows do their own thing, it could take three to six months to see the total shape of the brow. “But you won’t look awful for six months,” she hastens to add. “Once you’re through the first few weeks, the new growth is tamer.” Veresmortean warns that overplucking can lead to permanent hair loss. “If you want to have to draw on your eyebrow every day when you’re 50, that’s your choice.”

There’s plenty of impermanent fun to be had with all the new eyebrow products on the market. My favorite at-home routine is Stila’s Brow Shade powder applied with a Trish McEvoy No. 32 brush for day, a Stila No. 10 brush for night. If I’m wearing black and have my hair pulled back, I use a Chanel Sculpting Brow Pencil, which is a powder in pencil form with a blending brush on the end and good for touch-ups. In my gym bag, I have Clinique’s Brow Shaper, powder and brush in a metal case that doubles as a magnifying mirror.

If you want permanently clean eyebrows, electrolysis is an option. Places such as Century Cosmetics in Century City offer not only electrolysis but a pain-free approach in a medically supervised environment, local anesthesia adding only about $25 to the cost of an electrolysis session.

The moral is, you don’t have to be a movie star to have late-model, luxury eyebrows. The fact is, even if you’re fated to bop around in a used Honda Accord, for less than 50 bucks and 10 minutes of your time, well, it can be very nice to see a sleek pair of Jaguars when you glance in the rearview mirror.