Threading

Last night I had my eyebrows threaded.

I’ve had it done quite a few times over the years, and now I prefer it. It’s fast, it’s neat, and it’s natural.

I remember the first time I heard about threading. I was probably in ninth grade, sitting in the living room of my childhood home, milling about the television while dinner was being prepared. The local news was on, and the reporter was interviewing an Indian woman who had recently opened a salon in the city and in addition to cutting and styling hair she was removing it from women’s faces with cotton thread.

The video was similar to this:

I remember thinking… how weird. How can a rolled cotton string, held between your fingers and in your teeth effectively remove eyebrow hair? It wasn’t something I was eager to try.

As a ninth grader I wasn’t old enough to take my eyebrows that seriously anyway. It took me a long time to finally start doing something with them. I first started wearing glasses in seventh grade, and I had always felt protected behind my frames, until high school peer pressure dictated that more had to be done.

So I started to pluck unwieldy hairs here and there—the straggly hairs that grew 2 or 3 millimeters away from the others. I wasn’t really shaping them, just keeping the jungle from migrating.

Then my maternal grandmother decided it was her duty to usher me in to proper womanhood. On a visit to my aunt’s house in New Jersey my grandmother invited me out, and she took me to a salon. She insisted that I wax my eyebrows, and get a manicure and pedicure. I was taken to a small room in the back of the salon where I was asked to lie down. The woman doing the waxing asked if I had done this before—I’m sure she could tell from the monstrous caterpillars on my face that I hadn’t—and told me to relax. She took a flat popsicle stick coated in hot wax and wiped it on my upper eyelid in an arc and then applied a special paper. Two seconds later she asked, “Ready?” and ripped the paper off my eye in one swift motion. Yowzers.

I cringed as she applied the hot wax to my other upper eyelid. The first time I had been blissfully naïve, but now I knew what was coming. After the second pull there were a few smaller pulls to clean up the edges. Then she took out some tweezers to finish shaping, and a small pair of scissors and an eyebrow brush to complete the procedure.

That was the first and last time I ever waxed my eyebrows.

Sure, many of you are probably reading and thinking, “I wax mine all the time, why is C being a baby?” and I admit, I am. I can’t imagine waxing every time (or even part of the time), and I especially can’t imagine waxing more “sensitive” parts of my body.  I just don’t like the idea of hot wax being put on my face, nor do I like the idea of ripping out hairs in one giant clump. I have seen others get wax jobs done and it looks like it irritates their skin, and I just didn’t like the idea of it. I was happy to use my original waxing as a guideline for where I should pluck, but I was satisfied tending my eyebrows myself, one hair at a time.

Then in college I was talking to some Kenyan friends who said that they “threaded” their eyebrows, and I remembered the news broadcast I saw in ninth grade. I plied them with questions—Did it hurt? Was it fast? Do you recommend it?—I had forgotten about this option, and stored it in the back of my mind.

Shortly after graduating from college I travelled to my mother’s house in Virginia, and went to the mall to get a haircut. A South Asian woman had a booth in the middle of the mall, and she was threading eyebrows for a few dollars. I decided to give it a try.

I sat in the salon chair, and laid my head back. She asked me to put one hand on the skin above my eyebrow and one on the skin below to pull the skin tight, and then she began. I’m not going to lie… my first threading wasn’t painless, in fact when I opened my eyes afterward I couldn’t see anything as my eyes had involuntarily teared up so much from the tugging.

It was a while before I worked up the nerve to do threading again, but I didn’t have the same definitive “no way” feeling that I had after getting waxed.

Once my younger sister M went to the mall with R and I. A Nepali woman was threading eyebrows and R and I were happy to sit and have ours shaped. My sister watched, and even though she is an occasional waxer, she wasn’t ready to try threading. At least not then.

I still mostly pluck, but if I have a special occasion, or if someone is willing to do a threading, I’ll go that route. For example our friend M-dai’s wife knows how to do it and offered to thread all us ladies when we were hanging out on New Years.

It hurts less now, perhaps because I’m used to it. But mostly I like that it is easy, and quick, and natural. I like not having to put extra guck on my face.

When I was getting my eyebrows done last night a Caucasian woman walked up and asked, “Do you mind if I watch?” As my eyebrows were shaped she asked, “Does it hurt?” and I replied, “Not any more than plucking or waxing. I actually prefer it,” but by the time I opened my eyes she had already walked away.

What do you think about threading?

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10 responses to “Threading

  1. Thumbs up! I discovered threading in India. I’d never come across it before but it is becoming more common in Ireland. The last time I was home I spotted a few threading places in Dublin (but at extraordinary prices compared to what I have become accustomed to paying in Dubai).

  2. I agree! I’ve never had my eyebrows waxed, but I’ve heard it can really irritate the skin. I’d never had anything done to eyebrows professionally (I just used to pluck em myself) until I came to Nepal. And I like threading. Although I’m too lazy to get them done on a regular basis. A special occasion seems like the perfect time to do it :)

  3. C, I had a very similar first time waxing experience, however, due to my amazingly thick and caveman like eyebrows, my first experience came in the 5th grade. And worse yet, I ASKED to have it done! Yikes, that was an eye opening (no pun intended) experience. Since then I’ve plucked, waxed, and threaded my eyebrows into submission. I prefer threading to any other treatment simply because it gives my eyebrows a better shape, and there aren’t any “oops” incidences like with waxing! I would recommend it to anyone who wants to get their eyebrows shaped, or tamed!

  4. I’m terrified of threading. I waited a really long time (like, after undergrad) to do anything to my eyebrows, because around the time in high school I was thinking about doing it, my grandma and aunt both agreed that I had very nice eyebrows (maybe not completely true, but I’m glad their compliments kept me innocent and hairy a few years longer).

    I have only ever let one salon touch my eyebrows, and although she does wax and it does hurt (I grip the arms of the chair every time like the big baby I am), she coaches me on when to breathe out (like I’m giving birth, except it’s just a little wax — again, big baby) and then rubs some aloe on immediately. She does my upper lip now, which isn’t fun but it was time (thanks for those genes, Mom).

    I’m so not into waxing anywhere else, though. I was told to wax my arms for the wedding. I kind of get it now (mehndi and all), and would probably do it, but at the time I just said I’d shave them (electric shaver). I’m lucky that my arms are hairy, but the hair bleaches in the sun quickly after it grows back in.

    My real terror with waxing? That my eyelashes are going to get stuck in the wax. It’s never happened, but I’m always worried. My stylist also terrified me from threading because she thinks it’s unsanitary. I’d never heard of it before, so my first exposure to it was hearing her say that someone saw spit going down the thread from the mouth toward their eye! Then my next exposure was someone saying she was going to the mall to get it done because she loves it, even though she feels like a domestic violence victim after it.

    So for now, this girl will be sticking with piping hot wax applied near the eyes she needs to see with.

    • I’ve never had a problem with drool running down the cotton thread. I guess it depends on how the person holds it… if you hold it between your lips or your teeth, I don’t know. I guess it has the potential for something like that, but I doubt someone who tends to drool while doing it would stay in business very long :)

      I went with a Nepali friend once who waxed her eyebrows and the whole process was super fast–in and out the door… wham, baam, thank you ma’am–and she was really upset. Her eyebrows were quite irritated from the wax and they didn’t even but moisturizer on her or anything. The threading I’ve done usually includes a mini eyebrow massage with some moisturizer to help. My friend was like, “in Nepal they take such better care of their customers!”

      Anyway, I’ve heard similar critiques about henna. I hennaed my hair a few times in college/right after college. I was told by South Asian friends that henna was really healthy for my hair. But if you ask an American hair dresser about henna they say it is really bad and unhealthy and that you should never do it. Part of the reason why (I think) is because natural henna and chemical hair dye interact very negatively together and damage hair… and since American hairdressers use the chemical products, they probably don’t want their clients experimenting and damaging their hair and blaming the hairdresser, but I don’t see how natural henna can be any more harmful than chemical hair dyes.

  5. I only first heard about threading this past summer. After years of suffering waxing, I can say threading is like a peaceful vacation comparatively. Of course, everything is relative.

  6. I have groomed my eyebrows since I was about 13 or 14 since I am fairly hirsute and have naturally big eyebrows including some unibrow action. I have always been really into eyebrows and feel that they frame a person’s features. I did my own for years (mostly because I didn’t trust anyone else) until around the time of my wedding when I was living in Oman I decided to allow them to be done in a salon. Since then, I have had them threaded fairly regularly. When I was gearing up to move back to the US, a fear was that I wouldn’t be able to find an eyebrow threader very easily. But lo and behold, threading had become popular and it was even at the suburban malls as you have described. A little Nepal-connected observation here: In Houston and also here at my salon in Virginia, the desi salons are Indian or Pakistani owned, but they employ a few Nepalese women to exclusively do threading. The women stand there and there is always a long line and the chairs are full so it feels like a hair removal factory. I wondered to myself why these salons are employing recent immigrant, limited English Nepalese girls…were they somehow trafficked into this like some restaurant workers are? I wanted to ask these women the circumstances of their employment but the busy conditions prevent that sort of thing.

  7. I have never had it done cause it looks so painful!! im sure i will try it soon though

  8. mebrown@cmich.edu

    If you call or notify local police or local immigration office, I’m sure they”ll look into it. I didn’t know it was done outside of the sex trade. Either way it is immoral, as I see it. Plus that means the employer may be skipping taxes normally paid before checks are issued. Please don’t wonder, call someone. Who knows what else they may have going on.

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