Eastern alternative to tweezing is gaining fans

Bindu Sharma pulls a couple of yards of cotton thread off a spool, puts one end in her teeth and makes an elaborate design with the rest of the thread.

What is this - play day at the beauty salon? Is she seriously taking time to make Jacob's ladder and a cat's cradle out of string?

Hold on a minute. She's bringing the web of thread closer to a customer's face. She's stretching it along the eyebrow line, and ... zap! The thread zips along the customer's shaggy eyebrow, neatly snagging stray hairs.

This is eyebrow threading, an ancient hair-removal technique from Asia that's said to be more effective and longer-lasting than tweezing or waxing. Sharma does threading at her Look of Love Beauty Salon, and she thinks she is the only one offering the service in Colorado Springs, Colo.

In the two years she's been threading in the Springs, she's amassed scores of loyal customers, including Monica Matchette, an insurance agent who has been having the beauty procedure done about once a month for the past six months.

"I like it a lot better than plucking and waxing because it gives a more defined shape," Matchette says. "And my hair doesn't grow back as fast, and when it does it is softer."

Before Machette tried threading at the urging of a friend, she was skeptical. "I thought it must have something to do with sewing with a needle and I thought, `no way.'"

Now she loves the well-groomed look. Machette also says the procedure isn't painful, although a few online posts say it can briefly sting, much as a good waxing or tweezing might.

Threading is thought to have started in China centuries ago, when wizened grandfathers used it to shape their straggly beards. From there it spread to India and Asia, and eventually made its way to major cities in the United States, including New York, where Sharma owned a salon for 18 years before moving here two years ago.

She learned threading in her native India, where it's the most popular way to shape eyebrows and get rid of pesky hair above the upper lip. It took a great deal of practice in beauty school, and she and the other students would try it out on leg hair - although it's not used to exfoliate legs.

Sharma doesn't advertise, but her business has blossomed, thanks to word-of-mouth recommendations and customers who move to Colorado Springs from places where threading is more common. Both men and women seek out her threading service, which costs $12 and takes less than 10 minutes, depending on how shaggy the eyebrows are.

But why not continue to do what American women have done for years when their eyebrows start to look like Martin Scorsese's: Grab the tweezers, stick a mirror close to your face, pluck away and pray that you don't end up looking lopsided?

Because, threading devotees say, the technique pulls the hair out at the roots and removes it with precision, so the hair grows back more slowly. An expert threader can get the symmetry just right to match facial contours, and there is no redness or puffiness after it is done. (Don't think you can thread your own brows, however. Your hands will get in the way of the eyebrow and you won't be able to see what you are doing.)

Eyebrow grooming is important because "we use eyebrows to communicate and to give expressive definition to the eyes," Sharma says.

But please don't come in clutching a photo of some movie star and say you want those eyebrows. Eyebrows should be shaped to fit your unique face, not Beyonce's or Angelina's, Sharma says.