Thread, Wax, East, West


There's something about a unibrow that's unquestionably alluring. Out of our zeitgeist now, for sure, but not always—back during Iran’s Qajar dynasty (1785-1925) they were all the rage, for women and men. Even before that, the look was often accentuated with kohl throughout the Middle East. It wasn’t till the 20th century that the more Western double-browed style came into play in the region. And in many nearby Central Asian countries, like Tajikistan and Azerbaijan, the unibrow is still preferred and cultivated, seen as a symbol of purity for women, and virility for men.

Hair removal and brow-shaping was once a marker of adulthood/marriage for Persian women, and threading continues to be preferred grooming tactic for the face today, if done with less ceremony. This method uses twisted cotton thread to grip and yank hair out at the root; it’s more exact than waxing and quicker than plucking. Practitioners use their mouths to hold the thread taut (never fear, germophobes—this part of the thread doesn’t touch your skin), while both hands control shaping. Called khait in Arabic-speaking countries, threading is also often seen as equal opportunity—a grooming option for men and women alike. It’s also practiced on the Indian subcontinent as it is in Afghanistan, where it became a surprising micro-trend amongst some US soldiers during their deployment (with local barbers providing the full package: a shave, haircut, and complimentary eyebrow shaping).

The first time I went under the thread was about five years ago. As an adolescent victim of an overzealous waxing session, my brows have long been less-than-hirsute. A co-worker/threading aficionado, who was both sympathetic to my plight and sensitive to my need for brow-shaping over subtraction, recommended a local salon to me. Off I went, fully expecting the experience to be as light and wispy as its name.

In reality, it was more akin to having my brows rubbed with the serrated edge of a butter knife; my eyes watered the whole way through. But when it was over, my face looked better than I’d ever remembered it looking—benefiting from the kind of boost that’s only really achieved with an adjustment of the frame (read: hair or brows) rather than the picture itself. I was more than happy; I was hooked.

Lucky for me, threading has hit the United States with full-force and is no longer a niche appointment to find. Now the only challenge is the popularity of the salon I frequent. Even though it’s tucked away in the back aisle of a weekend mercado in North Austin, Art of Browz by Pabitra is pretty much always fully booked. Urdu and Spanish are the first languages of both business and patrons, and I feel totally at home in this diverse beauty culture. Plus, my brows have never looked better.

—Lauren Maas

Illustration by Lucy Han. Still a die-hard wax fan? Here's how to wax your eyebrows at home without going too far. And even more on brows in our brow hub right over here.