‘I love my job, but I used to go home crying knowing that I would be made redundant’

Benefit brow expert, Elle Applegarth, 21, tells us what shaping eyebrows means to her and how the pandemic is threatening her job.

Elle Applegarth had just got back home in Washington after a day at work right after the non-essential shops were allowed to reopen, on December 3rd, following the second national lockdown. From her joyous tone, it is clear that she was happy to be back and to see the rest of the Benefit team.

“I have always loved doing my make-up. I felt good at it and I knew it was what I wanted to do”, Elle starts her story. She studied Beauty Therapy at Newcastle College and after graduating she began to work in different beauty salons.

“I applied for a retail job at Benefit in Debenhams, MetroCentre, Gateshead, in March 2018. Even though I was qualified, I was given some training because at Benefit they teach the girls on the counter in their own way”.

She then decided to move to the Sunderland store to be closer to her home and it proved to be the best decision for her. “I have a really good team in Sunderland and the nicest manager”.

Elle at the Benefit counter

It is her job that gives Elle an incredible feeling of satisfaction. “I really love seeing the difference that I can make and people that feel better about themselves. Building a relationship with your clients is lovely, especially when they start coming back. You feel that you have done something that they liked. It is very personal. You create close relationships and start asking about their lives, what’s happening with their kids and stuff like that”.

Her favourite part about being a brow expert? “I love a good before and after, when someone comes in and they haven’t touched their brows for a while. I personally recommend waxing”.

However, when it comes to plucking the brows at home Elle says that it can be very tricky. “You need to be careful not to over-pluck the brows”, she adds. “You try to even them out and match them, but it’s not that simple.

“When we had the Benefit training we were taught their technique on how to map the brows, according to the dimensions and the features of a person’s face. We measure the angles, starting with the edge of the nose to see where the brow should start and so that the forehand and the nose do not look too wide. Then, according to the pupil we determine the perfect arch and see where the brows naturally lift up and use the corner of the eye to measure the right point where the brow should end”.

If you are looking for Elle’s advice for a universal eyebrow product she highly recommends the Benefit Brow Zings kit (£27). “It is similar to the Ka-Brow pomade, but it is very easy to use”.

Benefit Brow Zings eyebrow shaping kit

Working for Benefit has helped her a lot in developing her skills. “Before Covid, we would always get brow gurus from different stores, we would practice on each other, do role playing. It was great to have the chance to meet other people from the team and also very fun when we would try new launches for the very first time. I am really sad that the store is closing”.

The announcement of the closure of the Debenhams stores came a few days ago and Elle was not surprised. “When our store was about to shut in March, people were saying that it would not open again. I used to go home crying. It was really frightening.” She pauses and then adds “I really like going to work and doing people’s eyebrows”. She has traits of sadness in her voice when she says that they all got emails about being made redundant “there were not any positions for us.

Debenhams Sunderland

“I have noticed that retail has gone down since I started” Elle says about the company’s past issues.

“I think Debenhams is a bit old-fashioned comparing to other beauty halls. Some companies did not move with the times. When I go to other stores I get very excited to see what the beauty counters look like, whereas at Debenhams they look very similar and dated”. She thinks that discounts could have helped the store to attract younger customers and laughs saying “when I used to think of Debenhams I thought that my nana and my auntie would go there”. However, if another company bought the plot her job could be saved. Talking about the Debenhams MetroCentre where she used to work and which was later bought and modernized by Next, she feels happy for her co-workers saying that “all of them got their jobs back.

“I do love Benefit as a brand, but I am open to discover other brands as well. I wouldn’t be against getting involved in social-media”. She is modest though and adds that “I have never thought of myself as someone that people would want to listen to”. As she is also qualified in make-up, she is optimist when she says that she is considering doing brows by herself and having her own business. “You know, stuff happens for a reason”.

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