8 mins


“The Brow King” tells Kezia Parkins about his unusual route into the beauty industry and how he built up his name – and his social media following – as a celebrity brow stylist

Celebrity brow artist Salih (Sal) Cikikcioglu, 29, hated eyebrows before he loved them… more specifically, he couldn’t stand his own. A Turkish Muslim, Cikikcioglu describes himself as “hairy”, adding,

“Growing up I had a really thick monobrow. I got bullied for it at school and got called horrible names. It really affected me; I became so self-conscious of my brows.”

This was over a decade ago – before bushy brows, natural brows and even monobrows became en vogue. Not only were the comments cruel, they were also steeped in racism. And as if this wasn’t enough, Cikikcioglu was struggling with his sexuality during this time – all of which took a toll on his mental health.

Cikikcioglu has always struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder [OCD] and this manifested itself in an unhealthy obsession with plucking his eyebrows. He became plucking-mad, constantly checking his brows and getting friends to reassure him that they looked okay. “It got so bad that I would have a meltdown if my brows were not perfect, it would ruin my day,” he says.

During those early days of getting to grips with his own brows, Cikikcioglu tried out pretty much every brow shape in existence – from the skinny brow to the straight brow. His obsession went beyond plucking and he began experimenting with shaping and products too.

“I now realise it wasn’t just the OCD but also undiagnosed ADHD,” he says. “I was completely hyperfocused on my brows,” he continues, describing a side effect of ADHD that causes laser focus on points of interest. “I got so good at doing my own brows that girls at school began asking me to do theirs in the canteen at lunchtime,” says Cikikcioglu.

It was not long after this that the young beauty pro in the making came out as gay, and was fighting against the rhetoric that men shouldn’t do their eyebrows. Meanwhile, his very religious family, who run a mosque in North London, didn’t give him the support he needed. “I got kicked out of my house and my family disowned me,” he shares. “I had been looking into brow courses but had no money whatsoever. I took out a loan to do the course and that was the day my life changed.” Fast forward a decade and now Cikikcioglu is known worldwide as “The Brow King”, with a large online following and an impressive roster of celeb clients. “Now, I want to say thank you to my bullies, because look at me now,” he says.


College for Cikikcioglu was a time of finding himself. In 2013, he went to a theatre school, and with many of his peers openly out and proud it was during this time that he found the courage to come out himself.

This next period was a time of hustle. Cikikcioglu was working part time at retailer Topman while simultaneously doing his college friends’ brows and posting them on social media. Realising that influencer life was something he could thrive at, he quit Topman to focus on this while working part time on a Benefit Cosmetics counter.

“I used it as an opportunity to get on-the-job learning on how to give make-up tips and how to do brows professionally,” he says. “I’d watch my colleagues work and the whole time I’d be thinking about what I would do differently.” Cikikcioglu had launched a YouTube channel called Salih’s World, where he posted lifestyle vlogs and brow content. His videos showing how to achieve the perfect bold brow shape – atrend that would later become known as the Insta Brow of 2015 – went viral. His presence was steadily growing and soon his male grooming tip videos were getting millions of views.

Cikikcioglu’s eyebrow journey since 2010

The HD effect

Seeing as it was brow work that was making his dreams of becoming an influencer come true, it was in 2014 that Cikikcioglu decided to bite the bullet, take out a loan and get some training to become a brow pro. He went with HD Brows, which had grown to become one of the world’s most renowned brow training providers.

Cikikcioglu had caught the attention of brow tech and HD Brows co-founder Nilam Holmes-Patel, who had seen his videos on YouTube and observed his skill. She told him to quit his job and come to work for her. The next few months were a period of intense training. Under Holmes-Patel’s wing, Cikikcioglu learned all about eyebrows, from perfecting techniques to how to work with celebrities.

Thanks to the strong ties of the Turkish community in London, Cikikcioglu had already secured a celebrity client in Tulisa Contostavlos, a singer from UK hip-hop group, N-Dubz. Holmes-Patel had been doing the brows of the contestants and judges of X-Factor for years, but in 2016, she couldn’t make it.

L-R: Cikikcioglu’s work on celebrity clients Molly-Mae Hague, Perry Edwards and Jesy Nelson

“I had worked so closely with Nilam that she trusted me, she saw how I worked and knew I would be able to represent her, so I started to go and see the clients she couldn’t,” says Cikikcioglu.

He would rarely know who he was getting sent out to see until the moment he arrived at the venue or hotel… one time it was Little Mix. The pop sensations loved his work and requested him to be their go-to brow stylist. “I got on so well with all the girls but especially with Jesy,” he shares. “She was just like me and we formed a really strong bond.”

Being able to regularly share his work on the faces of cultural icons on his fast-growing social media channels allowed Cikikcioglu’s influence in the brow space to explode. Soon, celebrities were reaching out to Cikikcioglu, who had now secured his moniker as “The Brow King.”

Now out on his own, his client list includes the likes of Katie Piper OBE, Drag Race’s Michelle Visage, and a host of Love Island contestants including Molly-Mae Hague.

Taking its toll

All of a sudden, Cikikcioglu’s hobbies and obsessions – social media and doing brows – had become his full-time job. He was a success but was also heading for burnout. “I had taken on too much and was getting overwhelmed. A client would call me and it didn’t matter what time it was, it could be 2am and I would go out to do their brows,” he explains.

He had even started doing a course in computer science to add yet another string to his bow. “But, I was so focused on brows that I was starting to let my social media slip and I had to drop the course,” he says. It was no surprise to Cikikcioglu that he would suffer bouts of depression and anxiety because of his struggle with OCD and following all the bullying and homophobia he had faced when younger, but he didn’t realise there was more to it.

In December 2022, he was diagnosed with ADHD. In an Instagram reel, Cikikcioglu cried tears of joy at receiving an answer to feelings he had been having for a long time but couldn’t put a name to. “I feel relief; it’s such a weight lifted off my shoulders. I’ve been struggling for such a long time but I never knew why,” he shared in the video.

Now, he can see that his route into brows was not only caused by his obsession with his own brows but also spurred on by the hyperfocus that comes with having ADHD. “When I was at school, mental health was a taboo topic and I was just viewed as a naughty kid. Now, I’m realising who I am as a person and how my mental health has affected me in both positive and negative ways,” he says. “ADHD got me hyperfocused on brows and that led into a career.”

Cikikcioglu is now taking some time out to focus on improving his mental health and is slowly repairing his relationship with his family. “I was only 18 when I was kicked out of my house for coming out. I kept myself so busy over all those years that I never had time to fully process it,” he says.

Besides being a platform for demonstrating his brow expertise over the past decade, YouTube became his coming out diary, used to share his experience as a young, gay Turkish Muslim in London, and in doing so he has been able to help others. His videos around this topic can be as hilarious as they are heartbreaking as he candidly opens up. Now, he plans to share his mental health journey too.

The Brow King in 2023

Cikikcioglu’s finished brow work on a client

2022 saw an influx of past brow trends return, including the straight brow, bleached brow and even the beginnings of the return of the ’90s thin brow, and while Cikikcioglu admits to using himself as a guinea pig for every brow trend in existence, when it comes to his clients, he is all about using brows to enhance and frame their natural face shape.

“There are a lot of trends coming back around, and that’s great, but not everyone can hop on every trend and expect it to suit them,” he says. “I predict that natural brows will remain the top trend going forward, and really tailoring each look to the face of each client.”

For The Brow King, 2023 is time for a transformation. “I’m trying to put my mental health first, and come back 10 times stronger,” he says. “Brows are what made me but I’m more than that – Iwant to incorporate more lifestyle and educational content in my videos and in the future will look to set up some training to get others into the industry.”

Catch The Brow King on Monday, March 6, at PB London at 11am on the Trends and Techniques stage, where he will be giving you the chance to observe and learn his renowned brow-shaping techniques.


This article appears in March 2023

Go to Page View
This article appears in...
March 2023
Go to Page View
While advanced aesthetic treatments and moodboosting complementary therapies
Aesthetic licences won’t be rushed through but a
We take a look inside PB’s digital world
Our exclusive monthly benchmarking stats for each sector of the market
One of the best things about the
Marketing your services in order to attract
The rise of online skin, nail and make-up advice has caused a huge shift in the industry, but it’s never been more important to promote the value of professional training and experience
ASK THE experts
Our beauty experts answer your questions about every aspect of running a salon or spa business
“The Brow King” tells Kezia Parkins about his unusual route into the beauty industry and how he built up his name – and his social media following – as a celebrity brow stylist
DIAMOND strength
The major new launch from OPI promises strength, durability and shine in a 3-in-1 hard gel system
With wellness at the forefront of clients’ minds, it could be time to invest in a range that treats body and mind, explains Matt Taylor of Eve Taylor London
This season, nails take inspiration from Y2K styles, with chrome and 3D making a comeback and slivers of colour updating French looks. Kezia Parkins uncovers the biggest trends
COOL colours
The pro brands’ SS23 collections serve up a selection of popping brights and cool pastels
CONFIDENCE in a bottle
Discover the ultimate builder in a bottle from the most trusted brand in the industry
SOFT & sultry
From subtle soft-glam to smoky “siren eyes”, leading MUAs Joy Adenuga, Nikita Baffour and Nadia Fihema tell Lollie Hancock which trends to brush up on ahead of SS23
Discover the latest make-up launches to help you recreate our SS23 make-up trends for your clients
SMARTER software
Keep your business resilient, whatever the climate, with Vagaro, the beauty software and marketplace
Meet Tatti Lashes – the lash and brow brand that’s expanding fast across the UK and Europe
Less is MORE
With some clients looking to cut their skincare spend to save money, Ellen Cummings explores how you can make the “skinimalism” trend for stripped-back routines work for your business
Help your clients’ skin breathe from within, to be purified, refreshed and ready for the world
Adapting for PROFIT
Given the current economic situation, many businesses are looking at how they can adapt to remain profitable. Ellen Cummings asks successful beauty business owners for their top tips on making changes without compromising on service
BUSINESS at your fingertips
From increasing bookings and revenue to handling daily salon admin, Treatwell lets you do it all (and more) in one place
Kezia Parkins shares five podcasts for nail techs that provide advice on everything from setting your prices to nail contraindications, with lots of laughs and honesty along the way
The new International Brand Pavilion at PB London, curated by Valérie Kaminov of IL Brand Consultancy, will showcase brands from around the world
MEETING of minds
The Phorest Salon Owners Summit brought together beauty and hair professionals for two days of business education. Here are the highlights
Living the DREAM
Rowing new and existing clients with your services
The team and clients at Solea Beauty have experienced great skin results with Plason from Artemis. Here are their stories
Spotlight on... FERULIC ACID
Ferulic acid is often found in products that aim to protect the skin from environmental damage and premature ageing. Ellen Cummings speaks to the experts to find out what it does to the skin and how it should be used for maximum benefit
What’s it worth?
Calculating the right level of insurance cover for your salon can be confusing. Insurance expert Rosie Barrington explains the sums to do and mistakes to avoid
We’re overcoming the stigma, and the world of chemical peels is changing thanks to brands like BioRePeel
Personal TOUCH
New facials are launched to lift and revitalise the skin, and we give our verdict on some hyperpersonalised holistic treatments
Discover the new device that adapts to the body it is working on for enhanced bespoke body-shaping results
IN THE KIT with... Emily Scullion
Join us as Lollie Hancock goes inside the kit of PB Awards’ Mobile/Home-Based Salon of the Year 2022 winner Emily Scullion to reveal her favourite products
ENERGY made easy
With energy prices at an all-time high, and this being a traditionally quieter time of year, it’s a good time to check your tariff and ensure you are getting the best deal
This month’s launches include a host of smart devices and handy tools to make salon life smoother
Cigdem Kemal Yilmaz, chemical engineer and founder of the Skin Masterclass Pro course, talks to Kezia Parkins about the importance of scientific skincare education and how she uses social media to inform
Looking for back issues?
Browse the Archive >

Previous Article Next Article
March 2023
Page 55