Rediscovering Ancient Beauty Practices

BY Channaly Oum TIMEOctober 9, 2013 PRINT

The eyes are the window to the soul, as the ancient proverb says. The ancient past also often reveals the answer when searching for ways to look more beautiful.

Threading, an art passed down for hundreds of years, seems a very modest practice—involving nothing more than cotton thread and a skilled hand. Yet, with a time commitment of 10–15 minutes and often a price tag under $10, it may well be the quickest and most inexpensive facelift around.

Threading is used on the face, most often the eyebrow area. If you have seen Bollywood actresses, who prefer threading for their eyebrows over other methods, you can see how threading significantly opens the eye area and gives a youthful, polished look, and serves to frame the eyes and face beautifully. In Hollywood, celebrities like Liv Tyler and Jennifer Aniston have also taken to threading.

By using a twisted double strand of thread, a threader can sculpt eyebrows with extreme precision, either removing a row of hair at a time or renegade stray hairs, even fine ones impossible to remove by plucking. 

The steady, controlled movement of threading pulls hair from its root (as I saw clearly when threading was practiced on a friend), whereas plucking and even waxing can break the roots, said Vani Chohan, who owns Amazing Brows, a salon in Chelsea that offers threading, waxing, and henna tattooing.

One of the best things about threading, Chohan says, is that it’s natural—you’re using a cotton thread, not harsh chemicals, and even waxing, which is harsh on the sensitive eye area, is too clumsy when precise control is needed. 

When threading, “the hair comes out thinner when it regrows. If you tweeze it, the hair will be very thick, roots become thicker,” Chohan says and she’s found this out from her 10 years of experience. “And even if you’re waxing, it comes back the same, and most of the time doesn’t pull hair out from the roots—it breaks the hair.” Threading can also remove the finest hairs, and even ingrown hairs, where waxing would just go over these without removing them. 

Threading is also great for those with sensitive skin, for whom waxing is too harsh.

Good threaders will engage you to find out what you’re looking for and make suggestions prior to starting. Chohan says they can tell you what shape suits you and best matches your face and hair. Some people might yearn for a higher arch but in some cases, this can make you look constantly angry or surprised—it all depends on the face, so good advice is a must.

With a new client, Chohan first checks both eyebrows to see if they match or not; second, she’ll ask your personal preference. Some clients prefer to trust her and put themselves in her hands. In that case, she says, “I’ll just follow your natural shape, because whatever God gives is pretty great.”

Does threading hurt? It does, depending on your pain threshold, but Chohan says it hurts less and less every time. “When you see the shape after you get it done, a little pain is worth it.” Threading every two weeks is recommended to keep eyebrows looking great and trim.

Henna Tattoo

Another tradition practiced in India for thousands of years and that has found a home in the West is henna tattoo. Henna is also an ingredient in natural hair dyes. Used traditionally during special occasions like weddings and rites of passage, henna tattoo consists of applying a crushed paste from the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis) on the skin, making intricate and beautiful patterns—often on the hands or feet.

In traditional patterns, motifs are sometimes hidden in the patterns—fish, birds, and for weddings, drawings of the bride and the groom.

After the design, a solution of lemon and sugar is applied to help the color set. Those with enough patience to leave the design on all night will find it can last up to a month. 

It has become a fun, temporary alternative to permanent tattoos, and particularly a good option to cover up scars. 

Henna is known to have cooling properties, making it a great option for the summer as the layers come off and a festive mood sets in.

Channaly Oum
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